Two Long Weeks

It’s been two weeks since my last entry. I guess that’s because nothing too out-of-the-ordinary has been happening.

Winter is progressing here at Denali. We’re starting to get more and more daylight – almost 7 hours and 15 minutes each day now! It’s been warm the past few days as well – between +20-+30F. The Lower 48 seems to be colder and icy/snowier than we are right now. A little odd, perhaps, but I’m not complaining. πŸ˜‰

Chinook, with snow on his nose. He loves to dig.

Last weekend, I took one of the kennel dogs, Chinook, out for a walk in the afternoon. It was warm enough that we walked up the park road for a mile or so and back without getting too cold. He’s a big boy, and I was hoping that he wouldn’t want to run or pull me too much, but he’s great as a walking partner. He likes to sniff and explore the trail and isn’t in a hurry. He also knew I had doggie treats in my pocket and every time I went for my camera, he’d turn to look at me. Word to the wise: never put your camera in the same pocket as the doggie treats. His whole muzzle was in my pocket once, almost before I realized it!

This time of year can be a bit trying for many of us in the National Parks.

Not because of the weather, as many people in the country are facing storms, ice, snow and cold conditions. (This week, their weather is worse than ours up here in Alaska!)

But this is THAT time of the year… when parks start the paperwork and processes to bring back their seasonal workforce. Budgets, hiring, competition for jobs – and competition to hire the most qualified candidates, and planning for the upcoming summer ‘busy’ season occupy all of our minds. From superintendents to front-line rangers, many of the folks around here are a bit on edge right now.

I have the potential to return to Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state for the 2011 season. I also have a couple of other interviews coming up in the next week or two. My stomach is doing flip-flops over this choice. Planning for any necessary travel will have to happen sooner than later. Personally, I don’t worry the actual details too much; the choice and timing of these required choices is what gets to me the most.

Not much of an excuse, but that explains my absence the past two weeks. Suffice it to say, the dogs are sweet, the mountains are beautiful, and I still want that little cabin in the woods. I’m just not sure where the jobs will lie this summer.


Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend

The picture above was taken this past week one day. Notice the horizontal cloud in the very middle of the shot. Clouds sometimes hang low over the rivers and creeks – this happens to be the Nenana River.

As the sun gets a bit higher in the sky each day, I’m constantly in awe of the light. People think Alaska is dark all winter. But it’s not, and the light makes for a great show. During the depths of winter, sunlight is at a much lower angle – as the sun barely scrapes the horizon for a few days – turning the surrounding mountains various shades of pinks, salmons and purples. Add a few clouds into the mix and you’ve got a sky that stops you in your tracks. Or it stops me in my tracks.

I went out for a walk yesterday. It was -25F at about 1:30 p.m. when I left. It was cold. But I kept moving – I needed the exercise and fresh air.

At one point, I couldn’t help but stop. I was heading down the trail towards a footbridge over a creek. The trail was lined with alders taller than me. The snowflakes that had settled (grown?) on the alder branches caught the light so that the whole shrub sparkled like a pile of diamonds.

After about a minute, I caught myself. No, I had not fallen, but I had lost track of time – even for a split second. I looked around. There wasn’t anyone around me. I heard a raven somewhere in the distance. The wind blew a few snowflakes around in circles on the trail ahead of me. I looked back to the branch of diamonds that had drawn me away from my walk.

I guess diamonds really are a girl’s best friend. πŸ˜‰

Not really a Ranger post…

On New Year’s Eve, a cousin (over the phone) asked me what there is to do up here in Denali in my spare time.

I resisted the urge to laugh.

(Yesterday, I took Sylvie, the littlest pup in the park kennels for a walk for an hour. Isn’t she adorable???)

Suffice it to say, there is WAY more to do in my spare time than I’ll ever have time for. If you know me – or really, any knitter – you’ll realize that we have a stash, a list of on-going projects, and more ideas stored away for that proverbial ‘rainy day’ (or day with temperatures below -20F here).

Simply put, I don’t know where to begin.

I am overwhelmed.

Which is why I went to the kennels yesterday, on my day off, to walk a dog. Or a pup. Or anything that would get me away from the chaos of ideas and projects at home. Sylvie was a fun distraction for an hour or so. This was one of her first leash walks. She’s only about 4 months old. Later this winter, she’ll be harnessed up to run loose alongside the team (as the older pups – 7 months old are doing now). She was a bit nervous as we left the yard. She kept turning back whenever she heard the other dogs barking. Then she would look at me, clearly saying, “Are you sure about this?” But we just did a little loop along a maintained trail and the park road. She did great.

(You’re noticing by now that even my writing will be distracted from the necessary topic at hand.)

Anyway, here’s a sampling of what I’m either in the middle of or have lined up for the next month or two:

1) Finishing the Totem socks – about 60% done with that project;

2) Two pairs of flannel pajama pants – not started, had to get the holiday baking done before using my counter for something that should NOT be mixed into flour and butter;

3) Writing patterns for a couple recent projects – more explanations to come later;

4) Another batch of either bagels or English muffins – yes, my mind is also on food, never mind the resolutions;

5) Another batch of homemade chocolate-hazelnut spread (think Nutella) – the first batch went way too quickly πŸ˜‰ ;

6) A new sweater and accessories for my impending trip to STL in September for my younger brother’s wedding – I have the yarn and a few ideas, I just need to settle on a few patterns.

So. Do you have anything to keep you occupied in your spare time?!?!

Random Thursday

1) Today is Thursday, but it’s really my Friday, since I have Friday and Saturday off this week.

2) I did something to my left ankle last weekend. It is sore. Not sharp pain, but more like a bad muscle strain/sprain.

3) I might not go snowshoeing this weekend because of said ankle.

4) It’s snowing outside, and I’d like to go play in it.

5) I can’t go play because I’m at work. And slightly bored today.

6) I don’t really think it’s boredom. I’m just really tired. I don’t know why I’m tired. I got sleep last night.

7) I REALLY want to eat an English muffin with Nutella right now.

8) I still have to finish up the last pair of gloves on order (purchaser was NOT at knit night last night).

9) The salmon-cream cheese spread I have is really yummy.

10) I’m hoping this has woken me up a bit so I can get back to my real work. πŸ˜‰

I hope everyone is having a good week!!!

Pulling Weeds

One of my current ‘office’-type projects this winter involves pulling together information on plant research in Denali National Park and Preserve. In the course of my research this morning, I came across the follow statistics from a 2010 park resources report:

Here’s the 2009 roster of non-native plants removed (species with more than 50 lbs pulled) in/near Denali:

  • Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): 225 lbs (Denali Park Road corridor)
  • White Sweet Clover (Melilotus alba): 96 lbs (Miles 232.5 and 238 Parks Hwy)
  • Hawk’s-Beard (Crepis tectorum): 135 lbs (Sewage lagoon; Mile 0 to 3 of the park road)
  • Wormseed mustard (Erysimum cheiramthoides): 85 lbs (East Fork bridge area)

For those of you with gardens out there, how many dandelions do you pull each year?

A Good Ending to 2010

I went for my first mushing trip ever! I got to go out with our kennels manager from the park. We had 11 dogs pulling, with two of the pups running along side. It was way too much fun! I sort of wish this were my actual duty station this winter. I love the dogs, but I’m not sure about traveling this way in -30F temperatures for hours on end.

Either way, I’ll be back at the kennels this week to pet the doggies. πŸ˜‰