Sunday, June 20, 2010

Eagle River, Alaska

My Blog:

I’m jumping on the band-wagon… I’ve decided to start a blog. I think this might be a good way to allow friends and family to stay close while we’re so far away.


Eagle River, Alaska:

I’m currently living in Eagle River (northern suburb of Anchorage). I’m working as a naturalist for the 3rd largest state park in the country; Chugach State Park. I work at the Visitor Center, Lead Daily Nature Hikes and help out with the trail crew on their weekly projects. I live with my best-friend (and dog - copper) in a little dry cabin in the park. When the Visitor Center closes at night it feels like I have the whole park to myself; except for the resident moose and bears that I often encounter on the trails. I really enjoy the peacefulness of living a simple life in the woods. I feel more connected with nature than I ever have before, and rarely miss the luxuries of the modern world (e.g. television, air conditioning/heat, etc.). It feels good to have a place to call home again. I’ve been on the road since I left Colorado almost a year ago. It’s exhausting to keep leaving people and places behind, but it’s a package deal: the only way to go somewhere new is by leaving the places you’ve been. My stay in Chugach might be short, but I’m enjoying every second of the time I have in this beautiful part of the world. I’ve been here long enough to have made friends with a few locals and find some cool places. This past week has been full of firsts…

First night hike:

Ben stopped by the visitor center when I was working last week. He said he found someone to watch his 2 kids that night and wanted to hike Round-top Mountain. We drove up to the trailhead when I got off work at 6pm. After a few hours of hiking and a few thousand feet in elevation gain, we reached the summit. It felt like even more of an accomplishment because there was no trail along the second half of the hike. We made our own route up the mountain side and along the ridge to the summit. Even though it was mid-June, we got snowed on!!! The view from the top was amazing. From that height you could see across the water to the Alaska Range with Denali towering above.
I went glissading for the first time on the way down. Sliding down a snow-covered slope on your butt is not only fun, but a fast/efficient way to descend a mountain. We got back to the car just after 1am. Even after the sun sets (~ 11:30 pm), the sky never gets dark. There’s always enough light to read a book. It’s really cool to be able go hiking in the middle of the night without a head-lamp.

First Alaska Bluegrass Festival:

The Hope Hoedown. The town of Hope (pop. 137) has a bluegrass festival every year, although most people don't know about it. In fact, if you ask anyone, they lie and tell you it's on a different weekend in order to keep it small. I felt very privileged to get invited by one of the bands playing the fest. The music on stage was amazing, but the real fun started when the bands finished and everyone stared pickin' around the campfires. Half of the people who were camping were in the bands. It was really cool to play muic with such talented musians. One of my favorite things about bluegrass is the tradition, and the best way to learn is by being around people who "know".

First taste of whale:

A local couple that volunteers at the nature center invited me and my boss (Asta) to their house for dinner. The pair of retired surgeons have a house in the valley that they live in when they'e not travelling (which is rare). Dave and Cathy are incredibly smart and generous, nature loving people who live a modest life (with the exception of their TWO original Picasso paintings on the wall and million dollar wine cellar in the garage). Toward the end of a long night of good wine and great conversation, Dave offered me a peice of muktuk - a traditonal inuit meal of frozen whale skin/blubber. It's extremely rare. In fact the only way to get any is by receiving a permit from the government...which is only given to natives, and then going and pulling a 150 ton whale out of the ocean. Dave and Cathy just hapenedto be in Nome when the village harvested one, and following traditional, shared the bounty with everyone.

First moose calf encounter:

I see lots of wildlife in the park. By late afternoon most of the people have left and the animals all come out. I've seen several black and brown bears. I see moose every single day. I see them so often that I'm starting to recognize each of the different individuals. Even though I have frequent encouners, however, I've never taken any for granted. I feel extremely fortunate each and every time I have the opportunity to see these magnificent animals in the wild. Last week I had my most amazing encouter to date when I saw a moose cow come walking down the hill toward my cabin with her newly born calf trotting close behind. The calf was only 2-3 weeks old. It was keeping up with its mother, but still had its "sea legs" and wobbled all the way down the hill. I saw them grazing for a while before the cow saw me, corralled her calf and ran back into the woods. It was an incredible contrast to see such a small wobbly baby next to such a large (1,000 pound), sturdy, beast. I was very impressed, however, when I thought of a newborn human and realized that this calf (at 2-weeks-old) was already able to walk, eat and follow directions.

My cabin in Chugach State Park

Beaver pond at the park. The lodge is visible at the top of the pond.

Black bear just outside my cabin.

Exit Glacier (Kenia Fjords National Park - Seward, Ak)

Veiw of Palmer, Knick Glacier, and Knick Arm from Pioneer Peak.


Todd said...

Awesome stuff. Let's see more pictures!

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