Saturday, May 29, 2010

Orientation Finally Over

Around 8:00 a.m., as I was standing by the window pouring myself a second cup of coffee, I heard the words we all have been anxiously waiting to hear: “Bear in Park Avenue!”

Park Avenue is the name of the path where the Park employees’ cabins are located. All the paths in Brooks Camp have names (generator trail, campground trail, bear trail, lodge trail, and so on) so that when there IS a bear anywhere in the Brooks Camp Developed Area, its location can easily be referenced by those fortunate enough to be inside a building at the time of the sighting. Interpreters are not required to leap out of their cabins to help motivate the bear to vacate the camp area (to go onto the beach, for instance) but are actually encouraged to stay inside. Those souls who are fortunate enough to be hired on as “bear managers” have this privilege. So I am not sure who the “shouter” was this morning (anyone can shout, in fact) but I heard shortly afterward that the bear had motivated itself on down towards the generator trail and hopefully onto the beach or at least out of camp. There was apparently also a second bear that had toodled off before someone could watch it.

The bears are managed mainly to keep them out of the developed area of the Park cabins, visitor center, ranger station, and the Lodge and its cabins. The beach and the river belong to bears, and one of the interpreter’s jobs is to help facilitate visitor travel across the footbridge and through the “high food resource area” of the river. It’s often when the bears try to take a shortcut through camp that the fun starts.

Even though the salmon haven’t migrated into Brooks River just yet, there are a couple of early-bird bears who just can’t resist showing up and lolling around on the beach, feeding on less-than-nutritious grasses in the surrounding wetlands and wandering through camp. Some of the returning bear managers think they can identify bears of yesteryear. “Oh there goes #602” they say assuredly. Well, they may know their bears. But I know my rocks.

Friday was our last day of orientation. Woo Hoo!!! The next time we show up for work (Tuesday June 1, after the Memorial Day holiday) we will be in uniform. There are no Smokey the Bear flat hats for the Katmai crowd, either. We get to wear winter ball caps, mainly because they tend to stay on your head better in the frequent 30-50 mph winds that can blow through here later in the summer. I was able to buy a Park Service gore-tex parka with my $160 uniform allowance, but I had to use my own money for the liner.

We had an all-employee meeting Friday where the superintendant, chief ranger, chief of interpretation (my boss), chief of resources, accounting (does payroll!), maintenance and others talked about what projects their department is/has been involved in for the fiscal year. Now we get to kick back and enjoy the 3-day weekend. I decided to not go backpacking this time around but am staying in camp to read and work on my programs, do a little hiking, blog, and just enjoy having my cabin to myself (even though my cabin mate is very nice). About half the camp is gone for the holiday, so an impromptu potluck was thrown together Friday night by the rest of the Park interp, resource management (bears), and law enforcement folks who were hanging around. We cooked in our own cabins and then got together outside between 2 tent cabins. These are some game-crazy people, so afterwards we got together to play a mildly enthusiastic game of Wilderness Survivor. I could have gone to bed hours before I did!

Bear Tech Justin

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