Monday, July 31, 2006


Well everyone my season here at Katmai is drawing to an end. I however still had one goal I had yet to accomplish before I left this amazing N.P. I still needed to journey to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes and see that amazing volcano Novarupta. So after work on Thursday the 27th I embarked on this epic journey with my constant sidekick and roommate Pete Bruno. After our 23 mile drive out to the Valley we were dropped off at the Windy Creek trail head. From there we made our way through an overgrown forest of cow parsnip and various trees to the 1st of our many river crossings in the Valley. For those who have inquiring minds you might wonder why I would include some mysterious plant named COW PARSNIP. Readers beware that this plant is the stuff of legends and nightmares. This most unholy and foul plant (whose roots taste deliciously like licorices) secretes a substance that when it contacts the skin makes it photo reactive. In other words your skin is now covered in the equivalent of -75 SPF sunscreen. That’s right there was a minus sign (du du dum). Effectively anywhere this plant touches skin it will get very bad sunburn. Luckily the magical powers imbued on us as Rangers protected us from this terrible peril. Bust I digress. The Valley is actually a very beautiful place with tons of red-orange color, yet very deceptive on how large an expanse it contains. What may seem a mile to the trained eye is actually 3 miles. Pete and I did not mind since we believed we could make the treacherous Lethe River crossing in a few hours. Due to the fact that we had neither been to the Valley we followed a trail or footprints when we could find them. However as the hour grew later we had more and more trouble finding footprints which made us wonder if we would find the crossing before dark. The night may only get twilight still in July, but that is still remarkable hard to follow footprints. Finally after much wandering and debating we arrived at the Lethe river crossing. Now let me just say that crossing the Lethe at Midnight is not the greatest idea even if it is not 40 degrees and 25 mph winds. The Lethe River is a glacier fed river with a temperature around 32 degrees year round. The Lethe is more well know for the many victims it was claimed. The Lethe crossing is the only crossing for the river since it is the only area that is not a carved out gully. If you should happen to slip, fall, and be swept down stream there is no hope of you surviving the many dangerous twist and turns. We made it across with only mild hypothermia and continued out journey up baked mountain to the notorious huts. No I don't mean any STAR WARS reference, but the Baked Mountain Huts which were previously the site of a USGS research station. Speaking of Science Fiction/Fantasy, I would like you to form a mental image of Gandalf the Grey's tall, slender form in his loose robe with his wood walking stick and odd hat. Now that you have that picture add some color to the robe and hat, a backpack, and brown hair instead of white and you will understand what my hiking partner looked liked. :) Ah the little things. We stayed the night in the huts after my roommate scared the only other occupant at 1:30 when we arrived. Even after such treatment this young man left us rain water that he had collected during the previous week’s storm. With rest and some water in our packs we continued on to see the Great and Powerful Novarupta, by way of summiting Baked Mountain. Novarupta was the site of the largest eruption in the 20th century and dwarfed the Mt. Pinatubo eruption (for those that remember) in the Philippines. Surely this must be an amazing site! While to me this was quite awe inspiring you cannot help, but relate it to the Great Wizard of OZ and that maybe its all some trick. To prove it was real, I climbed to the top of the lava plug and was treated to a few fumerals which are practically all that is left of the 10,000 smokes. Having accomplished this task it awed me to know that such a small thing once held such incredible power. Even though it was terribly destructive it created something very beautiful and allowed me to have such an interesting job. We stayed out last night at the huts alone. The silence was so amazing, but I was perturbed. I was frustrated b/c I was not able to test that old expression of "being so quite you can hear a pin drop". Instead I sufficed with dropping a rock just to hear something besides our breathing and movement. The next day we made great time and might have set a record for returning from the Baked Mtn Huts to Three Forks Cabin in 4.5 hours. I hoped you have all enjoyed this story and the pictures that will come soon.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Stars will Come Out Tomorrow (Bet Your Bottom Dollar)

Today was a beautiful day! The East wind stopped blowing so now we can operate at normal status. Usually we work out of the VC (Visitor Center), but on East wind days it is too dangerous for pilots to land on Naknek lake. Instead pilots land on the nearby Brooks lake. For who ever is on the D schedule that means that instead of working in the VC your happy job is to spend most of the day up at Brooks lake giving bear orientations on the beach. With that clarified let me tell you about my July 22. My day started moderately early at 7 am in order to get prepared to meet planes at Brooks lake at 7:45. I enjoy bear orientations b/c they give me the chance to meet lots of interesting people. Sometimes we are lucky enough to give orientations to influential or famous people. I have met several people from National Geographic, Discover Channel, high level government officials, and the man who broke the sound barrier (Chuck Yeager). After giving several orientations through the morning, I saw a most unusually colored plane land up the beach. Normally I did not think about it too much more than wonder where this new plane was from and where its occupants might call home. The plane held people from all over the world and a family from Mass. Normally this would not cause too much excitement for most people, but it turns out that the world travelers were a film crew and that the family was none other than Animal Planet's Jeff Corwin and family. All very nice people, but sadly I did not ask for a picture since it would be rude and against my job position. As awesome as it is to say I gave them their bear orientation this was not the end of my day. After a day of orientations and "Roving the Falls" talking to people, I got off work to go eat a well deserved meal. After making delicious pasta with baked salmon marinara I started to sit down to my dinner. However, the squirrels under my cabin were making such a racket I got up and started stopping on the floor to hopefully get some peace. Finally...Quiet! Just as I sit down I hear another noise. I look towards the floor under my sink and just in time to see the pipe under my sink move! Thinking to my self in dismay: "That has got to be the largest squirrel ever or there is a bear under the cabin." I moved to the window on my door and could just make out a big blonde behind. I started stopping on the floor and kicking the door to move it from the pipe it was obviously digging around. After a few seconds it moved enough for me to get the door open a crack and start banging on the front step. Word to the Wise: I am a trained semi-professional do not ever try to attempt these actions in the presence of a bear (It might decide to fight back). When it moved a few feet from the door I came running out on the step and started yelling at it like it was a big dog that was being naughty. Apparently my voice must sound scary b/c it bolted. I notified the "authorities" aka an on duty ranger and helped track down the bear to determine if it was leaving the area and try to match its identity for later records. Now think about how boring it must be when you sit down to eat at home :) All I can say is this place is wonderful! Other things that make my day: I had a couple today that I gave an orientation to that came up to me later to tell me what a wonderful day they had experienced. They were retired and had wanted to visit this place for 15 years. After all that time they were finally able to afford to come out for the day and they thought it was the best thing they had ever done in their lives. That ladies and gentlemen is the definition, which I could not explain better, to why I work in Katmai National Park. I hope you have all had a wonderful summer. Mine is sadly coming to an end, here at brooks camp. In two weeks, I leave to go visit some professors in Fairbanks and visit Denali National Park for a few days before returning to Tennessee. With a little bit of luck there will be a blog about this place next year (except I will be a paid ranger)...(cross you fingers).

Monday, July 17, 2006


For all those who don't know my older brother Ryan has finally gotten engaged. He became engaged on July 4th to Tara Allmond. I was not very surprised, but I am grateful that it takes the pressure off of me. :) Now Ryan can have all the fun questions concerning grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I hope he is not upset that I posted this blog about him and Tara, but it was the only way to tell them congratulations since I never can find thier email addresses. Congratulations Ryan! I am glad that you and Tara are getting married. I only ask that you get married when the whole family is in town. (The King family travels alot) Everyone wish him good luck on finishing his masters and starting his doctorate this fall. Congratulations again to Ryan and Tara....yeah!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Good 'ol Days

Now that we are in the middle of the busy season things have become hectic. People are getting cranky, populations of people and bears are on the rise, and Rangers tolerance of stupidity lowers. It seems like only yesterday I arrived and I realize that soon I will have to leave this great place. For me I am looking at returning to school for one last semester before graduating. But I remember that when I first arrived at Brooks camp one among us decided to forego his graduation walk to help us travels the path of Ranger. In honor of the walk that he missed we, his proud fellow (male) rangers, decided that he should go through Katmai's illustrious initiation ceremony. However to be initiated by the Katmai Polar Bear Swim you cannot travel that road alone so several of us volunteered to help him celebrate his achievement that he left behind. Tim "Tickles" Chu was accompanied by Matt King, Pete Hamel, Pete Bruno, Greg Fahl, and Shane Harrington. To set the scene: It was a warm 43 degrees outside with a 3-5 mph wind and the water was a balmy 32 degrees. Oddly enough on this nice May afternoon we were not that cold...until we ran into Naknek lake. Due to inappropriateness I cannot show some of the funny photos which contain my roommate trying unsuccessfully to hold up his thermal pants. We ran out about 350 yards to get waist deep so we could dive into the water. By the time we dove in head first our feet were numb. Once we reached the beach we could not feel our feet. Several of us were sweating not from exertion, but from being hot since we had gotten so cold. Luckily we only had mild cases of hypothermia. :) Just imagine we were freezing while most of you were sweating outside.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Hi Ho! Hi Ho, its off to work I go!

Depending on how your letter falls you will be working different shifts through out the day. One of the many shifts I work is the VC or Visitor Center. This shift is very important. When working in the VC your main job is to give a bear orientation to everyone who visits Brooks camp. To the left is a picture of me in one of my many bear orientations. We have so many people coming in during July that we might be giving two orientations at a time and having orientations run back to back for a few hours. The orientation consist of a ten minute video followed by a talk given by a ranger highlighting a few special points about what to do around bears in the park. Besides giving these orientations Rangers, answer questions and run a register. By the way, we do take Visa and Mastercard since we use an old swipe carbon copier. :)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Close Encounter of the Furry Kind!

Thanks to comments and requests I will elaborate on my July 3rd adventure with bears on the corner.
The setting: North is the road that leads to camp. East leads out to Naknek lake via brush then beach. South is the edge of the corner and the Brooks river. West is the road that continues on to the bridge.
The Situation: July 3rd 5:45 shift ends in 15 minutes. I just finished an eventful end of day hour long bear jam. The nice thing is that I am about to get off shift and a sow with her spring cub is out in the river fishing. The bridge has been closed again. One man comes up to watch the sow before going to dinner. Of course this would be the time when the mighty beasts would head in our direction. As training taught me I pulled off the corner with my 1 visitor to allow the bears room to pass us. Before going 10 yards my radio sqwuaks out a warning that a large male sub adult is on the trail heading in my direction. Realizing the gravity of my situation and wanting to avoid a potential confrontation. I decide our best course of action would be to exit stage right for the lake and walk around the bears along the beach. The brush makes for slow traveling so I turned after 10 ft to check on the bear's location. Shocked and awed would not even begin to cover what I beheld. Not only had the subadult already covered the distance to stand where we had left only moments before, but the sow followed by her cub were rushing at the sub adult. I bid the visitor to walk with a little more purpose (we cannot run in Brooks camp). The next thing I know I see the sow growling inches from the sub adult's face before she clocks him with a Chuck Norris style round house front paw to the head. Needless to say this action (and obviously impressive fighting skill) led the sub adult to do what its short life experience had taught...FLEE. The best exit for the sub adult happened to be toward the beach and us. Seeing this I pushed my visitor out of the way while I used a tree as a spring board to clear myself of the brown blur. Fear can make people and animals do many things...some stupid and some smart. Fear urged this bear, after his initial 10 yard sprint, to decide it would be best to change tactics and circle around us. Smart for the bear, but horrible for us as I realized he was trying to push us toward the sow and spring cub. As the gap between us and the 3 bears narrowed to 10 ft or less on either side I saw my opening for freedom. However, leaving a visitor in shock was not an option. I moved back to my frightened visitor who was trying to stay back from the sow and did not realize the sub adult was coming up behind us. I grabbed him by the arm and pulled him out to the trail while keeping an eye on our furry friends. Having avoided any problems we made our way down the trail to camp. My shift being over, with a wary eye on the bears, my only thought was to regret not getting a photo. :) I did not see the visitor on the trail the next day and was told that he went to the bar where he stayed for a long time, before going to bed and catching his flight the next day. To the right is a picture of the one punch machine gun and her cub.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Old Man and The Sea! Well, The River at least. :)

Hey everyone! July 3 was probably my most eventful day here in Katmai so far. I started my day by working the falls platform and was treated to several bears catching fish. One bear even had an unusual way of summoning the fish to him. He would stand on the falls and bob his head! It did however seem to work remarkable well since after every 3rd bob the fish would jump into his mouth. Sadly he would only have time to tear some skin off the salmon before a larger bear would approach and steal the fish. The younger guy would actually challenge back, but seemed to forget that growling involves opening the mouth and thus results in loss of the fish. Later when I was working the corner I got pinched between a sow with a spring cub and a sub adult male. The sow actually growled at the sub adult then smacked it in the face. Interestingly it head it straight for me and a about getting the ol' heart pounding with adrenaline. As fun as all that was it was still not the highlight of my day. Later at 8 pm I bought a fishing license and by 9:15 I finally hooked a slamon in the mouth. I was able to bring it in after a 20 minute fight. Picture it: I am knee deep in the water fighting this grand fish in a back and forth battle to see who is master of the river. In the end I was triumphant and brought in a 8 pound Sockeye salmon. It was amazing.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Lets hear it for your 2006 Interp staff!

From Left to Right: Me, Lily Williams, Pete Bruno, Rachel Jencks, Greg Fahl, Shane Harrington, Sabrina Diaz, Pete Hamel, Amy Stasch, Pat Chapin, Tim Chu, Tim Downey, Nikki Questor.

I will be updating this page in the next few days with details about our rag tag group.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Crazy Days Ahead!

July starts tomorrow and is the busiest month for us here at Brooks Camp. The Sockeye Salmon are running in increasing numbers and the bears are starting to fish at the Falls. Besides an increase in the number of bears, the population of people will double to 300 plus people a day. Let’s just say that it will be interesting trying to manage hundreds of people and over thirty bears.
Typically a day for me can involve staffing the Visitor Center, the corner, the lower platform, the falls platform, or giving a cultural walk. The Visitor Center is a combination of NPS store, information, and bear orientation for incoming visitors. The lower platform is often referred to as the "bear traffic control tower" since the position watches bears to avoid bad situations along with opening/closing the bridge. On the falls platform a ranger cycles people in and out while keeping the number of people on the platform to 40. The cultural walk is an interpretive stroll to the cultural site giving information about the area, its early inhabitants, and the areas cultural importance to the Americas (Bering Land Bridge people). Last, but not least and my personal favorite is dubbed the corner. The corner is all about fun, excitement, something new, and an adrenaline rush. Not all feel this way about the corner, but I do....and will until a bear scares the crap out of me by rushing me. :) The corner stops visitors when the bridge is closed b/c of bear traffic jams aka a bear is on the trail. What makes this interesting is that sometimes bears come from all directions to trap you and/or force you to move to a new location. Interesting enough 3 days ago when working the corner I was watching one bear blocking our path back to camp when a sow with her cub (403 nicknamed Eggberta) stepped from the brush 8 yards away. I was able to safely get everyone back up to the platform on the other side of the bridge. I enjoy the challenge that is presented by managing the bears and people, but my job is more about managing people. Let it be said that bears may look like cute animals that remind people of a dog with human qualities, but they can be extremely dangerous. Many people seem to forget that distinction. Point in case: We ask people to not carry food around with them. The other day (before the salmon run started) a bear seemed to be particularly interested in one gentleman.
Ranger: Sir, That bear seems mighty interested in you. Do you have any food on you?
Visitor: No.
Ranger: Sir, are you sure you don't have any food on you.
Visitor: Well... I only have a little smoke salmon and some tuna.
Ranger: You do understand that IS food, sir.
Visitor: But it’s only a little.
Also the bug population of the park is starting to increase. Namely the mosquito population. Fun fact: Alaska is home to 27 species of mosquito. Once, in a highly infested mosquito area of Alaska, a scientist slapped another scientist on the back and counted over 270 mosquitoes from the single swat. As for myself, I have come to identify 5 separate species by sight and movement alone. For these reasons I pray to have a slight breeze to keep the mosquitoes away.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Hallo Be Thy Name!

Hello everyone. I have survived the void that is nonaccess to internet. Actually I have just recently returned from Hallo Bay which is located about 63 miles East of Brooks camp and 40 miles from Kodiak Island along the Katmai NP coast. I left on Brooks on a clear day only to arrive in a cool, rainy, and windy environment that comes from the Shelikof Strait. Little did I realize that this wind is probably something that came all the way from Antarctica since there is no landmass south of the coast until you hit that most frozen of deserts. So as not to leave anyone in suspense my boss Pete Hamel and I were assaulted by rain in a most Forest Gump fashion every day except a few precious hours on the eve of our departure. Why did you get to go some might ask? It turns out that not one but two people had family coming in that made them turn down the offer to go visit the coast. By a lucky twist of fate (I have to return for school) I will be the first volunteer to leave so that means I would be the least likely to go on any why not send me now. So with 12 hours notice I packed what I had or could borrow for the trip. Wow, what a copious amount of bears we encountered. But woe is me...we were there to work. I was subjected to the horrible fate of camping, hiking the valley/bay area, and contacting visitors. (That was sarcasm for those who didn't catch it) Really our main goal was to conduct visitor opinion surveys for the first time in park history. We gave out 36 total surveys for the week. The bears were amazing and seem very content to eat the sedge grass (26% protein) or dig for clams. I did meet some very interesting people who included researchers for the Northern Bear Institute, a former head of NPS bear biology, and the head researcher for NOLS. Well I met a lot of other people too. Also, I saw so many 10,000+ cameras that they could have opened 20 separate wolf camera stores. Funny enough most people spend a minimum of $3,000 to sightsee for a few hours and I actually got paid a per diem to watch bears and talk to a few people. I did have a setback though. To get from where we camped to the visitors we had to walk 2 miles to cross Middle Creek and another mile to the visitors. On my second day of crossing Middle Creek I had a little problem. Little background first: Middle Creek is formed mostly by glacial melt which makes the water 32-34 degrees Fahrenheit. Also the ocean tide can make the water 2-6 feet higher depending on high or low tide. Now on to my story. Pete and I came to middle creek slightly before high tide...1st mistake. Pete having waders that didn't leak and cause his right foot to be soaking wet went first and showed some signs of difficulty. Once Pete made it across I decided to would be best to cross a shallower stretch about 100 yards up stream. Amazingly the first 3/4 was only waist deep at most. I was walking across a log/rock when I was getting closer to the other bank with the water getting lower. Then I stepped into a hole. I tried to step forward to gain the bank, but realized I could not touch bottom as the creek carried me down stream. After making some funny facial expressions I started to swim. Let is be known that the crawl is not a very effective stroke when you have on a backpack. Needless to say I quickly switched to the slightly more advantageous breaststroke until I gained the other bank. After realizing I was not frozen solid my boss had a few chuckles over "the priceless look on my face” as we recrossed the creek to head home. All I can say for the week is that I have never been more wet, nothing would dry out, Gore-Tex is worthless, and man did I have a great time. One redeeming feature to some for Hallo Bay is its amazing abundance of collectables...i.e. trash. Within all the miles of drift wood can be found helmets, fishnets, and anything that can float. One highly prized item is the Japanese Glass Fishnet Float. Lucky enough I was able to find one of these sweet babies and will attempt to make the trek home without it shattering into thousands of pieces. Well I have rambled enough for today. I hope that you enjoy the pictures of the bear and the glass ball.

Friday, June 23, 2006

I Apologize!

Everyone! I am so sorry that I have not added anything to this in the last 12 days. I have not been around to enjoy the semi benefits of a computer. I just returned tonight from Hallo bay, which is along the Katmai coast about 63 miles East of Brooks Camp. I will hopefully be adding some stuff tomorrow once I get some of my pictures downloaded. I would have posted something about me being gone but only had 12 hours notice before I had to leave. I lucked out and was given the place of someone who had to cancel because of scheduling conflicts. I hope your summers are all going exceedingly well and I will post as soon as I can.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

My Name is Matt and I am a Survivor (Dunker Training joke)

Our opening week bear orientation should have gone something like this:
(Important Note: This is only a joke i.e. there is no bird flu)

Hi, My name is Matt King and I would like to welcome you to Katmai NP. Normally, I would give you information on the bears in order to help keep you safe and enjoy your visit. Instead you won’t have to worry about that since the bears are avoiding all human contact. If you have not noticed yet I am one of 3 rangers around Brooks Camp at this time. Currently a plague has swept through and infected the entire camp exhibiting symptoms similar to a combination of strep throat and the flu. Also a few birds have been found dead in the area, so this could be the first documented case of bird flu in the U.S. We cannot be sure of this since the only personnel trained to judge such a situation are currently bed ridden with high fevers. I would like to wish you good luck and hope that you brought various types of medication with you. If not I look forward to seeing you on my cultural walk at 2 pm where I will point out plants the native Aleutiq people used to treat illnesses.

In truth many in camp had this illness. My roommate felt bad for a week before finally sleeping for 36 hours straight. He was flown into King Salmon on Memorial Day where he stayed for 5 days and was proscribed 56 antibiotic pills that he is still taking (that’s 4 a day for 14 days). Most people in camp who started feeling ill with similar symptoms started taking the antibiotics they had the foresight to bring. Even with all that illness floating around, I am currently not sick...knock on wood. I guess something should be said for building up an immune system by living in a house for 4 years that is kept dirty by 11 roommates that smoke. :)

Are You Wearing A Blue Scarf?

Well I don't know about the rest of you, but I love going to work. It is full of interesting thing a people. June 8th at midnight was the official start of fishing season. Even though there was a slight wind chill that made the temperature of the air match the temperature of the water at a balmy 38 degrees there was still somewhere between 25-33 people trying to catch the first fish of the season. To me it was something funny to watch since only river trout are running and they are catch and release by regulations. For those who care it took only 4 minutes to make the first catch.

I wish these pictures would come out better! Anyways...I digress. Remember that slight breeze that started at midnight, well it turned into a little more. When I started my 8-12 shift out on the lower platform I was surprised by how hard the wind was blowing. By 8:30 am the wind speed was between 45-65 mph with gust at 75 mph or more. The wind was blowing so hard that it felt like it was raining because the wind sent water from the river/lake up to meet me. Needless to say that it was pretty cold with the combination of wind, cool weather, and wind spray. When you looked over the lake it appeared as if it had turned into an ocean with swells that ranged from 4-6 ft. I laughed and made the remark that I spent a week in Florida before coming here and never saw waves this big. Luckily the park service has official joke...too bad there were not any NPS surf boards or dry suits. Nearly all of us joked about going surfing. With all this craziness going on there were still some anglers out fishing to get that trophy rainbow trout picture before releasing it into the water again. Finally I got a break to go eat then work in the visitor center. When I returned to the river the wind was pushing hard enough to force some water up river. My last two hours were somewhat eventful and funny at the same time. I was stationed on the corner across from the lower platform. These next two conversations are real ...My number is 633, my boss Pete Hamel is 620, and my roommate Pete Bruno is 635.
Conversation 1
635-633: Any bears? 6*3-6**: (Crackle) 635-633: Say again, all I got was wind and static.
635: Nope, but I've been looking into the wind to watch an immature bald Eagle.
635-633: Are you wearing a blue scarf? 635: What? No. Why?
620-633: ... 633 this is 620 go ahead 633: 620 is there anyway we can replace 635?
620: Yea, why?
633: I suspect 635 might be getting hypothermic...he has blue repeat blue cheeks.
620: Ok 633, I am coming to replace 635.
Conversation 2
620-633: Do you see that boat floating off? 620: What I don't see anything.
633: It should float into view soon... 620: Oh, hmm that not good...hang on a sec.
Lodge advised you have a boat floating against the current
Lodge staff: What??? K, were on root with ropes.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Next Stop...Heart Attack!

On Saturday June 3rd Travis Hall, Greg Fahl, and I, Matt King, set out to conquer Mt. La Gorce. This traverse is not for the faint of heart. We started our 3183 ft. assent at 9a.m. that was mostly bushwhacking through waist tall grass, bog swamps, and forest. After we reach 1000 ft. we had made it above the tree line, but were assaulted by the seemingly never ending patches of alder trees which are essentially a semi-impenetrable wall of tightly packed bushes. We were also a little worried that our hike would be for naught since at times you could only see 20 ft. through a haze on the mountain. After that what could be so bad...let me tell you about boulder fields. It turns out that Mt. La Gorce (pronounced La Gore* SSS snake sound) was previously assulted by a glacier leaving a massive boulder field along the top when the glacier receded. For those who do not know...boulder field=broken ankles. We were lucky, however since we did not anger the gods. What gods you ask...I'll tell you...the gods of travel. The mischievous little buggers that make it rain if you forget your rain gear, a bear show up when you say I think were making enough noise (alas I said that), ect., and the worst of the worst asking "what else can go wrong". Under NO Circumstances should that question be asked for the gods will take it as a personal challenge that results in unspeakable actions toward the soon to be unfortunate person. We happened upon one unfortunate creature that we believed uttered those fateful words...the results of which can be seen in the picture of the "unlucky rabbit's foot". I mentioned earlier that I had said that we didn't need to yell "hey bear" since I thought we were making enough noise...the result was a bear 10 ft away when we crested that hill. The brown fuzzy creature was curious and followed us for a ways before losing interest. After all that excitement we traversed several snow deposits and went to three separate peaks to be sure we had reach the right one. We reached the top around 2:30 p.m. when the sky opened up just in time for us to see the surrounding area. We strolled around the top and ate lunch. On the way down we found a fun way to move a little faster across the snow deposits...we slide down backwards. :) After the first time of doing this, I realized how preposterous it was to do such a thing. Instead I slid face first on the subsequent patches of snow. We took a lightly different route back to the boat that was infested with flies, mosquitoes, and other biting flies. Needless to say our progress down that part of the mountain was extremely fast. All in all I was pretty tired when we reached the bottom around 8:30p.m. On this trip we saw a golden eagle, a ptarmigan in winter plumage, many birds, 1 curious subadult brown bear, a snowshoe hare foot, and 3 separate species of mosquitoes. When we reached brooks camp finally at 9:05 p.m. we had to push the boat up river against the current to where the boats are stored. 20 minutes later after we had finished with this exhausting work (tough even without the 15 mile hike) we saw a lynx, but neither Greg, Travis, or I had the energy to take its picture as it ran away. We all finished everything we had to do since when we sat down we were unable to get up...I was described, by a fellow ranger, as an 87 year old man with knee and back problems. :)

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Cold Mountain!

The other day we hiked Dumpling mountain in order to get a lay of the land and prepare for our guided hikes up the mountain to the first over look. Look closely at these pictures and remember that it is still the middle of May! There were points on our hike where we had to cross large patches of snow. Since the temperatures have been rising the snow has become softer and we had to wade through waist high snow when it didn’t support our wait. Normally our trips will only go up to the overlook, but the group went up to Lupin point and some of us even summited the mountain. Tim Chu and myself made a tiny snowman to place in our pictures. It is easy for me to say that I have a great view near the edge! This last picture brings to mind something I have heard at many National Parks...”We may not live in the best houses, but no one has a bigger back yard!”

Damn that water is cold!

In order to use a boat I under went Motorboat Operator Certification Class (MOCC). We had to do obstacle courses, pinpoint turning, boat safety, obstacle avoidance, and a 100 yard swim to experience the cold water. Here is where I did my 100 yard swim after wading out 50 yards. We measured the temperature of the water and it came back as a nice and warm 32.5 degrees. Needless to say it was very cold and by the end your hands barely function, which is not fun when you have to enter a boat under your own power that has a free board (amount of boat out of water) of three feet. My roommate had mild hypothermia after the swim. The funny thing is we swam in the water 4 days earlier to celebrate one of the interpreters’, Tim Chu, graduation that he was missing.

Lions, and Tigers...Nope, but BEARS oh my!

Generally brown bears do not show up around Brooks camp til late May. However, since the first full day we have been graced by the presence of three skinny subadults. The largest of the three subadults is staying to himself while a slightly smaller subadult is being shadowed my another subadult that is about half his size. All three of the subadults have been behaving strangely in our minds. They have been digging at the point of the sandbar just about every day we have been in camp. Some of us took it upon ourselves to conduct a careful investigation (or we checked out the hole when the bears were gone). We concluded that they must be digging for the frozen residue of dead salmon that had drifted down river, been buried under the sand, and frozen until may (in other words it smelled badly of fish). Since we had a bear orientation when we arrived, which is mandatory for all who visit Brooks camp, we decide we should have a look around our new home. We traveled over the river, through the woods, and up onto the Falls platform. As you can see in the picture there are no bears or salmon as of yet, but when mid-June arrives the falls will be packed with jumping “happy” salmon and tons of bears.

I appologize if I don't have pictures b/c I am having trouble transfering them.

Monday, May 29, 2006

What's that?

As you can see from my previous post, most everything is still covered under snow and ice. Surely with conditions such as this we must be the only living things at Brooks Camp. However upon arriving in the "otter" (pic below), which is a type of float plane, my first steps on land almost covered a track (pic to right). Of course we all got excited because this meant that a bear was out of its den early. Slowly after looking around for several minutes we helped unload the plane and went to take a look at our new surroundings.

Periodically we were pulled away from our wanderings and unpacking to help unload other planes that were filled with people and the rest of our gear. In reality it took 4 trips with various numbers of people to get most of our gear out to camp. In some cases gear did not arrive for several days. Tomorrow would begin our education on the park...just what I need more school. :)

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Have plane will travel (to Katmai NP)

I survived my confusing crisscrossing of the country to finally land in King Salmon, Alaska on Sunday the 8th. My first few days landed me in a classroom setting so I could begin to learn a fraction of the knowledge that visitors to the park expect me to be an expert in when they arrive. The weather has been beautiful here and cold like I like it. Normally we would have flown out to Brooks Camp on Monday, but the lake was still iced over. After learning many fun ways to DIE in a plane we practiced exiting a plane that had crashed in the water. Finally we loaded up our gear on Friday and off we flew over 30 miles of mostly frozen lakes to Brooks Camp.