Saturday, September 21, 2013

termination dust

My time in Denali is over. For now, anyway; it's hard for me to think about leaving places for good, I may be back someday. Things are coming to a nice, circular close, up here in Alaska. When I first arrived, I was picked up at the airport by some family friends and spent a day or so in Anchorage before catching a bus up to the park to begin working. Just the other day I hopped on a train and came back down to Anchorage, and was picked up again, and now spending a few days here before heading out (though not directly: a plane, then a ferry, then another plane before I'm home: rivers and roads).

The seasons are also serving as cyclical closure for my Alaska adventure: When I came in May it was still unabashedly winter: the ground still covered entirely in its white disguise, just like the ptarmigan and hare, with more snow to come in a rare late-season storm.

Spring was brief, but commenced with the blooming of the beautiful (though poisonous) pasque flower. Wildflowers continued through late summer, each dominating a certain area of soil and slope, rapidly rising to full blossom, and fading just as fast, giving way to another.

Pre-mosquito summer was incredible, and filled with lots of blue-skied hikes, trips to the lake or river, and even a half-marathon (my first: I'm not exactly hooked on running them. I did well, and for now am satisfied with having done it).


Mosquito season sucked. (ah, ah.)

Fall came late, but in striking style. While everyone had described fall to me as the most impressive time of year in Denali, the colors still took my breath away. And just like the transition of flower to flower, the colors changed everyday, the rapidity of its arrival and departure impressive, as I have found most things in Alaska to be.

And then, though there was a brief period, the tundra brown, the sky gray, where Denali was not the most beautiful place I could imagine, for once, the first snows came, bringing a close to so many things. The first snow on the peaks above, a confection coating called "termination dust," signifying the end of summer and fall, the end of the long days of light, the end of warmth, of colors on the tundra, and for me, the end of my time in the park. Of course, endings of one thing are always beginnings, as we all know, and so it is for Denali, and so it is for me.

Still, I thought it fitting, after my snowy arrival, that my departure, too, should be snowy, dusted with all the memories of the season: five seasons in one.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

quick call for web support =)

I'm applying for a really cool job with Jauntaroo where I would be paid to travel around and write/take pictures, etc. about my experiences. If you agree I'd be an awesome "Chief World Explorer" could you take 60 seconds to watch and like my video tonight? Thanks!!
(Actually, you don't even have to watch it, just open the link and like...)  :P

Saturday, August 10, 2013


I finally uploaded the videos from my camera, and while the mosquitos have nearly disappeared, I wanted to upload this video which at least gives you an idea of what they were like for a time.

People danced all through my presentation, or headed back to the busses early; none of us wanted to be there. I cut my talk down by about 2/3. But now there are wild blueberries all over, and almost no mosquitos! Good trade!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

longest day, ever.

I am, of course, referring to May 9 to present, as it hasn't gotten dark, AT ALL, the whole time. That's a bit of an exaggeration, actually. I arrived in Anchorage and I'm pretty sure it was dark for a bit when I slept. After travelling north a few more hours up to Denali, much less so! Just a sort of dimness around 2am after the sun sinks below the horizon and before it comes back up only about 10 degrees away over the same ridgeline. It's been rather fun, though unfortunately I keep losing at my favorite game of Nighttime, Daytime now. Actually, the real longest day, ever, literally, that I've experienced, was of course, summer solstice. June 21, immediately followed by a super moon, which was pretty awesome, though without extended exposure, my pictures are mediocre at best. For solstice some friends and I went out to a big rock outcropping, took snacks and drinks and sat up on rocks talking and playing music (this was largely provided by me, on the mandolin and harmonica--not at the same time--so it only involved three songs; more next year). At a bit after midnight we walked down to the river and did a nice 2-mile river-side trail before getting demolished by mosquitos and squishing 13 people into my friend's Honda Element (turned low-rider).

(This makes it look like it was dark, but it's mostly due to my editing.)

I probably can't even remember the majority of the activities since last blogging, but shall list a few: 9.3 mile beautiful trail run up a ridge and along some lakes, including a brief stop to jump in one of the cold, tannin-tainted lakes for an invigorating dip; team ultimate Frisbee tourney in Anchorage, playing with a mostly-Anchorage based team: really fun time, met cool people (or course) and dislocated my thumb, sadface (it's been kind of a pain, and sounds like a very slow healing injury); some friends from NM came to visit--one lives in Hawaii now and the airlines lost all his baggage! He arrived in flip-flops and board shorts from Maui. He was late and it took some extra steps to get him here and then outfitted for our brief backpacking trip we'd planned. We still ended up being able to go, and we had a great time--it was my first overnight backcountry trip into the park, so that was fun.

Bear tracks we found while hiking along the East Fork of the Toklat

I ran a half marathon--not something I've ever had much of a desire to do, perhaps because of running track through high school and part of college--but I decided, why not? If I'm going to do one, it might as well be in Denali, and the money from the race fee went to an Interior [Alaska] HIV/AIDS prevention/treatment program. I did better than I expected, not having trained at all, and came in 4th place (though not that many women runners total) with an unofficial time of 1:49. woo! As a birthday celebration for a friend we went to a lake nearby, not in the park, and rented a kayak and canoe to paddle around in for the afternoon, then got food from the Thai cart (yum!) and ice cream; I also worked some and did some classwork for my online Nutrition class. yeah.

Overall, things continue to go well. The weather takes turns being cloudy/rainy and sunny/gorgeous. I haven't been able to climb because of my thumb, and may not for a while, which is too bad, but I suppose all in all, if I'm going to get injured, now isn't as bad of a time as possible. There are tons of fun things to do and beautiful places to go without relying solely on climbing and ultimate for my social and exercise needs.

Ptarmigan (state bird) among Fireweed

My time here is almost half over now. It's starting to get dim at some point in the late night/early morning, and I am already apprehensive about the last month up here when the weather will already be turning toward winter (I truly am a baby about it). I should be able to see the Northern Lights, though, and that will make up for it entirely.

Otto Lake, Healy, AK

Saturday, June 15, 2013

"Dammit! Life's too short!"

The phrase of today's hike with a friend.

But I think we're doing alright, living it as we are.
Let me back up a bit, to last weekend. On Friday I visited HR and they made some calls for me, to see if I could get on a flight seeing tour (employee benefits here include free or discounted adventure trips, with tips, if there are spaces unreserved by paying customers). I got placed on a tentative list and spent the day trying not to get too excited about it, in case I got bumped off. I also went down to the river with some friends and got my first fly-fishing lesson. Fun stuff! Now I want to get in to fly-fishing, as well. As if I need another hobby.  My friend caught this pretty grayling:
In the evening I showed up and called again to see if my spot was still free--I had the one and only employee spot! Jumped on the shuttle to Healy airstrip, put on a pair of glacier boots and waited for manifest and loading. Glacier boots! We flew up to about 12,000 feet (no cabin pressure) from a starting point of somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000. Came back down to 5,700 and landed on Ruth Glacier, about 9 miles from Denali. It was mostly clear and epically beautiful. Not even very cold--I  took my hat and gloves and didn't want them at all. Flew up in a limited edition Beaver:

What a beautiful experience! We flew close to some of the steepest, roughest mountains I've ever seen; over bright turquoise glacial lakes; crevasses so deep you'd have a very large, eternal ice casket should you fall in; over the glacial erratics (40 foot boulders on the top of a ridge, leftovers from an ancient ice monster) I hiked to two weeks prior; across the Nenana River, still brown and furious from snowmelt, but dotted with a few tiny, bright red rafts.

Alaska, the Last Frontier!
Since I'd missed dinner, I stopped at the Thai/Chinese food truck in "the canyon"  (outside the park where the hotels and tourist shops are) and had a lovely pad thai dish, a good break from dining hall food, and headed back to "Parkside" where I leave.
The next day I went on a beautiful 7-8 mile hike with these pretty hiking buddies. (We named ourselves the "Onward Hos," hehe.)

We finished off the day with an ice cream stop before heading back for dinner.

Now it's my weekend again--the week went by pretty quickly, though the mosquitos have started to come out at full force. Yesterday I went on another beautiful hike, and today I'm going to see if I can get on a raft ride! I think about my crew fighting fires this summer, and sometimes miss it a little, but I'm pretty happy to be where I'm at! Pretty lucky.

Monday, June 10, 2013

cabin life

Something seems wrong here. No one is yelling at me to move faster, dig harder, spin weather quicker and get back in the line. I go to work, hop on a bus, get off at a cabin, open it up, make a fire in the woodstove, and sit on a wooden barrel waiting for guests to show up. In between tours I read, or write letters, or sing (or even sleep, today!). I *talk* to people as my job. That's it?! Really? I just have to give some history, tell a story or two, joke with people, and answer questions...and I get paid? Nice!

My presentation is only about 10 minutes long, and number of tours/shift can range from 1 or 2 to 8 or 9 (I've heard 11 sometimes, but hopefully that's rare). I can see the potential for the repetition to get old by the end of September, but I will probably change up what I say from time to time, to keep it fresh. And I get to go into the park everyday. I've probably seen 30 moose, 20 caribou, 3 bears, 2 lynx, and assorted birds, hares and small ground squirrels etc. No wolves or foxes yet. I've seen the mountain probably 10 times (unusual). I'm meeting fun people, and constantly learning about the wildlife and tundra/flora around me. I'm going on hikes and running sled dogs and even flying. (More on that later.)

So far, things are swell. I still have a lingering feeling that I'm somehow getting off easy, and this is cheating. Just in case this is true, and someone's looking, I do pushups between tour groups, like a kind of penance or tithe to past jobs.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

porcuPINE tree

This little fellow was enjoying a nice needle-y snack outside our dorms the other night:

He looks guilty.

And speaking of dorms, this is my little room, still lacking a bit of decoration. Pretty cozy. The main annoyance is that their aren't bathrooms connected to the building, so you have to go outside, downstairs, across the road and into another building, kinda like camp. I probably won't complain so much once it's warmer, but right now it's tromping through snow, and pretty darn cold. Like winter camping, only if I were in a tent I'd probably go about 3 feet from the tent to pee at night, and call it good.

The cold weather and snow (about 7-8 inches the other day/night) is apparently very unusual this late in the year. I blame myself, as this tends to happen when I go new places. Sorry, everybody. I came up with a new motto to get myself out and have fun in it, though, instead of getting all SAD. "When it snows in May, best get out and play!"  and went snowshoeing with some new friends, for the first time ever! It was really gorgeous, so even though it should be summer right now, it was cool to snow shoe in the park. The view was tolerable:

And I got to practice my cursive shuffling:

Today, as a lovely sight for sore eyes, the sun came out and it was all clear and beautiful. The sun already melted the snow off of the paths and some of the roofs. It might be Spring/Summer soon, after all. (yay!)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Arrival to the Land of the Midnight Sun

I'm here! I'm in Denali National Park. This is night number two and so far both evenings after dinner I've gone on hikes with some of the other girls here. Because, you know, you can leave for a two hour hike at 7 and still come back with lots of daylight. We're not actually going very far, just short trails around the Wilderness Access Center near the entrance (where we live) but because of all the late snow they had up here, it hasn't melted yet, and the trails are still covered.

But let me back up. I flew in Thursday evening getting some pretty spectacular views of mountains below, and was picked up by a family friend and taken home to a most ridiculous view overlooking a lake and gorgeous mountains from their beautiful home in southern Anchorage. Oh, and some yummy leftover salmon.

The next day I borrowed their jeep and met up with my twin from college and had a really nice coffee date, then went to the Anchorage museum, which was quite nice. I got to watch a planetarium show on the aurora, which I'll hopefully get to see in the fall up here.  I walked along the coastal trail a bit, and did some errands. In the evening my awesome hosts took me down to Girdwood, which is a cute little ski town, and treated me to an amazing halibut dinner.

The next day I hopped on a school bus (aka Denali tour bus) for employees and we had very scenic drive up to the park. Didn't see much wildlife other than a bald eagle, but the mountains were impressive enough to hold me over. As much of an anti-winter person as I am, the snow covered peaks are really rather lovely.

Still not too sure on details of my job description, mostly doing orientation type stuff so far, but I saw where I'll be working today, which is in a cabin! And we get to split wood and make a fire everyday as part of the enactment! Nice! Although I'm sure there will be some warm and/or humid days in July to which it will not be very pleasant to add heat, but all in all, it looks like a good time. Can't wait to see our uniforms/outfits.

Oh and I can also go play with sled dogs from time to time. (High of the day:)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

coffee songs

So one time my friend Hermes and I made a bet about who could learn a song on the guitar first (he was considering buying a friend's old guitar) and I don't recall the details of the bet, or what the winner got (or even if such stipulations existed). Today I have a really gravelly voice from a music festival on Sunday which involved me singing loudly and screaming a lot, so I thought it would be an excellent day to record myself (so every error can be blamed on the poor condition of my voice, right?). Here it is, One More Cup of Coffee (ish):


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Denali bound!

So despite being awful at blogging about it, I've been pretty decent at adventuring recently. 

Two ski trips to Taos, including hiking and hottubs and sleeping in VW vanagons:

Two RV trips to frisbee tournaments (one in Las Vegas, NV, the other in Tucson, AZ):

Cross country ski trip to hot springs in the Jemez, yurt/boarding/sledding trip to Red River, and probably various other shenanigans and adventures I've failed to mention. Don't worry, I'm also getting good grades in my classes, and picking up some work with a solar installer doing some residential roof installs. 

And in a few weeks! I'm heading to Alaska! I'm going to work here for the summer: 

No big deal. Just gonna hang out for 4.5 months near the biggest mountain in North America, see tons of cool wildlife, make lots of friends, and pretend I'm a 1940's park ranger and give talks to tourists. That's right, they're going to pay me to play pretend.  AWESOME!  I leave May 9. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

sometimes it be that way

Sometimes, and often when I read Neil Gaiman? I think I could be a writer. And then I proceed to not-write for a very long time. Why is that? Obviously it has something to do with my continued obsession with thinking about just about everything I could possibly do and not doing any of them. Course, I’m changing that, and doing three or four right now: taking classes toward nursing, electricity (solar) and ASL (not that I’d be able to interpret for another decade or so, at the rate I’m learning, but it’s still fun, and been on my list of things to do/learn for ages) and um, also got some headshots done for future potential acting/modeling. Hah. Okay, got it out.

Anyway, I've decided that what I lack is certainly not ideas, but rather the audacity to discard them. I can’t stand letting go of possibilities, and so I try to wrangle everything all at once.  It works occasionally— I've combined trips, or attended multiple parties in one night—but at some point, I've got to just embrace something and go for it. (This is when I am about to write, “and then when I want a career change, I can come back to the others!”  but I’m afraid unlike most people who want a career change after 15 or 20 years, I’ll want it after 6 months. Curses. )

In the end, our careers do not define us. Or shouldn't.  So it’s okay if I don’t manage to find my dream job, or something that fits me perfectly, or I am excited to do (except for some Monday mornings) and actually enjoy… Yeah, I actually want a job I enjoy, so scratch that.  And then I come back to the idea of vocation, rather than just occupation.  Way back in high school (you know, ‘cause that was *so* long ago) I wrote down a quote about your vocation being the place where your deep gladness and the world’s great hunger meet. Which is a perfectly wonderful, if slightly idyllic definition, and would make this whole deciding so much easier…if only I knew WHERE MY DEEP GLADNESS was! My PASSION. I’ve got like 35, have I mentioned? Although I guess they wouldn't really classify as passions, since I distractedly move from one to the other like a ferret chasing bouncy balls on a trampoline.

So I guess I just pick something, and if it can be considered worthwhile for at least a portion of humanity, and I can be happy that I am doing more help than harm in the world, I should just do it. Plenty of time for adventuring on the side, if my job doesn't include chasing falcons or sailing about on tropical waters.

I almost sound convinced. 

the trouble with witches. or boys:

I like boys who carry books in their back pocket
I like boys who correct my grammar--or could, at least 
I like boys who learn to cook 
who recycle 
who write letters 
I like boys who make music 
and boys who play sports 
and think I like boys that travel all over the world, 
and speak several languages 
better than me 
I like boys who like all the same things as me... 

but apparently, 
I don't like boys who like me.