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.