Monday, April 19, 2010

North To Alaska

COUNTDOWN! Only 1 week until I leave for Katmai NP in SW Alaska. I will be flying out of Las Vegas to Anchorage and staying there for a few days to sightsee, do some research at USGS and ARLIS (AK Resource Library & Information Resources), and (most importantly) check out the local microbreweries. Oh no – wait – I am supposed to be watching for rocks. Maybe the bar is made from local granite? More on that later. Larry awaits details. I will then take Pen Air (regional airline) into King Salmon, stay for a week to 10 days, and finally be taken by government float plane the 30 or so miles to Brooks Camp in the park. There are no roads into (or out of!) Katmai so it qualifies as “the bush.”

Interestingly, but actually not all that surprisingly, it is much cheaper to fly LV -> Salt Lake City -> Anchorage than it is to fly just SLC -> Anchorage. Same flight number from SLC! I guess if you leave from LV, “they” expect you will come back and eventually lose all your $$$ at the casinos. Or, that you have already been there and lost all your $$$ to the casinos. Either way, for as long as I’ve lived in southern Utah it always has been less expensive to fly out of LV than either SLC or St. George. I don’t gamble, I just take advantage of the cheaper fares.

OK so I have my Glossary of Geology and 2 hand lenses ready to go. What else is there for a traveling geologist to possibly need?

Oh, right – food and clothing. And of course more books (both reference and leisure). Jeani found 2 nice red suitcases at the thrift store for $15 for both. Bargain!!! However, the larger one weighs in at a mighty 15 lbs, the smaller at 8 lbs. ACK!!!!! My 23 pounds of suitcase cuts a big dent in that 50-lb-per-bag airline weight limit. Books and uniforms are going by a couple of USPS “if it fits it ships” boxes -- delivery time to King Salmon, AK is 3-4 days from St. George. Not bad, especially considering that if you mail a letter in SG to anywhere else in SG, it has to go to Provo UT and then back to SG. This takes approximately 1 week. Really. Ask anyone.
I have started rolling up my clothes with rubber bands (that’s what dear old Dad did in the army so it’s good enough for me) to conserve suitcase space. But dang that 50# weight limit for each checked bag!!! I really could bring the kitchen sink if they’d let me. But alas, I am going to the Alaska bush and hopefully will surprise myself by how much “stuff” I really don’t need. Yeah, right.

I will need quite a bit of it, however, for the cool, rainy Alaska weather. Rain jacket and pants. Fleece pullovers. Quick-dry fabrics. No cotton (well, maybe a t-shirt or 2). Extra everything (I’ll be a long distance from anywhere). Spare glasses! My uniforms get their own shipping box with my flat-hat packed sideways – but I won’t need that til May 1. Need to order a 2nd pair of leather boots from LL Bean and will have them shipped to AK from ME. Every pair of hiking socks that I own. Winter or summer sleeping bag? Flannel sheets will be real nice in the chill – thanks for the donation, Jeani! What about a pillow? I am NOT resting my noggin on clothes stuffed into a stuff sack for 5 months. Camera and accessories (can I photograph those bears without a tripod?), laptop to download the bazillion photos I will be taking.

And on and on it goes, until I actually have my suitcases packed and extra packages taped and ready to ship. I will manage to bring a small clock radio. The AM radio station from Dillingham is NPR, which I have awakened to since Univ. of TN days in the 1970’s. Some things don’t need to change.

Food from home. This is the worst part. It has been suggested to me that I pack at first as if I’m going on a 7-day backpack, for our 7-10 days in King Salmon (where there is 1 convenience store and milk costs $9/gallon – if they have any at all). Big Lots rocks for small jars of condiments in plastic jars (weighs less than glass plus less likely to shatter – or leak, I hope - in transit). I’ll need -- what??? Spices re-packed into small ziploc bags. One bag of granola re-packed into 2 bags. I have to re-pack everything!!! Just a few things will come from home. Larry told me I am not allowed to bring canned tuna and crackers onto the plane for my snack.

OK, I am soooo on it.

Hitting the Anchorage Costco and shopping like a fiend for 5 months worth of groceries is de rigueur for life in the Alaskan bush (“Ooooh, doesn’t that 6-pound quiche look tasty?” “And what about that 12-pound pork roast? It’s already cooked…I guess I could freeze some of it…” “I wonder if 4 liters of OJ will put my carry-on baggage over the weight limit?” How many bags of trail mix will I need for 5 months?” “Will there be room in the camp freezer for 14 lbs of frozen blueberries?”). I can hardly wait! At this point there are 2 choices. You can either take all your Costco loot back to your motel room and re-pack (there’s that word again!) everything yourself – or you can arrange for an Anchorage company that specializes in shipping to the bush to do all the work – at a cost, of course, but hey, it’s only money. They will pick up your purchases at Costco, box it all up, and ship it to your remote location of choice. At this point I am thinking I like this 2nd alternative. After all, I will need this time to investigate what kind of granite that microbrewery bar might be made of…

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