Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The peas!
Katie, Rachel and Carolyn on the Trout Lake trail
Juneau Falls
keeping it real in the rain
This is just such a great picture, I had to add it!

Matt and I on Upper Russian
My first catch!!
My second catch!!

Stream Watch Volunteers

“Some people walk in the rain, others get wet.”
- Roger Miller

I think I walked in the rain and got wet this weekend. I had five days off in a row due to the eight day hitch that I will be going on tomorrow morning. I am optimistic about this hitch, as well as nervous. However, the story and the feelings behind the hitch will have to be saved for another post because too many awesome things happened in the last five days that need to be covered.

First of all, I went on an overnight backpacking trip with a fellow dormie, Matt. We hiked about 24 miles from Cooper Lake, past Upper Russian and Lower Russian Lakes. We took off at about 8:00 pm after work and hiked through some beautiful river bottom areas. We chatted easily and stopped to fish here and there. It is particularly pleasant to hike in the late evenings. We arrived at our first camp site at Upper Russian at about 10:30 pm (nine miles later) and decided to stay in the unoccupied forest service cabin. The cabin was brand spankin’ new and luxurious. There was even a row boat on the lake! At around 3:00 am, I heard the infamous moo-chirp stalking about outside our cabin and I shuffled around from window to window in my sleeping bag trying to figure out what kind of animal it was. After Katie and my experience at Lower Russian Lake with the moo-chirp, I was especially glad to have a cabin in-between me and the unknown animal. Matt supposed that the moo-chirp was a ptarmigan. Perhaps he is right, but perhaps it is a gruesome, hideous animal that stalks people from lake to lake on the Russian River trail. How am I to know unless I see the thing, or am attacked by it? Anyway, my unfounded stress led to a world-class laugh fest at 3:11 am and I simply couldn’t stop for the life of me. Hopefully it scared the fangs right off of the moo-chirp as it fled in terror at my pealing laughter.

The next morning we went on a peaceful boat ride on the lake and did some fishing and some wildlife viewing. I spotted a sow brown bear and her cub on the lake shore and a loon followed us around and dove under the water and swam beneath the boat. We got skunked on the fish, but the bears and the loon were more than enough conversation fodder for the next 8 or 9 miles. We stopped several times to fish for rainbow trout in the river but were unsuccessful. I did catch a fly fishing lure off the river bottom. That, I am proud to say, was the first thing that I ever caught with my fishing rod!!! We hiked and hiked through beautiful country with astounding views of snow fields and glacial valley’s and spruce pollen covered river beds and babbling brooks. I have to say that the babbling brooks are particularly fantastic in this part of the country. We stopped off at the Russian River Falls to view the salmon stacks. The smart ones were using the fish ladder but the adventurous ones were giving there all as they tried to swim up the falls. I think the fish hurdling their mass out of the frothy white water in a last ditch attempt to spawn in their home waters is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. After seeing this, we wanted to try our hand at salmon fishing so we walked past the falls sanctuary boundary and began fumbling around with our rods. I can imagine that our incompetence was fairly hilarious to the other fisher people. We were slipping on rocks, catching our hooks on shrubs behind us and generally looking awkward and bumbling. We were about to give up when a fish person took pity on us and offered to share his prime fishing spot. After our failed casting attempts he offered to hook some fish for us. The first fish that he hooked ran down the river so fast and took all my line of my reel. He was so strong, I couldn’t reel him in fast enough and the current helped him out. He actually managed to unhook himself and I did get my line back. We adjusted the drag and tried again. I think he hooked about 8 fish before I finally managed to land one. I have huge bruises on my hip from stabilizing the rod as I reeled. I have decided that I need at least two more hands, if not more. Matt managed to land a salmon as well and Bill, our fishing expert cleaned and filleted the fish for us! We were exhausted but happy as we hiked the final three miles and Katie picked us up all smiles so that was nice.

The next day, Saturday, was solstice and Moose Pass puts on a world class festival complete with tasty food, wonderful music and arts and crafts. I used Katie’s bike to ride the 6 miles to the festival around 12. I got there in time to see Big Nellie and the Empty Bottle Boys, a loosely held together band comprised mostly of my fellow USFS buddies. They play fun bluegrass tunes. Katie and the fire crew took an hour or so break so one of the crew members could play the washtub bass in the band! I slack lined and had a berry smoothie and chatted with folks that I knew, and didn’t know and generally had a good time. The music lasted until 9:30 and then the party moved to a private home around a bon fire. The scene was basically a bunch of drunks and I didn’t stay long. But I did run into Kristin Schmidt, a friend from high school, who I didn’t know was in Alaska. We didn’t get much of a chance to catch up so I hope she calls me and we can find each other later.

I discovered that a moose had gotten in our garden so I spent a good part of Sunday felling trees, stripping them and fashioning them into stakes for a higher fence. Some folks suggested that we get a bear hide to deter the moose and someone else suggested bear poop. I am keeping my eyes open for both. The garden, by the way, is doing very well and everything has sprouted except the brussel sprouts and the zucchini. Carolyn, Katie and I made salmon feast for dinner. It was nice to cook with people again and have a little bit of a community dinner. The salmon was excellent!!!

Monday, I volunteered for stream watch with Jennie. Essentially, some old veterans of the Russian River and I went down to the confluence area and told people to fillet their fish properly and keep their packs within three feet of them, picked up trash and mono filament line and repaired riparian area protection fences. My fellow volunteers were fairly knowledgeable about fishing and the area and general so I learned a lot from them. Watching the fisher people on the river also gives me a better sense of how to fish for salmon. Hopefully, I will be more successful or less awkward the next time I go.

After Carolyn and Katie got off of work on Monday, we went for an over night backpacking trip to Trout Lake. We viewed the ever spectacular Juneau falls and disturbed a foraging moose. We arrived at the lake and thought about fishing but it started to rain and we still hadn’t found a campsite. So we opted out of fishing and found a place to set up camp. The skies opened up and it began to pour just as we pulled out or tents. Long story short, we opted to all sleep in Carolyn’s two person tent because it was the only one that didn’t get completely soaked in the process of putting them up. At around 11:00 pm we made cocoa and at peppermint Luna bars and them began the slow process of piling into the tent without getting the inside wet. Carolyn first, and then Katie and finally, me. We all made sure to empty our bladders first though. We were fairly cold and wet and miserable but we managed to laugh and have some fun in our misery. I recited a couple poems and read out loud and it turns out we all managed to stay fairly warm all night long. We got up at 5 am and the rain had stopped, thank goodness. We packed up in a hurry and marched the five miles back to the trail head where Katie’s boss picked us up and took us back home. Katie had to work today at 9 which is why we had such an early wake-up time.

I am currently packing for the hitch and replanting some of the garden. I managed to collect some bear poop so I am going to distribute that. I hope that it doesn’t rain on the hitch but if it does, I hope I make lemonade with the lemons!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I haven't really spent a lot of time discussing the finer points of my work. This is mainly because it would be all complaints and I am trying to keep things on the positive side. However, I would like to mention that three out of my four days at work this past week were quite satisfying. We had to hike three miles into the work site and build abutments for a bridge on Juneau Creek. There was an awesome waterfall right down stream from where we were working. The contractor that built the bridge over river left sketchy gravel approachs with steep slopes on both sides of the bridge (see "almost" before and after pictures). The first picture is not actually a before picture. We had already put in some of the lumber. Imagine that it is not there and that there is a scary slope down to the river! A lot of bikers use this trail and the potential to slide down the side of the approach is fairly high. We hauled in a couple trailer loads of lumber with the ATVs and constructed wooden walls to hold the gravel in and then hauled load after load of gravel from a borrow pit about a half a mile away to fill in the gaps. I must say that the ATVs make our work much easier, though they have a huge impact on the trail and are a pain to back up with trailers. Turning around on the trails is also an issue. We often just bowl over trail riparian area and break off branches and squash vegetation. This is why we encountered the USFS cabins crew with a llama train. They have a very light impact on the trail and are the prefered mode of transportation on muddy trails. Also, since the trail was muddy we got see a lot of animal tracks including moose, black bear and brown bear (see picture of HUGE prints!!).

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Marshall Tucker Band
Glacier Brewhouse
Prince William Sound
Fish that was thrown back

deheading shrimp
To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.
John Muir
John Muir certainly is right. Alaska is full, chalk full, of wild and scenic places. It is a mecca for all outdoor sports and recreation. I became enthralled with the idea of living and working in Alaska because of its mountains and wildlife. However, I am finding increasingly more interesting things to do here outside of backpacking and glacier viewing.
It has been a late spring and a late summer. Consequently, the snow is still covering the upper (and sometimes lower) portions of the trails. More than once, I have been turned around by gobs and gobs of snow. And my healthy fear of the massive brown bears has stymied my drive to hike and backpack alone in these mountains. Therefore, I decided to have a weekend in the city of Anchorage.
Katie, Carolyn and I bought tickets to the Marshall Tucker Band for Thursday night and trundled to Anchorage after work. The concert was a blast and it turns out that I know more Marshall Tucker Songs than I originally thought. The crowd was full of bikers and baby boomer revelers and some young hicks. I am fairly certain that the entire band was toasted upon arrival and the tight pants of the lead guitarist and the long scraggly hair on all of them made the concert even more entertaining. At one point, all of the band members except Marshall Tucker himself, took off for a smoke or something. The venue was fairly low key and so Katie and I were able to get right up close to the stage and even stand next to Marshall Tucker while he was taking a break. We wrapped up the evening at a bar that could have been the Union Club if it had a live band and a dance floor.
Katie and I stayed the night with an old roommate of hers in Anchorage. We borrowed bikes and took the town by storm the next day. We went into the little touristy knickknack shops and the salvation army and the native arts stores and tried to do a tour about John Cooke but found we couldn't pay attention. We perused the parks and sat and people watched and smelled the salty air. After awhile we found Glacier Brewhouse and partook of their beer sampler tray. We tried ten beers in all including a plum lambic and raspberry wheat beer as well as an imperial blond ale and an imperial IPA. There beer was good but not great. The atmosphere was excellent and the bar tender made our day. He had spent a lot of time hiking in our neck of the woods and we discussed different trails.
Then we took a massively long bike ride out to the strip mall area and visited REI, where I deposited a lot of money in what I like to think of as a fine investment, a pair of fire boots. It sounds like the trail crew depends and expects to go on fires every year. I have grown out of my old fire boots so I figured I better replace them. I hope that we go on a fire now, because I have some pretty kick-ass boots. I opted out of the conventional whites or hawthornes because the arches are too high and got some La Sportivas that look silly as hell but are just as comfortable.
We also trekked to Value Village and the Salvation Army as well as an excellent Italian restaurant with a salad bar. The price shock has been a bit crippling when it comes to me buying produce so I haven't had a healthy dose of veggies since I got up here. The salad bar was great and just what I needed. We adventured home on our bikes at around 9:00 pm and made it home just before the rain started pelting down. We had hoped that her friend would be around to drive to Costco or a grocery store but she wasn't so we hoped on our bikes again with our backpacks and took off for a grocery store in the pouring rain. I bought 25 cans of veggies and spaghetti sauce, a huge thing of peanut butter, 10lbs of apples and 5lbs of carrots as well as 2 quarts of yogurt and some couscous. My pack was heavy. I shall not be buying 25 cans at once again. The uphill on the way home was interesting, to say the least...
Katie and I stayed up late listening to music on youtube including North To Alaska, which is a song I had never heard before.
Saturday morning Katie's friend's family took us fishing in Whittier. You have to take a train tunnel in your car to get there and traffic can only go one direction at a time and if a train is coming all the traffic has to wait for the train to pass through. Whittier is where all the Princess Cruises stop off and everyone in the community lives in one giant apartment complex. The scenery around the bay is breathtaking and multiple glaciers spill into the ocean in the area. There is also the world's second largest seagull rookery.
We set to the sea and laid shrimp pots in a secret place and then went to another secret place and fished for chum and king salmon. We got skunked on the fish but we kayaked and chatted and watched the eagles and listened to music and sat silently and contemplated the wonder of the land around us. Katie and I felt ecstatic to be so lucky as to be in Alaska fishing and kayaking and boating on the ocean. Kayaking was the most liberating thing after biking...to move of my own volition at a high speed and little effort to move without the graciousness of a car ride and the power of my own muscles. It was wonderful. I am becoming really serious about finding a bike and a kayak to use on the Kenai lake now. We had a lot of shrimp in the shrimp pots and I got way out of my comfort zone when I ripped their little heads and legs off. Their bodies still jerk after they have been decapitated. It was a horrible experience at first but then I realized that I was harvesting food and that these shrimp would be wholesome food in the end. I got a chance to drive the boat and grounded the lines on a sudden increase of ocean depth. Oops.
We had a successful hitch hike back to our home thanks to a spunky FWP intern from Texas. And we had a wholesome dinner of shrimp and pasta after oogling our sprouting garden. The broccoli, peas and radishes and beets are all sprouting now! I ended up joining some other folks at a show in Cooper Landing. The crowd was overwhelming but the music was good, some mix of samba and African drumming jam band. It made me very nostalgic for the samba dances in Missoula but the crown was different and I danced on edge and hung close to fire, enjoying myself but missing the energy that connects us all. There is something strangely hollow about the people who have been here for years. I find an affinity to my fellow first years but feel isolated and distant from the others. There is something that I can't put my finger on that makes the energy of Cooper Landing a Moose Pass less accessible. I shall cogitate on it more and in the mean time find joy in my fellow dorm mates who find delight in the smallest of things and wonder in the very act of being in Alaska.
Next weekend is the Solstice and a great festival at Moose Pass. I can't wait because I think the music will be great and the attitude will be positive. I may even enter a pie in the contest.

Jimmy Horton

Way up north, (North To Alaska.)
Way up north, (North To Alaska.)
North to Alaska,
They're goin' North, the rush is on.
North to Alaska,
They're goin' North, the rush is on.

Big Sam left Seattle in the year of '92,
With George Pratt, his partner, and brother, Billy, too.
They crossed the Yukon River and found the bonanza gold.
Below that old white mountain just a little south-east of Nome.

Sam crossed the majestic mountains to the valleys far below.
He talked to his team of huskies as he mushed on through the snow.
With the northern lights a-running wild in the land of the midnight sun,
Yes, Sam McCord was a mighty man in the year of nineteen-one.

George turned to Sam with his gold in his hand,
Said: "Sam you're a-lookin'at a lonely, lonely man."
I'd trade all the gold that's buried in this land,"
For one small band of gold to place on sweet little Ginnie's hand.
"'Cos a man needs a woman to love him all the time."
Remember, Sam, a true love is so hard to find."
I'd build for my Ginnie, a honeymoon home."
Below that old white mountain just a little south-east of Nome."

Where the river is winding,
Big nuggets they're finding.
North to Alaska,
They're goin' North, the rush is on.
Way up north, (North To Alaska.)
Way up north, (North To Alaska.)
North to Alaska,
They're goin' North, the rush is on.
North to Alaska,
They're goin' North, the rush is on.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Everyday seems to have a theme song. Sometimes it's the same song day after day. Sometimes it is the same day song after song and some songs seem to fit everyday. This weekend's song was Wagon Wheel by Old Crow Medicine Show or Bob Dylan or whoever you would like to give credit to. If you don't know it...you should find it.

Heading to the south from the land
of the pines, thumbing my way out
of North Caroline, staring at the road
pray to god, I see headlights. Well,
I made it down the coast in 17 hours
picking me a bouquet of dogwood floweres
and I'm a hoping for Raleigh, I can
see my baby tonight.

It went like this. Katie, one of my dorm mates and co-conspirator in the quest to see and do everything there is to do in Alaska plus, thumbed our way out of Moose Pass with nothing more than our backpacking gear and a vague plan to hike a trail on the tundra and then attend a music and arts festival in celebration of the Kenai river. We caught a ride from a co-worker straight away. He dropped us off at the meeting of two highways where the Forest Service has an interpretive van set up. We visited with our co-worker rangers who were stationed there for awhile. They had a scope focused on some mountain goats on the hillside. They are looking fairly scraggly. Then we walked and walked and watched and watched as the single passenger cars rolled on by. We were picked up about a mile down the road by a lady, who in retrospect, was quite emotionally distraught and probably drunk. We ditched her as soon as we could using the excuse that we had to pee and wanted to explore a short nature trail. We were picked up shortly thereafter by a Georgian halibut fisherman and he was pleased as punch that there were some girls out there with the guts to go backpacking on their own. Humph!!!

We were planning to hike on the tundra from one highway to the next on a 5 mile long trail and past 4 lakes. As we started off on the faint trail, we were attacked by mosquitoes. So many mosquitoes we were choking on them and as we batted at them and dodged our feet began sinking further into brown red muck. After a couple hundred feet or so, soaked to our calves, itchy and a bit lost, we turned back to come up with a plan B. It was obvious that the muck and the mosquitoes and the ever disappearing trail was going to make for a very miserable experience. So we pulled out the map and found another promising trail. It was a trail that I had been working on for the past week and led past some scenic falls, great views of an ice field and a back country cabin on a lake. So we hitched a ride back towards from whence we had come and began our new hike. It was a very pleasant hike through spruce and birch with plenty of views of craggy mountains and glittering snow fields. We set up camp and dined and explored the area. At around 10pm or so we were visited by a very disturbing sound. It was something like a whining moo. We were a bit startled and thinking it might be a moose or a baby bear or a distraught mama bear looking for her cubs, we banged pots and pans and made as much noise as we could. The noise ran off and it sounded as though it was a big animal. It may have also been a big bird...hard to say. The noise returned two more times in the night and banged and clanged it away. We did see a small black bear on the hike out, so maybe that was what the noise was. It did seem like our camp site was right in the midst of an animal thoroughfare to the lake.

We hitched a ride into Soldotna with some Moose Passers and there we found our way to the Kenai River Festival which had live music by Southern Comfort and 6 dollar salmon dinners complete with potato salad, tabbouleh, muffins and bread. We browsed the local crafts and participated in some kid's activities. There were some folks with eagles and owls milling about and a lot of interesting people. We had a grand time and I felt a little bit infinite. Then we ran some errands, i.e. picked up groceries and stuffed them in our already full backpacks. A new brewery had just opened up next to the grocery store so we checked that out as well. As far as I can tell, they make excellent beer and it will continue to get better. They had a great unfiltered hefeweizen and a wonderful vanilla bean porter. The decor was really creative and we met a nice old couple to drove us half way home and invited us to stay in there guest cabin whenever we wanted. We got a ride the rest of the way home from a guy that I do stream watch volunteering with. When we got home, we were exhausted and happy. Hurray!

Katie and I planted a garden this week too. The garden plot was already there from dorm residents prior so we fixed it up, mended the fence, pulled our the weeds and transplanted the perennials and planted us some peas, broccoli, kale, scallions, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, beets, radishes, spinach and Swiss chard. We are also going to plant an herb garden in an old rusty wheel barrow taking up space on the compound. We have been watering it with buckets and a colander because we don't have a hose. It is a great little project and we are both glad to have something to take care of this summer.

Our next adventure will be making sourdough tonight. I got some starter from a gal on my crew and revived it. We are trying to come up with a way to grind our own flour. We are also scheming on brewing some beer, probably an amber or a hefeweizen. Work...well...work is work and the tempo will be changing soon. The Russian River opens for fishing the 11th and so we will be changing projects. I am excited for a change that is for sure.

Well, I gotta get a move on before the sun
I hear my baby calling my name and I
know that he's the only one
and if I die in Raleigh, at least I will die free.
So rock me mama like a wagon wheel,
rock me mama anyway you feel.
Hey mama rock me.
Rock me mama like the wind and the rain.
Rock me mama like a southbound train.
Hey moma rock me.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

This is just a general I made it here and I need to exclaim and hoot and holler and rejoice in every way possible post. I don't really know anyone around me yet to do a celebratory leaping dance with, so I'm doing it here!!!

It is gorgeous here!! Tear-evoking...breath-taking, wild beyond belief and absolutely just exactly and not at all what I had thought. had a great bird's-eye-view of the wilds as the plane descended for landing in Anchorage. I was blown away by the blankets of snow on the craggy peaks and glaciers spilling into the bay. The land looked frigid and cold beneath. And to be honest, it is kind of frigid and cold out. They tell me that I have arrived with the good weather and for that I am grateful. The temperature surely has not risen above 60 and the snow level is about 20 feet above my head. One lake that I passed on the bus ride to my new home was halfway covered in ice. On the bright side, however, the sun is up for 20 hours a day, I spotted a baby moose and two baby rabbits as well as numerous leafing plants and budding flowers and the sun is warming. I also talked to several people people who were planting their gardens this week. So it looks like I will experience spring twice this year.

I was fortunate enough to spend my first weekend with Sarah Slauson and she indoctrinated me with a fine Alaskan wedding. Sarah's brother was getting married (informal, the ceremony was in a back yard and began two hours late). My major contribution was taking over the sewing of the groom's vest from the bride, who was dead set on him wearing that vest but still hadn't showered or make-upped. So I offered to help and had only intended to do some rudimentary hems and then hand it back over to her for the more complicated process of fitting and button-holing. In the end, she took long enough and ceremony was late enough that I, with the help of Sarah, ended up fitting and sewing the groom right into that vest. Very fun, indeed.

I took the bus from Anchorage to the Kenai lake work Center. It is half way to Seward. The work center is where I will be living and working for the rest of the summer and it is surrounded by craggy snowy mountains and flanked by an amazing powder blue lake that curves and stretches for miles like and "s." I am awestruck everyday. Montana is certainly a scenic place that instills many with wonder and awe but I have never seen anything like this valley or like the chains of mountains rising from flats around anchorage. As we drive the roads, I feel as though the wildlife is going to explode upon me. The potential for wildlife, the wildness, and the propensity for people to be oogling wildlife on the side of the road etc. makes me feel like I am in YNP, only less parky or touristy and more like holey shit...this place is a wild place and doesn't have park borders. I haven't seen much in terms of large wildlife but I have heard of plenty sightings happen right around where I live and work. From the chatter around the compound, one would think that human-bear interactions were everyday phenomena. I am a bit reticent to have an actual close-up interaction myself. I had rifle and shotgun training last week and we practiced shooting a charging bear target in the face. The real number of maulings is very low but I am still a bit worked up about encountering an aggressive bear. I went for a run to a lake the other day and brought bear spray, at a co-worker's suggestion. It was a great outing and I almost went for a swim but the wind blew cold and I opted out of it (very un-rachel-like, i know)

I got to go on a lovely hike yesterday with another co-worker. We took her dogs and made our way to a petite little lake. On the way the dog got itself into some baby bunnies. I am not sure if they will survive the dog-chewing but they were sure cute little things. They weren't bleeding externally so perhaps they will make it.

I have encountered some really nice people up here and I am really hopeful for a full and exciting summer. The work will be unlike anything I have done in the past. Strange, you say, and I think so too. However, my crew will spend the next three weeks constructing boardwalk on the world's most fished river, the Russian River. Construction includes the use of ATVs to transport our numerous electrical tools and saws, generators and manufactured boards and railings. The district gets most of its funding from this project and has spent the last 12 years on it. Moreover, they are all veterans of the trail crew and have the routine down pat, like a well-oiled machine, they are. I am the only new person on the crew, am the only clueless one and have asked some pretty novice questions. There is a lingo to living up here and I haven't quite caught on so the short-cuts need to be explained. However, I need to relax into the fact that I am clueless, it is my first week, after all, and I should be allowed. After June 11, when the fishing season opens and the Russian River will be lined with fisher-people shoulder to shoulder, our crew will move onto other projects. In the past, the crew had a big project elsewhere and established a base-camp with giant stoves and wall-tents and ATVs etc. and worked for 8 days and then had 6 days off. This may not be the case this year. I know we will have at least one eight day hitch. In one way the break from tradition may be good. I will get to do many projects on many different trails and therefore see more of the district, instead of being pigeon-holed into one trail and one project. On the other hand, I will only have three days off in a row, and for someone relying on public transportation to get around the state, three days is hardly enough to get to Anchorage and back. However, there are many adventuresome folks with cars in my area and I am hopeful that we will be friends and have shared outings.

In fact, my first shared outing was to a bar to see some co-workers perform at an open mic. I have also been on several more hikes up to a glacier and as far as the snow will let me go on nearby drainages. I went backpacking with some fellow dormmates last friday and that was really fun. I had volunteer orientation on Saturday morning at 7:30 so I had a very early morning hike out. I sang and told jokes outloud and realized that I can only remember 2 or 3 jokes so if you have any good ones you should let me know.

I am also gearing up to fish. It is inspiring that everyone here does it and I think I will be able to find many mentors and teachers. I have found some folks interested in fishing with a novice such as myself, which is heartening. My volunteering is a for a project called the Russian River Streamwatch. It is a group of folks who go out to the Russian River in the peak of fishing season and pick up trash, inform people of rules and regulations and generally act as a Forest Service presence in the face of what they "combat fishing." Folks line this river shoulder to shoulder during the salmon runs and it can get ugly. Dead fish, hooks, bears, dogs, children, gun fights, you name it. I am volunteering because I want to see the circus for myself as well as to get an opportunity to meet some people from around the area. All of my fellow volunteers have been around for years and know the ins and outs fairly well. One couple are the campground hosts for the campground right across from where I live. We chatted for a while and the husband has offered to teach me how to fly fish on the river that goes through the campground. Fishing starts on the 11th, so I will let you know if I get hooked :)

I am very happy to be here right now and have just crossed Alaska off my list of life goals (cheesy, but true). It feels very rewarding and I can see myself being happy here for the next 4 to 5 months. Perhaps the work may not be as challenging as I expected but I live with some really cool people and we have all sorts of plans from planting a garden, to learning spanish, to having drum circles, to brewing beer, to baking bread to backpacking to going to Denali to canoing etc, etc, etc. I do miss Missoula already though. There are three Missoulians stationed up here and several who have graduated from the U of M or who are linked to Missoula in one way or another.

I will try to be more consistent in my posts here, so check back and comment often.