Monday, July 12, 2010

Still Lobbing Pumice

What in the world have I been doing up here in Alaska for 5 months, besides watching bears and lobbing pumice? I know this question is totally burning in everyone’s mind. Well, clearly, when I’m not working I’m either sleeping or doing something else. Not too complicated.

But what is this “something else?” I got to thinking about this very thing a few days ago when I didn’t have to be at my work station (corner, lower river platform, Falls platform, or visitor center,) until 11:00 a.m. What do I do to occupy my time in the meanwhile?

I do take walks, and still occasionally lob pumice into Naknek Lake just for the fun of watching rocks float. I take my camera with me pretty much everywhere I go. I do crossword puzzles and work on crocheting (I want to make a scarf to wear like all the Europeans do, all swathed ‘round the neck with casual-chic just oozing from their pores). I always have some kind of book going - I had shipped a box of paperback novels and mysteries from home back in April along with my geology reference books, and since I’ve been here my sister sent me “1776” by David McCullough while my brother sent “Alaska” by James Michener. As for movies, the other night I watched Netflix “Oh Brother Where Art Thou?” and I also have several off-the-wall “Jeani movies” on my tiny shelf awaiting viewing. I have unwrapped and put away as many as 14 (by last count) “If it fits, it ships” care packages from MY FAVORITE TRAVEL AND CROSS-CONTINENT SHIPPING AGENT and MY FAVORITE CRAFTS AND RECIPE GURU AND PERSONAL SHOPPER in Utah plus an extra one from my future VTTS backpacking co-conspirator coming all the way from Minnesota in August!

I get up around 5:30 most every morning so I can use the computer in peace when no one else is awake. I check my email, post on the blog, and if there is time before 7:00 a.m. I may surf a bit. Our allowed personal time on the computer is between 5:30 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., and there is no one else except a few bears crazy enough to be up that early with me.

My days off are Sunday and Monday. Sunday I went to the breakfast buffet at Brooks Lodge dining room. The cost is $15 and I had some blue-cheese omelet, hash browns, 2 sausage patties, a biscuit and gravy, cantaloupe (not the entire melon, btw), 3 slices of breakfast pastry (hey, they were small), a tall orange juice, and 4 cups of coffee. I was there for over an hour and won’t have to eat again until tomorrow! I always bring a book (of course) but usually end up chatting with various people since the dining arrangement is benches and tables.

I was going to wash clothes when I was done with breakfast but I’d heard that the salmon were jumping at the Falls. So I piled on four layers of clothes (mid-weight thermal top, fleece shirt and vest, hiking pants under rain pants, rain jacket, socks, shoes, and Katmai ball cap – this certainly isn’t summer in southern “It’s 103 degrees outside and the rocks in my front yard are melting” Utah), grabbed my camera and tripod, and headed out on the 1.2-mile trail to see what I could see. There were quite a few people already at the viewing platform but the 40-person limit hadn’t been reached so there was no wait. I smilingly elbowed my way to a clear spot in front (“Excuse me, please”) and stayed for about an hour. The salmon were there, the most I had seen since they started migrating up Brooks River less than a month ago. Occasionally there would be a “fish boil” below the falls and within minutes they would be jumping. That’s what I had come to see. If it weren’t for the salmon, there would be no bears at all. Next time I go out I will use a higher shutter speed and maybe the images of the salmon will be sharper.

There are two front-loading washers and dryers to use for free, so when I got back from the Falls around noon I put in a load of clothes. I use this nifty Purex 3-in-1 laundry soap/dryer sheet/fabric softener. It’s a bit pricey to use at home, but in Alaska it can’t be beat for convenience and I would recommend this product for traveling.

Isn’t this just so totally exciting so far??? Is anyone still awake out there?

I quit using mosquito repellent some weeks ago since it didn’t seem to be doing all that much good. The insects are totally annoying but not actually biting that bad as long as there is at least a breeze. I think they’ve bitten me as much as they are going to for now. It’s really weird having a mosquito bite me on the palm of my hand, though. I still get bitten – I guess I’m saying that I’ve just abandoned hope concerning repelling the nasty little vampires.

Southwest Alaska has had a lot of rain since May, and the past few days have been really windy. It’s pretty much what I expected when I came here but apparently it was a cool wet spring and so there has been more rain that usual; in addition, water temps (from all the snow melt) are lower than normal. Perhaps the cooler water temperatures are what have kept the salmon runs from currently being as high as in previous years. No one really knows for sure.

I haven’t made much of an effort to get out of Brooks Camp yet on my days off. I could take out a canoe or a kayak, or ask someone to take me in a motorboat somewhere to hike across a mountain, or ask to be dropped off at VTTS. But I simply haven’t gotten around to it. So far I have been enjoying just hanging out. If I walk to Brooks Falls twice in a day I have walked about four and a half miles. The bears and salmon are here in July and will be gone in August, so for now I like photographing them and their dynamics. I guess it’s kind of funny, really. The one day (6/20 on Solstice Ridge) that I did decide to go hiking we were lucky and had fantastic weather. But mostly on my days off it has been cold, cloudy, and/or raining. I suppose if I really wanted to hike, or canoe, or slog through thigh-high tundra grass again, or do whatever, I’d just pile on the rain gear and go for it.

The season isn’t over until late September. The sun just came out. Where did I put those rubber boots?

1 comment:


    I think that regardless of how many people show up to go to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes for one of your FABULOUS guided extravaganzas, you should take them !! EXPOSE GEOLOGY !!

    From the description of your daily fun and frivolity in the Great White North, it doesn't sound like it's any different from Southern Utah except for the 500 lb. bears and the fresh salmon dinners.

    You have 100 year old lava and I have lava forming in the yard as I type this. Temp's for the upcoming week will range from 105 to 115 here. The Beaver Dam / Mesquite area will be 115 to 118 (degrees that is).

    Once again, thanks for the insight and photos.