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. :)