Long time, no writing…

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. I’ve been working out of the Sunrise Visitor Center. Internet is via a satellite, connected to the park’s servers, and we only have one networked computer for the whole area’s staff…

There is lots to tell, but sadly, I don’t have much time at the present. I’ve been doing lots of hiking, finding end of the season wildflowers, watching mountain goats, and eating lots of wild blueberries. It’s been a good couple of weeks. I sort of wish I was assigned to this station permanently – except for the fact that it is only open 3 months of the year. 😉

I promise I’ll be more faithful with posting pictures and updates when I get back to park HQ and my normal duty station… September 12.


Berrying on the West Side

After the berrying expedition with Amy on Wednesday, I decided that I didn’t have enough. So, I headed back to the same area. I found two new species of berries that I previously didn’t have in storage for the winter. Black raspberries and blueberries!!!

The mark of a successful berry-picking exercise: purple stains on the hands!

Berry Picking in the Rain

All day yesterday it had poured down rain. So we vetoed the idea of hiking up to Panorama Point from Paradise. Cold, windy and no view, so we opted for berry picking. My current roommate (Heather) suggested the West Side Road near the old landslide for raspberries. So after work, Amy and I drove over to the old West Side Road, most of which is closed because of recurring flood damage in the park. Previously, I’d only explored the first maybe quarter mile of this road. Most of the winter it was closed completely, and I had other more accessible places to visit. We drove as far as we could and walked up another mile or so. (You can’t drive past a certain point, but you can walk in.)

Let me first say WOW. It was stunning. We couldn’t really determine what landslide Heather had mentioned; the damage caused by Tahoma Creek during the 2006 and 2008 floods was overwhelming. But beautiful. I mean breath-taking. The clouds were very low, hanging over the creek and surrounding the peaks, barely above our heads. We walked along in the mist. Drops of water clung tightly to every leaf and flower. The Mertensia were beautiful:

About a mile up the road, we came to this area that was clearly shaped (damaged?) by floods. But the clouds were amazing. The creek was babbling happily, oblivious as it should be to our presence, as it traveled over the old roadbed. I commented to Amy that it reminded me of Alaska: the dirt road strewn with boulders, twining along the valley floor next to a creek, with trees shrouded in clouds, just us against the world. Except this ‘road’ doesn’t have huge trucks trying to make time between Prudhoe and Fairbanks.

I don’t know how any of you feel about natural disasters. This park deals with flooding, avalanches, landslides, etc. on a yearly basis. And yes, they can cost us money. But they give me some something too. Yesterday, there was this huge rock perched precariously on top of other rocks in one of the landslide areas. It was easily big enough to make Amy’s rental car into a pancake should the rock decide to continue its roll down the hill. There were trees washed down the creekbed, victims of the force of water and time. It’s a relief to just sit back and watch Mother Nature work her miracles. She knows what she’s doing. Too often, we try to make this world into our own. We try to control things that we were not meant to control. Rather, we should watch in awe. Be amazed, inspired and satisfied.

It wasn’t a strenuous walk at all. Rather the opposite. But satisfying. By the time we left, we were both soaked. My shoes squished like sponges. It was fabulous. Seriously fabulous. Here’s my haul from the hike:

My future homestead must have berry patches.

Old Friends

Last night, a former roommate showed up for a visit. Amy was one of the girls that I shared a cabin with in Fairbanks during the summer of 2007. We hadn’t seen each other since leaving Fairbanks. She’s now a PhD student at Duke University, and I’ve gone elsewhere in life too.

It was so nice to see her smiling face again. Have 2 years really passed? We seemed to pick up just where we left off. Including the berry picking. ~wink~ Lots of laughs and silliness while playing Phase 10 (a card game), just like old times. 🙂

You know, I didn’t have the best of supervisors when I worked up there. In fact, he was rather lazy and co-dependent in some ways. But the time in Alaska was still amazing. I saw some country that I wouldn’t have gotten to visit any other way. I saw how mountains really can be larger than life. Wildnerness is both awe-inspiring and overwhelming at the same time. Wild blueberries are better than any fruit you can buy on the market. And I made some good friends. Amy and Whitney among the best of them.

But I have felt like I left something unfinished in Fairbanks. Something unrelated to my job, or my roommates, or…. whatever. Even though this ‘unfinished business’ had nothing to do with Amy, last night she made a comment that showed her thoughts on the subject in question. It sort of confirmed what I’d thought and felt; it was nice to know I was thinking the right thing all along. It all revolves around the last morning in Fairbanks, the ride to the train station and the train trip back to Anchorage. A sad day, indeed. I don’t know who knows that story; maybe some day I’ll get the nerve to write it all down.

— Yeah, I know. I should be up there. Why did I get on that stupid train?

Tatoosh Pano

Ok, so the above pano is really too small to see the details. I must put the larger version on Photobucket at some point. When I have time. Or when I remember.

This series of pictures was taken back on Wednesday night as the sun was setting. The weather changed earlier this week. Thank goodness the heat wave broke; the clouds and fog this week have been spectacular!