Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Travel Abroad!

I am so sorry that I have been so terrible at blogging this year, but I have been too busy living life to take the time to sit down and record it. I really am sorry that I could not share more with you, but maybe when I return. For those not in the know I am traveling to Greece, Turkey, and Egypt from Oct. 12 through Dec. 14. Hope you're all doing well and that I get to see you when I get back.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Maybe just a word to you, but an accomplishment to me. I will discuss more later, but for now here are some pictures.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Its Got To Be The Shoes!!!

Tonight I did something that I thought that I would never do again. First I want to say that I have not run since the end of June. It is not that I was afraid of bears; instead it was the fact that bears were getting to close to the bridge that it would be closed down for multiple hours making one have to wait on one side or the other. Let me tell you that it is not ideal to be stuck waiting to cross for a few hours when you have been sweating and your cloths start to freeze. Needless to say it was a good excuse to be lazy.

Today I decided that it was high time I started to run again. I felt measurably tired all day and was not looking forward to my decision to run. Then my running partner Jen went to the Valley of 10,000 Smokes with her sister (completely understandable) making me even less inclined to go running. Well slightly after getting off work I talked myself into running at least a short distance with a max of 3 miles.

However, when I started running I felt darn good and next thing I knew I was looking over to spot the 4K (K=kilometer) marker. I continued on to the 5K (3.1 miles) and decided that I should just go the extra 3K out to five mile pit. To ensure that I ran the full distance I went a little further than the 8K marker and turned around. Half a K after turning around I started to doubt if I could still make it all the way back so I made little goals for myself to help me along with the additional line of "all take a break at the next one". Once I reached the 6K marker I felt rejuvenated and I fell into the zone. I ran back at a great pace and finished my 16 kilometer run in 1 hour, 31 minutes, and 37 seconds. That is 10 MILES for those of us who are not on the metric system (go USA). If you do the math that works out to just over 9 minutes a mile for 10 miles. I must admit that I am pretty proud of myself.

Until next time with stories a plenty as we journey into the final day of July.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mageik Lakes!

July 19-21 I traveled the path less trod and went up the right side of the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. My destination was the Mageik Lakes so named b/c they are at the base of Mageik mtn. But the destination is not the journey and the latter is what makes traveling fun.

As such Jen and I left for the trail after work and hiked out to 6 mile (you can guess why it got that name :>) where we camped our first night. Other than being over cast and slightly windy it was a beautiful afternoon and night in the valley when we set up camp at 11:30 pm. You have to love Alaska and its long days. :) That night Jen had a little trouble trying to sleep b/c we heard some noises a few yards from the tent. I being the rational one with more experience told her to cover her ears. Covering the ears was not so that she could sleep, but so that she would not be more startled when I broke the nights silence by yelling at the noises. Some scurrying was heard afterwards followed not too much longer by our departure into the land of dreams known as sleep. The next morning after while Jen was heeding the call of nature I scouted the perimeter of camp to find that a bear, wolf, and wolf pup had all scouted our tent from about 8-12 feet away. Obviously for not only Jen's sanity, but my own, I neglected to tell Jen this information until we were on our way our of the Valley the following day.

That afternoon we reached the lakes where we set up camp in a less windy area and scouted around the lakes. It was beautiful with a green/blue color that came from the glacial flour or fine sedimentary particles floating in the water reflecting the light. There were also 4 waterfalls on the side of the lake opposite of us.

The night passed without incident and we headed out the next morning. The overcast sky always seems to be the best view of the Valley b/c that is when the red/orange color seems to come out most making the ridges and canyons look amazing. We were not going for a speed record, but we still walked the 15 miles from the Mageik lakes back to the Three Forks Cabin overlook in about 5 hours.

It was an amazing trip and I recommend it to anyone who can go with a small addition of crossing over to Novarupta if you only have one weekend. The 25th will be our Christmas in July party that I organized, complete with gifts. Sometime in August I am going to try and summit Mt. Katmai and see the Caldera.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Bear Crazy! and Future Plans...

I just returned from a trip out to Research Bay. I was planning on staying the night, but the only islands to camp on all had bear signs. I saw tracks, trails, day beds, and scat including one with shell pieces. Then I saw one bear on shore running around, so I called in to say I was on my way back. During the radio call I saw 5 bears which increased to 8 by the time I left. I canoed back with Racheal 7-8 miles in just over 2 hours. On the way back there was an amazing sunset. It was a bright orange that turned to red as it set. The moraine kept the light from falling opposite on Katolinat everywhere, but the break in the moraine. It created this beautiful reddish haze on research bay.

Here in camp a few salmon have started turning red early so we have to throw at least one back to get a silver fish. This can be problematic since the bears have been so prevalent in the lower river area. The water is about 2.5 feet lower than average which makes it really easy for the bears to catch fish. However this is not so fun for visitors since there are lots of bears around the bridge closing it down for 1-7.5 hours at a time. It is also more interesting trying to get your salmon since you fish with bears within a hundred yards of both sides of you. In other words we are getting pretty darn good at catching, thumping, and bagging a fish.

As the unofficial event planner for Brooks Camp I organize playing cards, movie nights, group dinners, and other small social events. I am currently starting the "Christmas in July" potluck. It will be held on the 25th and will include a Secret Santa gift swap for those who are interested. There will be other fun things as well, but many ideas are still in the development stages.

This next weekend I will be going off to visit Mageik lakes in the South East corner of the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. I am really excited since this will be my third attempt in 2 years to get out there. Ranger Jen also wanted to go so she switched weekends so that neither of us had to go it alone. It should be a blast and very beautiful area complete with waterfall ranging as high as 100 feet. The lakes are glacier fed so they are very brisk.

I am also finalizing plans for a trip to Katmai Caldera in August. This shall be an interesting trip since it involves some glacier travel...I will be prepared so don’t worry. If it works out Greg, Jen, Ralph and I will be making the trip the 2nd week in August. Depending on the schedule Erica and Mason want to come as well, but we might just have to take a second trip up with one of the original 4 leading these 2. It would be great if we could all go the same weekend, but we shall have to wait to see what can be worked out.

Tis all for now since I need some sleep so I can get up early to beat the crowds to the Falls. I shall try to update the blog once a week from now on, especially after big events.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Survival of the Fittest!

Quick update for you:
A few weeks ago I cut my hair, which does not look to bad b/c my curly hair covers up the patchy spots. Also the salmon are running strong. The bears are being crazy this year. We have had to escort people around bears tons in the last few weeks. Also the bears have been completely closing the bridge across Brooks River for hours. This is not so bad since people want to watch bears, but it does cause some issues and tension.

Friday the 29th was a most interesting day for me. I had the day off, so I traveled to the falls in the afternoon since there was a bear jam (bear blocking any crossing of the river) all morning. I witnessed several bears fishing and had a good time talking to visitors and watching the bears. I left around 5:20 to head back to camp when I spotted two young adults wrestling about 20 yards from the end of the ramp along the falls trail. Being the good off duty ranger I helped get people to the ramp as they approached.

After the bears left I waited a few minutes to proceed down the path so that the bears might have a chance to clear out. 60 yards from the ramp the pair came running down the path behind me, so I stepped off the trail to let them pass me. The first bear stopped about 20 feet in front of me while the second stopped 25 feet behind me. Still not worried. Then a third sizeable male bear runs towards me from the left while woofing at me a couple of times. Speaking kindly I stepped further off the trail into the woods. This is when I get a tiny bit scared. To my right a large dominate male bear bluff charges down a hill towards me to stop about 3 feet away. A bluff charge is when a bear runs at you and stops some times coupled with foot stomping as it stops (as in this case). I stood my ground, unclipped my bear spray, and watch the bear cowboy walk (sideways straddled steps), then turn sideways to show me his large profile. The 2 younger males have run away at this time, but I am still between these two bears, a stand of trees in front, and a large dead spruce behind me leaving no real exit strategies. Then the third bear woofs a few times at me from the left, which causes the dominate male to bluff charge a second time with accompanied foot stomps. Honestly you don't know a bluff charge from a real one until the bear stops. Also bears can run 40 yards in under 3 seconds and this bear was only 10 yards on the second run. Luckily the third bear woofed a few times and walked away, which I promptly followed giving the fourth bear a chance to leave. So all in all it was and eventful night.

I left out July 2 to go on a kayaking trip down the Ukak River and back to camp. B/c of a bear jam we were not able to arrive at Three Forks Cabin (overlooks the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes) until 10:15 at night. We portaged one Kayak and some gear, in the rain, down 1.7 miles and 850 ft loss of elevation to below Ukak Falls. The next morning we got up and portaged the other kayak and gear down in order to start our day. We had walked part of the rim that overlooked the river the night before to check out the quality of the rapids which were supposed to be class 5. Turns out that they were only class 3 when we ran them. It was great. Greg Fahl and I cover the 1st mile in less than 2 minutes.

After that the river slowed down and the guide book we had read, copyright 1973, proposed that the rest of the river was class 1. About .5 miles later we hit more rapids that are way more intense. This is a little scary since we are surrounded by a 75 ft high canyon wall with 34 degree glacier fed water. In these rapids is when Greg flips his kayak and goes in the water (aka attempts suicide by river). Through clear mind and a little skill I was able to back paddle, unbuckle the throw rope, and toss it to with in 3 inches of Greg (text book toss) in about 3 seconds (Greg has been bragging on me ever since we returned). Next I paddled forward while keeping hold of Greg in order to ram my boat between two rocks, thus safely bring him up on the only bank available. After Greg was discovered to be ok, I took off down river and managed to get the kayak before it was too far down river. I was able to get out about a half mile down river and pull out the boat. Greg walked over the ridge to catch back up with me at which point we tossed the rope back and forth so that I could tie the kayak to it then let him drift it back to himself on the other side. Some how, we cannot crack this mystery, Greg ended up with the paddle so it was not lost, but he was not holding it when he was pulled ashore. While we were getting Greg and his kayak back together we were getting hypothermic.

To add insult to injury it started to rain and the wind picked up. Two hours after the flip we were back in the water paddling towards an area to get out and get warm. The river still had some good rapids which we managed well. It was interesting to see the Novarupta ash end so went from 60 ft cliffs to no ash 3 ft later. The weather got better and worse over the day as well so we went from hypothermic and back several times, but we knew we had to finish the river in order to get a chance at a boat pick up from Neknek Lake. The rest of the day went pretty well and we even recovered an item that Greg lost from the Kayak later on in the day. The rain had an interesting effect on the river in places. It would cause the river to stack up creating 4-5ft waves in the center of the river which would slacken into mostly flat water then back again to huge waves. I went through it once for fun, but interesting enough you could paddle to the left or right of the wave and be close enough to touch the wave with your hand. Finally we reached the braided stream at the end that feeds into the end of the Savanoski River quickly followed by the Iliac arm of the Neknek Lake. The last .5 mile of the Ukak was so shallow the boat would catch on sand so you had to hip thrust the boat into a narrow channel that lasted 3-6 ft. Needless to say my abs hurt and we eventual decided to get out and walk through the cold water to the side of the river and out to the lake.

It is about 7 pm when we stare down 2.5 ft white caps and a strong head wind against us on the Neknek. Being such a terrible location and so cold we had to tough it out and paddle for the closest reasonable area to camp. Luckily we knew of an island that turned out to be amazing. It had a nice flat spot protected from the wind that was perfect and enough dead/down wood (also drift wood) for me to make a fire to warm ourselves. We reached the island by 8 and called back to Brooks Camp to let them know we had arrived on the lake. We made dinner on our stove and went to bed not too long after.

The next morning was 40 degrees and strong winds. We called about getting a possible ride in to camp, but no one was available and bear jams prevented getting out a boat. So we braved the white caps, cold, and head wind. As the day progressed it became very nice. I switched from sweater and rain jacket to just a t-shirt and the sun even came out as we were paddling the main stretch across the lake. That blessing became a curse as I got really sunburned especially on my elbow where I had scratched off a good bit of skin saving Greg. When we reached the moraine break, which separates the iliac arm from the main body of Neknek Lake, we encountered a sharp increase in wind which created several waves about 4 ft high with white caps. Luckily we made it through with no problems and reached camp just before 6 pm.

Today was just another fun day working with bears and bridge closures. The sunburn has been a little tough, but worked out well and I was even lucky enough to get a back rub last night. All said and done we had a good time and it made for a great story. "The Ukak Gauntlet" as we are naming the trip was probably the first time it has been run in 30-35 years and might be a while before another sole paddles its length again. Good night & happy thoughts to all until we meet again.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Please Stand By!!!

I truly apologize for not writing more. This year has been incredibly busy. I feel like I have so little free time and the summer is half way through. I should be writing more on the 5th involving hair cuts when surrounded by cackling witches, my July 2nd-4th adventure kayaking around Katolinat (1st time run in 20+ years)...people are praying for us to make it back with out radioing about a tragic accident. Don't worry though we are both returners who know the area very well and will laugh in our critics faces at our triumphant return. Also I will tell the harrowing adventure of how I escaped being trapped by 4 bears and stood my ground during not one, but two bluff charges. So stay tuned readers until the next exciting issue of the King blog. Know that I will see you later and hope that all is well for you and me.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Small Triumphs!

I am having a great time up here in Alaska. The bears have been showing up more and more, but they are not as willing to show themselves around the river with the rough weather we continue to have. By rough weather I mean the constant day in day out wind that blows through at a minimum of 20 mph. To quote Jimmy from South Park, "I mean, come on"... in other words we have had five day without that pesky wind. Also the bears don't like to be in the wind b/c they rely on their sense of smell, so in effect the wind is making them blind to their environment.

I have had some things occurring to me up here that seem wondrous. Two days ago (June 6th) at 1pm was the 95th anniversary of Novarupta erupting, which was consequently the largest eruption of the 20th century and 5th largest in recorded history. On that same day I caught sight of a very elusive white creature that is generally referred to as a wolf. :) That is actually the first one that I have seen at Katmai. In a previous blog I mentioned that I have been running every other day since arriving out here on May 12th. Well I had a milestone day today. I ran with one of my running partners for a little over 11 kilometers, aka about 7 miles for us Americans. This is a big deal for me since it has been at least 6 years since I ran anywhere near that far.

Also I received a package from the parents the other day (thanks again) which is always a joyous day. There is something that is so satisfying to receive any kind of mail let alone a package. Generally you will be informed of this miracle of post by at least 4 jealous rangers before you ever make it to the mail/laundry room.

Strangely enough while up here you can never stop eating, which is probably caused by all of us having increased activity coupled with it being cold up here, mostly due to high winds cutting through to the core of your being. With this ensuing increase of appetite and our limited resources we get by quite well. One would be amazed at some of our choices of cuisine and more so by the ability of some to adapt and over come. In other words most of us are becoming very adept cooks. The best of us, Mike, has even been creating English Muffins and Bagels from scratch. We have been creating many variety of dishes and a few interesting fish recipes, which I imagine will increase to 5 star excellence by the time salmon season is over. We cannot help but laugh at ourselves as well since our most common conversations revolve around food.

I hope all is well with those of you in the lower 48 and feel free to drop me a line.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Extreme Sports!!!

I believe that the brochures for South West Alaska should read: Welcome to Bush Alaska where even the mundane is extreme. In other words the people of Brooks Camp have developed a new sport, "Extreme Running". For this sport you need: running wear, bear spray, mp3 player (optional), and a prayer to some deity. Now the goal of this sport is to run a minimum distance of 3 miles without being mauled by a bear or the occasional rabid band of red squirrels.

Why its interesting: The first rule when in bear country is "Do Not Run from Bears" b/c they will see this as a sign of playing or that you are prey making them chase after you. Another fun thing to do, when your spaced out on the road to a good tune, is turn a corner to see a bear make a funny face and crap itself in fear, which is ironically the same thing you did. :)

In all honesty I do have to admit that being around people who are healthy or trying to be can make you start acting the same way. Thus I have been running 3-5 miles every other day for a few weeks. I did actually "run" into my first bear today just as I was finishing my run.

Today was one of the most beautiful since I have arrived. There was no wind blowing at 30 mph or more and the sun was out. Which is probably why the bear was stretching his legs and checking the lower river for Sockeye salmon (which should arrive in 2 weeks).

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The little things we take for granted!

Being in Alaska is not too bad for most people since they have what most American's refer to as essentials, if only for a higher price. Living in bush Alaska is not quite the same. First you come to realize that fresh fruit and vegetables are hard to come by as you slowly see your massive stockpile you brought to camp dwindle down. This can be some what relieved but never satisfied by canned foods. Next you realize you have Alaskan prices for food and then some since it cost a ton to fly food to your location...who knew gas prices affect more than cars. Don’t think that I am complaining though...I love this place, this job, the people, and where else do you see bears every day. :)

For me personally I love bread and sandwiches. Last year began my attempts to alleviate this lack of grain intake with occasional biscuit making thanks in part to bisquick. This year I decided to kick it up a notch. Let me tell you that it is a proud moment when you slave away dedicating time and attention to preparing dough, letting it rise, beating it down (the key is to utilize your weeks frustration ;) ), and watching it take shape as it bakes and turns golden brown in the oven. Being my first attempt at making something that seems so relatively simple, I was a little scared. Normally if you fail you can always go to the store for more ingredients or just get a loaf from the corner market, but here in bush Alaska everything is precious. So as the moment of it completion neared Mason, Jen and I waited with ravenous anticipation. I had also prepared an amazing chili that only the three of us were willing to brave since we had a taste toward the slightly blazing aka I put in a ton of spices, jalapeƱos (amazingly hard to transport to Brooks camp), and brown sugar to sweeten the taste. So when my first attempt at baking bread came out near perfect, I beamed with pride as I presented it "like a proud father" to my waiting compatriots. This picture was taken within a few short minutes of its exodus from the oven.

Maybe this story will make you appreciate the ease with which we obtain food in the south. Enjoy it cause I know I will when I return.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day Weekend!

I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day. I had a great time. I backpacked in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes (VTTS). I will post pictures later when our internet is not so problematic. I organized a group, picture to left(Erica, John, Mason in background, Jen, Mark, Rachael, Jeanne, Mike, and yours truly taking the shot), consisting of 7 interp and two maintenance staff (aka the Twins, Mark and John). We traversed the pumice terrain enduring cold and some light rain making a soupy mix that is very...annoying to walk/sink through.

We ended our long day of hiking and camped out at the Baked Mtn Huts half way up Baked Mtn. The Huts are actually left over from a USGS survey base in the 60's.
Let’s just say that it was very cold that night. To keep some of us warm we slept 5 deep on the floor with Jen and I covering ourselves with an old emergency sleeping bag that was left in the cabin. Note to all you reading this: 1. sleeping bags are rated to survival temp, not to be confused with comfort temp. 2. 6 years of losing down feathers from your bag means that your bag is no where near its rating any longer. The moral of the story is that Jen and I (the two really frozen people) are going to invest in new bags eventually. Hopefully then we will not have to rely on the kindness of strangers...or there body heat.

The next morning I led my roommate Mason and Jen to the horseshoe overlook to investigate Novarupta (site of 20th century's largest eruption). Let me just say that lots of snow in semi-warm weather is not very conducive to walking over it, but is more like post hole digging with your feet. Anyways we eventually slogged our way to the top of the horseshoe's rim. Before us was the amazing site of Novarupta, in its 500 ft (yes feet) of glory. It was so amazing that Mason did not see it at first. The plan was to climb Novarupta, but I dissuaded (very easily) the others that this was not feasible due to snow hiding the already treacherous and jagged rocks. That climb along with a trek to the Mount Katmai caldera is destined for later in the season. Since we had to be back to meet the NPS vehicle we hiked at amazing speed to catch up to the rest of our group (who started returning while we investigated Novarupta) and switched places with our Law Enforcement staff who were going out for a two days.

The ride back was a blast b/c I drove and you know what that means...crossing 3 rivers in an excursion. :) Very satisfying. On the road we turned a corner to witness a bear being spooked off by the vehicle and had to keep from running over some spruce grouse (possibly one of the planets least intelligent creatures). Back at camp one of our old bears "Popeye" returned taking our number of bears sited to 7, which could mean that the bears will be here early this year.

Quick Visa Recap
1. Sleeping Bag $150
2. Backpack $200
3. Stove & Pots $80
4. Various Clothing $180

Enduring mind-numbing cold to visit a volcano with new friends in an area inhabited by the world's largest concentration of Brown Bears....priceless.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Hello everyone! I have successfully made it out to Brooks Camp once again. Currently I am undergoing training to prepare for the up coming season. I am still a volunteer but might be hired on later in the season. This year I have taken on more responsibilities including campground host and supervising an invasive plant removal team (in the month of June).

I have seen only one bear, but it is not a shock since most have not left hibernation yet. I have also witnessed a river otter and moose. Yesterday after training I traversed the steep hillsides of Mount Dumpling to the overlook with 2 co-workers. On the way back we watched a poor beaver have to walk along the beachside due to the 20 mph winds creating waves that were pushing him back to shore.

I have a day off tomorrow, but I will try to help out with the Motorboat operating class. If nothing else I will takes a short swim in the 33 degree water to get clean since out water pipes are still frozen. Not to worry I am having a blast and cannot believe that I am lucky enough to be here a second season. I will write more as things develop here and as I slowly figure out my cameras and how to transfer images/video to the blog.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Return

Hello again everyone!

I am returning for another summer season at Katmai National Park and Preserve. I will be working May through September this year, which means I will get to show pictures of big fat brown bears before they hibernate.

I think that this year will turn out to be full of new wonders and hopefully I will be able to capture a few with the help of my new camera. I cannot wait to get back to Alaska. Hopefully you will enjoy some of what I experience through the eye of my lens and the jovial nature of my words.