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.

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