Monday, October 20, 2008

I know this is delayed...but alas, here it is. I hope the wait was well worth it...

I didn't want to tack this onto the last post purely on a feng shui basis. Florida and Alaska just don't combine too well. But for all of those who wanted to see where I lived, worked and played for most of the summer, here they are! (P.S. Apparently I started a blog post end of that's why the date is way late on the last post. I did indeed post it today, October 20th.)

This, my friends, was my favorite place to work. Ahhh, I can feel the nostalgia coming in to sweep me off my feet. Every time I worked the visitor contact station, I'd have to flip the sign to "Open" as you see here, put out those two pink geranium plants that you see on either side of the building, and prop open the door. Isn't it beautiful?This is how it looks further away. There was a nice little sitting area out front. I used to sit out here on sunny days and nestle in on a comfortable spot, and bask in the warmth of the sun, often reading the sage words of my buddy John Muir.

Alright, I've taken pictures of the inside of the VCS to give you a better idea of how it looked like. If you picture looking at it from coming inside the front door, this is the back wall. The sign there tells the history of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and tells about first man as he crossed the bering land bridge. To the left was a little interp exhibit for kids.This is the wall to the left from the front door. Those three racks are where we displayed our merchandise. This is the wall of the front door. The thing jutting out from the wall is a register, for visitors to sign-in to and write where they were from. On the back wall there is a huge map of the Kenai and Katmai peninsulas. This is one of my favorite maps I used. I wish I had my own. I often would walk over from the table you see there on the left and show visitors the area they were in (and potential areas they wanted to visit). This is the main desk area. I sat behind this and looked all official like a park ranger. Or at least I tried to at least... Another view of the map. As you see up above, there's a skylight in the ceiling. As I've already mentioned, this building, being in the middle of nature, had no electronic/electric capabilities. So there was no light whatsoever, except natural light.The Queen's chair. I spent a good amount of time here. Me and chair became fast was a good thing he didn't mind me sitting on him. Behind the desk there, as you can see, is a lot of books, pamphlets, and other paper. All of this was informational resources I could use to help advise visitors on hiking, fishing, hunting, etc., etc.

This is also something I was very intimate with. The infamous tracker. I drove this beaut back and forth to the VCS whenever I worked there.

So, apparently I've lost the photos I had of the Refuge headquarters itself. This greatly saddens me. If you want to know how the main visitors' center looks like, I would check out their website ( or google to see it.

The following photos are of the bunkhouse itself. Sadly, I can no longer call the bunkhouse mine because it's currently being converted to law enforcement offices. I'm pretty sure they're keeping the kitchen how it is, though. This, if you hadn't figured it out already, is the kitchen. Pretty spiff.

View of the kitchen and dining room area. Not sure if you noticed this, but, we had two refridgerators! That was nice. One you can see is on the left, the other you can see from the previous photo. This table experienced many fun times. Lots of eating, cooking, and the occasional BEST GAME EVER was played here. This is the living room, and our small, small tv. There's Eve. Sadly, she's no longer in AK. But I'm sure she's enjoying being back with the fam. To the left of this photo and beyond is a hallway that leads to two bedrooms and a bathroom.Beautiful Eve again! This a view of the living room from the other side. Beyond this photo to the right is a hallway that also leads to two bedrooms and a bathroom.

There indeed is the hallway. The room smack dab in front was Eve and Sam's room. My and Julia's room was on the left. The door to the right is the door to the bathroom.

Aaah, there it is. I spent many a good time here. Especially on that contraption over there with its lid up. If you look above it there, you see a poster with flowers on it. I kid you not, I memorized that thing. On the back wall there to the right was the shower. Very tight, but did the job.My room! To the left is Julia's bunk. Mine is the impeccably clean one straight ahead. Kades, you can see your heart there on the wall. :)

Inside my closet. It's so organized.

The laundry room! I put this to probably too much use. I think Eve would vouch for that. :) The door there leads to the outside of the bunkhouse, which you will see in the next photo!And that, my friends (do I remind you of anyone? McCain, perhaps?) is the bunkhouse. The front of Eve's truck (that is no longer in her possession, but some other lucky dude's) is to the right. Many times I saw moose right up against the door there or near the windows.This is the pathway we walked everyday to get to the main visitors' center. If you remember that photo from way back, the black momma bear and her two cubs was just below that first curve. Pretty close to the bunkhouse, huh?

Come to think of it, I took pictures of headquarters and all of the little pathways that lead off from it. Unfortunately, either I have yet to find those photos, or they were accidentally deleted. This photo here is of the Andrew Berg cabin. It was relocated here so the refuge could look after it, so no more damage could be inflicted upon it. Mr. Berg was Alaska's first licensed hunting guide. He came to the Kenai Peninsula in 1888 from Norway and established a life for himself off the land. This cabin was built entirely by himself. Pretty impressive.

This is the EE building, where Eve mostly worked. It's fairly new...I think only four years old or something like that. This is where we had a lot of our trainings, and also where a lot of fun programs for children were held. We had wild flower and wild berry fun days here.

Just a photo of the outdoor sign.

Okay, so I take what I said earlier back. I did find some photos of headquarters! That's a relief. I was really saddened by that fact.

And there it is, in all its shining, scintillating glory. My beautiful Kenai National Wildlife Refuge headquarters building, with the American flag proudly waving in the Alaskan sunlight. Mmmm. How I miss thee.

Another photo.

The Keen Eye Trail. Get it? Those refuge trail sign makers, they are comedians. This was right outside, to the left of the KNWR headquarters, if you are looking at it straight on as in the previous picture.This is on the Keen Eye Trail. It eventually leads to headquarters lake, and also hooks on to the Forest Loop trail. The Keen Eye Trail is the hike I led on wild berry fun day. :) On the boardwalk, looking out at the black spruce trees. This was an absolutely stunning day. Sunny, cool, and shining. Clouds were amazing.

Boardwalk leading across the boggy area leading to the lake. Black spruce trees all around.

View of the headquarters lake!Another photo of the lookout area.

Headquarters lake: place where dreams come true. Or at least, where float planes come in. This lake is restricted access - no canoeing or any other water activity (swimming included) is allowed.

So pretty. Well, that's it! I could have taken more pictures of everything, but alas, this is all I have. I hope it gave you a better idea of where I worked this summer. These were the places where I spent the best summer of my life. I hope you were able to grasp and get some inkling of the beauty of this place.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Back in the Sunshine state...where it may be hot, it may be humid, but bygum - it's freaking SUNNY!

So tomorrow marks my two month anniversary for being back in Florida. Not something I'm overly excitied about...but alas, the fact still remains. I have, incidentally, been continuing an exciting life post-Alaska. Spent two weekends in good ol' Titusville, one weekend in historic Savannah, one in beautiful St. Augustine, another camping at Manatee Springs State Park, and finally, spent this past weekend at Caravelle Ranch, a wildlife management area near Palatka. Although I've been (mostly) restricted to Florida...I'm trying to make the most of it. I'm making a valiant effort to explore Gainesville and be busy most weekends. This week we have the friday off, due to it being homecoming I'll be enjoying the cool weather and phantasmagoric (I can dream) colors of Fall in North Carolina and Tennessee! I'm very excited about that. I'm going with four other friends, roadtripping through the mountains and staying in Asheville, NC. We plan to enjoy a BBQ at Cades Cove (TN) and will also visit the Biltmore Estate. Should be a weekend of rainbows, butterflies, lollipops, and hopes and dreams. Or something like that.

I was excited to discover in my mailbox today a package from the BioDiversity Research Institute. I.e...the people I did the loon capture and tagging surveys with! So I FINALLY got my loon pictures. They turned out great. And here they are:

There's the loon in my lap. I had to hold its head down (right hand) and use my left to keep its bill closed. Those suckers can slice right through the skin...rather painfully so.

Picture of the Common Loon close up. Isn't she a beaut?

OK, so these next two aren't close up. The one up above is me and Rick (one of the researchers) about to let the loon go. And there she goes! It was so exciting. I wish I could do that everyday. They have an awesome job.This and the next couple of pictures are from our weekend in St. Augustine. I went with my two roommates, Megan and Jesse. That was an adventure. Since the trip wasn't really planned, we kind of got up and drove. So no arrangements as to where we were going to sleep for the night were arranged. So that meant I spent my first night in a car in a public parking lot next to the beach. What an experience. The next morning, I woke up just in time to walk down the boardwalk and to the shoreline. I spread out a towel, sat down and watched as the sun slowly rose above the ocean surface. And what a beautiful sunrise it was.

You see, Florida has some redeeming qualities! There's nothing like waking up to this. The reflection of the sun onto the water was absolutely fantastic. Reds, oranges, yellows, violets and colors of all hues spread out onto the water like a rainbow.Then after gazing at the sun for an hour or so, we made a visit to the St. Augustine lighthouse. It wasn't open yet, so we couldn't go up inside...but I was still able to get some good photos of the outside of it.This is a photograph of one part of the Flagler College campus. Absolutely gorgeous campus. Most of the college used to be a hotel, which since has been converted into a university-like setting. In 1888, Henry Flager built the luxury resort Hotel Ponce de Leon, so many parts of the campus are over a hundred years old. Many buildings throughout the town were built or commissioned by Flagler, so the town has a ton of history. Much of Flager college has ornately-decorated buildings with doors of intricate design. I would love to go to school here. A shame that the school only offers 12 majors. Or something like that.Here's one of the two lion heads that guard the entrance to the college. Notice what ol' Leon the lion here has in his mouth...what a rebel.

Here is Flagler Presbyterian church. The inside is absolutely stunning.After taking a stroll through the campus, we visited the fort. Officially named the Castillo de San Marcos, this monument of stone and mortar was built by the Spaniards in 1672. As all of you should know, St. Augustine is the oldest city in the U.S. The fort itself is the oldest masonry and only extant 17th century fort in North America. It still has some of the original cannons and weaponry used at the time.Here's one of the cannons. Notice the intricate design inlaid on the metal.These are my two roommates inside one of the four lookout towers. Jesse is on the left, Megan on the right. And there I am, not looking angry. The fort was once surrounded by a moat, but there behind me is the Atlantic flowing into the St. Augustine marina.
Two weekends ago, my friend Tessa and I went camping at Manatee Springs in Chiefland, FL. The campground is right next to a set of natural springs that stay around 70-76 degrees F year-round. The turquoise-clear water was surrounded by Bald Cypress trees on all sides. Here's me and Tessa, blinking away sleep at 8 in the morning. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed are we! There's my tiny tent that I bought in Alaska. It still had a bit of AK trail spice in it. Sigh.This is what we got to wake up to in the morning. We saw her and many other deer during our trip. It was awesome getting to see them so close, but was also sad to realize they they are too acclimated to human activity. Then Tessa and I went kayaking along the Suwannee River. It was a nice 4-hour paddle in beautiful, overcast weather. Of course, as soon as we got done, the sun decided to grace us with its presence.

More kayakers!

Did you suddenly start hearing Rocky's theme with this photo? I sure did.

Pretty leaves.

The next string of photos are from my 21st birthday. The first one is at Friday's restaurant. There was about 14 of us all together at dinner. Tessa got me this very embarassing headband to wear, which you'll notice in the photo below.

This was a night we went out to the Melting Pot for dessert. From left, is Shannon, Ana, and Ashley, three girls I've met at my apartment complex. Megan, my roommate, is right beside me.

This is my roommate and me on my birthday. I was completely sober.

And last but not least, I had to give you a picture of the cats. I have four other roommates, but these are the two I care about the most. Megan and Jesse have two cats, a Ball python, and Mika, their beagle (who is thoroughly annoying). This handsome fellow below is Pokey.

And this is Sylvia. She likes to get into everything. I saw her cutely laying in this box and just had to take a picture.

Anyway, although my title says it wasn't hot. Miraculous! We've been enjoying cool, breezy weather that's been staying around the 70s. At night, it gets to 58. Very nice. I don't think I've gotten to enjoy such temperatures since I was in Alaska. Sad, isn't it? Hopefully I'll get to enjoy even cooler temperatures this weekend in NC. I hope you all enjoyed the update. I'll post more later.