Wednesday, October 29, 2008

We'll keep the lights on for ya!

My cabin

Neighbor's Cars

Down the Road

This is a few shots from last night's northern lights. I was finally able to get my computer to work again today so I could post these pictures. The display was amazing early on with white, green, and the occasional red/purple. I was too awe struck to get my camera out.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Random Pictures!

I hope to add more soon. Construction has made using the internet...annoying.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Pups on the move!

Me running pups

Anna (Kennels Staff)

Emily (Kennels Staff)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Few Adorable Puppies!

More to come later.

Wildlife Patrol!

A couple of weeks ago (June 7th) we received the strangest call of an owl stuck in a car. The way it sounded the bird was either inside or stuck in the windshield. Above is Jessi (co-worker) and Amy (Law Enforcement) examining the bird while I take photographic evidence of the incident before Amy opens the car. After popping the hood I took the grill off while Jessi held the Hawk Owl. Extracting it from its cramped space we put the owl into a cardboard box with puncture holes for transportation to Fairbanks where it is being rehabilitated for trauma to the chest. It should be released in a few days.

Primarily of late I patrol for moose jams and make sure food is stored properly. Here is a small moose jam with a man I was about to go talk with about wildlife distances. Note the moose on the left a few yards from the photographer.

Sometimes I meet some interesting people. Here is what a couple of guys had driven up from Iowa.

More blogs in a couple of days about Wonder Lake and Puppies.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A day in the life of a NPS sign!

Always forgotten and uncared for over the winter I sit in a metal Connex shipping container 6 months a year. I think the NPS rangers are under the impression I hibernate. Let me tell you it is cold! Imagine leaning against metal when it reaches -40. me chills just thinking about it.
But I digress. I have an interesting job and I can be very versatile. I wear many hats as it were, such as being a closure sign for a wolf den, a danger sign for moose calving or a bear kill, or a critical habitat sign. I get to see some interesting places, travel occasionally, and spend lots of time out in the park (including areas where only a few backpackers visit).
I really feel like I accomplish a great deal. I warn the public of dangers and I feel like I am personally protecting some of the parks amazing creatures. I get really upset when people just ignore me or feel like what I have to say doesn't apply to them. The rangers must like working with me since they seem to get upset when others don't heed my warnings. Also they always seem so happy when they are taking me out into the park. Although, I must admit, I am not a big fan of getting hit repeatedly on the head. I say to the rangers "Hey, that hurts", but it always comes out as "creak"...I must have suffered brain damage from all the hammering.

Here is a great photo of me soaking up the sun and scenery near the Teklanika bridge. I was protecting wolves that day...I know your jealous! :)

Here is one of my cousin, he was always the funny one. He drew on himself and was posted near the water to warn people about "Killer Beaver"...ha ha...killer beaver...only he would think of that...whew, well back to my story.
The other day I was posted a few miles beyond Toklat to let people know that I was protecting the Western boundary of a wolf den closure. Everything was normal for a few days, you know fun, sun, and sight-seeing. Then one day I was standing around minding my own business, when I was attacked from the back. I was clubbed on the back of the head and dragged away. Eventually (I presume a bear) chewed on me and reduced me to shreds. When the rangers came by to ask how I was doing, it took 30 minutes to locate me. They could not believe the damage so they took a picture of me. Look there I am torn apart on the ground (covered in teeth marks). Hmmm...this is kind of like an out of body experience.

So long all and good luck to all my brothers and sisters still out there fighting the good fight.

R.I.P. NPS sign R.I.P.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Dog Sleds

Yesterday, I witnessed this wolf relaxing in the sun. We were posting signs so that others would stay away from his den. Below is a video of some of his cousins. My dog, Tonzona, is the "wheel" dog pulling the sled.

The first position on dog sled teams are called the lead dogs. Usually we run two instead of one lead dog here at Denali. The second position is called the swing dog. They will swing wide so that the sleds turn is more gradual. The third position (not in the video) are team dogs who help pull. Last comes the wheel dog. These dogs start the sled, break out the runners if they are iced up, and pull most of the weight. Usually during the runs around the track they have two dogs in wheel and one in the swing position. In the video you might notice that there are two swing dogs and Tonzona is the wheel dog all by himself.
These are Alaskan Huskies. They are not a true breed b/c they are bred as work dogs (function) not for looks. The are larger than racing dogs that you see in the Iditarod. Most racing dogs are around 50 lbs, while Tonzona (largest in the kennel) is closer to 100 lbs. They also have long legs for breaking trail, large compact feet so they don't get iced up, two coats of fur (one small for warmth, one long to keep dry), busy tail to breathe through at night, and hair in their ears to keep out snow. Our dogs are generally most comfortable at -10 degrees F. They start pulling a sled when they are 2 and retire to loving northern climate families around age 9.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Tough Life!

This week we added a new area closure and inspected some recently posted. This picture is of Teklanika's wolf den.

Also we have had to keep an eye on a Moose cow and 1 year old calf. This picture was taken after we intervened b/t the cow and a small dog. Neither were hurt, but the dog was visibly shaking. Also note this is one of a few moose that we have collared for a study.

Lastly a few pics of my "adopted" dog. I am walking a husky named Tonzona for the kennels over the summer.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Ghost of Driving Past

I just wanted to add a little to the story and imagery of my drive up to Alaska. Mostly a few images :).

The drive up was beautiful. At Dawson Creek, British Columbia is historical mile zero which continues 1,390 miles through beautiful country, passing many animals living and splattered, ice, frost heaves, behind slow motor homes, terminating in Delta Junction, Alaska.

Along my trip I saw many sights including a strange and weird forest of unknown origin. Maybe it is just nature trying to blend in with human society. The natives I met called it a "Sign Forest", but I was unable to get a translation of this saying...maybe it means metal trees. :) This bizarre sight can be witnessed in Watson Lake, Yukon Territory.

I also say the usual Dall Sheep and Stone Sheep, which are the same except the latter has a brownish coat. Also a few...hundred buffalo. Try to find the Ptarmigan (pronounced Tarmigan) in the snow picture. Funny story: A city in Alaska argued so much over how to spell Ptarmigan as the city name that they gave up and called it Chicken. :)

I also captured a picture of the hideous fiend, monster of monster, most unholy creature from Monty Python and the Holy Grail...THE SNOWSHOE HARE! Alas Brian, standing "conveniently" two feet closer, was ravaged by the BEAST shortly after this picture and is presumed dead. Fortunately for those of you with a weak stomach the end came quick to Brian, the name I had given to the bush outside my house ;).

Monday, May 05, 2008

Bear Update

Well technically I am still in training, but I am now giving orientations to park and concession employees. This last week I went on a road patrol with my compatriots to place some area closure signs. These were to prevent people from hiking into areas where wolves are denning. Soon the some females should be having pups. I am really excited to monitor the dens and hopefully see the little guys walking around. Also the wolf that had a snare on its neck was darted and treated on Friday. This wolf looks like it is going to make it. Check out Fairbanks local newspaper from the previous week to see details on the story.

On our return trip I saw my first bear of the season. A male, who was looking quite healthy, but not the size of a Katmai bear. These bears get less food so they do not grow as large or congregate in mass numbers.

One day this weekend I shocked my eyes and ears with the hustle and bustle of city life that can only be described as Fairbanks, Alaska. With approximately 83,000 people you can just imagine this is like going to NYC especially when you have only seen 25 people in the last month. I could only brave this hectic conditions for a few hours which gave me enough time to shop for myself and two others (yes, it is required to buy for others if you go to town ;) ) and see Iron Man. Movies are a personal vice, but hey it could be worse and I don't get to town often. The rest of my weekend is was pretty relaxed except for Sunday.

Sunday started just like any other day, except this Sunday morning was rudely interrupted by lots of loud banging. Fortunately it was not a hangover (I quickly remembered I don't drink), but was just my roommate getting snow and mud off his boots before entering the house. Anyways it was time to get up b/c I was meeting several people for a hike up Mt. Healy. The journey was treacherous. Crossing vast ice sheets, raging rivers of snow melt, and daunting heights of snow and mud. Actually it was a great hike and let me get to know several people while enjoying a wonderful day. Sadly most of these people are heading out to the west side of the park next week. Curiously it strikes me as funny (odd) that you can get such a good tan when there is so much snow...who needs a beach.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Calm before the Storm

Hello again. I am officially a Park Ranger now and I have the photo of my badge to prove it. :) So far things have been going well here. The few of us who are here early are just going through training and reveling in the 3 plus feet of snow we have gotten in two weeks and the occasional 50 degrees and sunshine (coincidently the sun makes that warm enough for T-shirt weather).

I just received one roommate who is on the fire crew and may receive another (hopefully not) who works on the trail crew. Apparently b/c of construction and a few other factors we get to possibly experiencing the joy of that lovable fish the sardine. The cabin I am in is great though, but I cannot wait until June when we get to use running water in our sinks. We all share a communal bath house in C-Camp that has our showers, bathrooms, and laundry. There is also a pretty nice rec hall that has computers, pool table, foosball, and a TV.

Essential my job will involve patrolling the east end of the park making sure that food and trash are stored properly, crowd/animal management when they encounter each other, wildlife sightings/info, and wildlife incidents.

I expect that this should be a pretty good summer. And look forward to showing some cool pics. I have also been exploring even through the snow. This is such a beautiful place and I am anxiously awaiting the start of the season. With some luck I might get to walk one of the kennel huskies. Below is a neat picture of melting snow that is curving off the roof.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

New Beginnings

Hello out there. I'm back. Hopefully this season will be better, but i make no promises. I hope to blog about 4 times a month.

This seasons starts off much the same as others. Boy wants job, boy applies to 53 jobs, boy get job, and boy drives 3900 miles to job. That's right, 3900 miles. I am working this season as a wildlife tech in the wonderful Denali National Park. Finally a job where I get paid for my work.

I started my journey on April 1 and I'm not fooling you that it was not an easy drive. There I was battling the elements, first rain and wind, then blizzards so strong that all traffic had to pull off the road b/c visibility dropped to about 5 ft. Amazingly I had not even made it out of Minnesota, but like the postal workers neither rain nor sleet nor snow could stop me.

I continued up into Canada with the occasional light flurry until I reached Edmonton, Alberta to visit with my brother and pass the half way point. After arriving it snowed 5 inches which is more snow that I had seen in the whole of my 5 years in Chattanooga. We lived out our boyhood dreams and recreated Calvin and Hobbes "Snowmen House of Horror".

From there my journey continued through British Colombia into the Yukon Territory, home of the Gold Rush and something more sinister. Lurking in various locations throughout this wilderness lies a fearsome and hideous beast so terrifying it defies imagination. No, This great beast is not the fabled Snowshoe Rabbit of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (which coinidently a few live under my cabin). It is something more terrifying, deadly, and evilly lying in wait for its next victim...the MOOSE. These crafty creatures cannot wait to pounce into the car of any unsuspecting driver.

I luckily enough did not get waylaid by this monstrosity. I did however see several other cohorts of this beast on the side of the road, such as the buffulo and big horn sheep. In all honesty my drive through British Columbia and the Yukon was beautiful. But beware the lurking beast! Moose and buffulo carcass sadly were all over the sides of the road so do be careful if you ever drive this way.

Finally I reached the safety of Alaska and its never ending snow. I have been in Alaska for a week and have been blessed with a fine spring. We have had only 18 inches. The northern lights are still around when the clouds part at night and the moon striking the snow is inspiring. It reminds me of a Thomas Kincade painting of a cabin out in the woods covered in snow.

I feel lucky to be hear and will hopefully get some good pictures to share with you as the summer continues and we hopefully get the road open. Til then...Tah!