Saturday, May 17, 2008

A quaint drinking town with a fishing problem

I'm currently sitting in a cushy recliner at a tiny hole in the wall coffee shop named "Mugz" listening to Dan the Man play his mandolin. Dan is a fisheries fellow I met the second day I was here in merry ol' Soldotna. He frequently plays at this coffee shop and other local bars in the area during open mic nights, bellowing out tunes that he seems to improv right there on the spot. He is currently singing "Dirt made my lunch." Here in the coffee house there is actually just me and my fellow SCA roommate, Julia, the coffee shop employees, and Dan. Doesn't stop him from singing, though! (This entry may be a bit all over the place...Dan's singing is a little distracting. :) )

So after nearly 11 hours of comfortable airplane time, I arrived in the city of Kenai. The plane I took from Anchorage to Kenai was the tiniest plane I have ever been on. There might have been maybe 10 people on the plane. I had a clear view of the pilot in front of me and was able to see all of the controls. Fortunately, despite the extremely bumpy ride, the flight only lasted about 25 minutes so I didn't have to suffer for too long. My supervisor met me at the gate and we drove to a Safeway and picked up some groceries. I discovered that a carton of delicious Tropicana orange juice costs nearly $7....needless to say, I had to settle for storebrand from concentrate. Then we drove to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Soldotna.

Candace (my supervisor) took me to the bunkhouse, where I met two of my roommates. Eve is an 8-month intern and has been here since February. She is from Illinois. I also met Sam, who is a summer intern like me and also from Missouri. I found out that my cell phone doesn't work in Alaska, and we have no internet access at the bunkhouse. The only way I am able to access the internet is by going to the local library or this coffee shop. So those of you who know the bunkhouse number, call to contact me. (Pictured from left: Me, Julia, Sam, and Eve)

The next day, Sam and I went to the grocery store and drove around Soldotna. Saw my second (my first was in Utah with Kaylie :] ) moose! We were driving along K-beach Hwy and Sam shouted out, "Moose!" and I looked over to my right and saw what appeared to be a moose attached to the side of a motel wall. I turned the tracker around (that's the govt vehicle we have access to) and drove into the motel parking lot. The moose was just nonchalantly (but awkwardly - meese are so awkward) grazing and munching on the ground. Two men in their underwear walked out of their rooms to see the moose. It was an interesting sight indeed.

Later that night, I met my third and final roommate named Julia. Julia is a graduate of Columbia University from Pennsylvania. The following day was our first day of work. Sam, Julia and I walked over to headquarters (the main visitors' center) and spent a good three hours filling out paperwork. After that, we walked back to the bunkhouse and went with Eve and received an official tour of Soldotna and the Kenai area.

The scenery is really beautiful. Kenai is bordered by the Kenai and Russian Rivers. You can tell the difference between the two by looking at the color of their water. The Kenai is a turquoise color due to the glacial silt that flows down from the mountains into the river. The Russian is more of a muddy brown color. Surrounding the entire area is the Kenai mountain range, which reaches not far beyond 5,000 feet above sea level. They are fairly short mountains by normal standards. The mountains are nearly entirely covered in snow. There is a lot of snow still chilling on the flatlands here. Since Sunday, the temperature has averaged at around 50 degrees. Three days ago though, it was 38 degrees - so it was cold!! I've been having to repeatedly go to Fred Meyer's (the Soldotna equivalent of a super Wal*Mart - but WAY better) to buy warm I didn't bring clothes to prepare for such cool temperatures. My hiking boots are finally starting to look worn, with a bit of caked mud on them for good measure.

On Wednesday, Eve's supervisor Michelle took us on a tour of a large part of the actual refuge. We went to several different campgrounds, hiked some trails, and...saw a bear!!! Here's a fun fact that I learned: brown bears and grizzlies are the same bear. The only reason that some are called brown bears and some are called grizzly is on account of where they live. Brown bears in Kenai are brown bears. Bears in Denali are grizzlies. What's even more exciting is the fact that bears here in Kenai are larger than the bears in they eat salmon. The bear we saw, though, was a black bear...which are smaller than brown bears. Here's a photo of him:

I found out that one of the trails is a 12-hour long hike up and over a mountain. Me and the other SCAs will be doing that at some point. We went on this one trail that gave an amazing vista of the Kenai River.

The next day, we drove to Seward and took a cruise tour of Kenai Fjords and the harding ice field. It was approximately 5 hours long. We got to see beautiful mountains, cliffs, a plethora of mountain goats, tufted puffins, comorants, stellar sea lions, HARBOR SEALS (!!!) eagles, sea otters, dall porpoises, and two humpback whales. We saw a momma humpback and her baby. They were so unbelievably cute and fascinating. They weren't shy at all. They came up right to the boat and were extremely playful. Unfortunately, we didn't see any Beluga whales or orcas...but I have the whole summer to hopefully see them sometime. A big group of guys in Holland America jackets came onto the boat with us and I found out a large majority of them were Mormon!

(Kaylie, you will appreciate this) Two really cute guys sat next to us (much to my disappointment, the cuter of the two had a ring on his left finger) and we found out that they went to BYU in Utah, and they were working for Holland America doing bus tours for the summer. Surprisingly, those two actually did their missions in Alaska!

Anyway, the coffee shop is about to close, so I will have to finish this post later. Enjoy more photos of wildlife below!!!


heart-shape said...

"Two men in their underwear walked out of their rooms to see the moose. It was an interesting sight indeed."

The men in their underwear, or the moose? :)

I like the last shot the best. Can't wait to see these in hi-res eventually.

Do me a huge favor, and start naming the wildlife a la Kades Style. You know the usuals: Pete, Fred, Bob, Stella, Igor, Seabiscuit, Anything Harry Potter, etc. I expect names in the next post!


Trevor said...

why dont they call them meeses? hope you are having lots of fun, and finally have the correct amount of warm clothing. it has been almost unbearably hot here, and there have been brush fires too. i will bookmark your blog, and im excited you are getting to see so much wildlife, i am definately jealous :)

likerenoir said...

I agree with Katie .... it's not really clear what you found more interesting: men in their underwear or the moose?!!

It sounds like you are having a great time and we are all jealous here. Trevor said you are seeing all the animals that he has only seen on National Geographic.

Thanks for keeping us informed and talk to you soon.

Love ya!

The King said...

Hey you, my favorite little bundle of fun. Enjoyed reading the journal and the photographs are well ... breathtaking. Don't forget what I told you in the event you meet a bear face to face!
Love and miss you.

Chris said...

Hey Em! We love you !!!!
It is soooo cool that you are getting to do this. We will be keeping up wth your blog.
Chris, Paula, Joel, kaylyn
The Ocala crowd

laurie said...

Glad that you are enjoying the scenery and the wildlife. Along with the human wildlife. The fjords sound good time, it would probably be a great place to go white watering, have fun. Love Aunt Laurie

quazeekat said...

I am glad you are having a great time and found warm clothing! The photographs are wonderful and I have bookmarked your blog. Stay safe and have fun! I am looking forward to reading more! Barb

Peter said...

Impmonster!!! Found you at last!! I will write more as soon as I know you have got this.

The King said...

"The Continuing Adventures Of Emily Williams ... Titusville's female equivalent of Indiana Jones"
This week's chapter: "The Salmon Caper!"

Hey Emily!

We look forward to your journal very much and the latest vignette of your Alaskan experience was extremely informative ... When I look at my hands now, I feel like Johnny Depp and I've started calling myself "Edward Fish Fingers" after your treatise on identifying the various types of salmon.

I'll be glad when you have the opportunity to add to your photo album because the snapshots you've taken previously have been absolutely amazing! We're all green with envy.

Perhaps you could become the first in the family to realize the dream of working as a photo-journalist for National Geographic? I know how proud your Mum would be.

I ran into Lindsey Minthorn's Dad Jeff today and told him all about your Alaskan adeventure. He had asked about you and he sends his best wishes.

Other news: Bruce Perkins told me that Tessa has given Frank the Big E.

Anyway, we're all loving news of your travels and adventures, so be sure to write as much as you can.

Also don't forget how much we love and miss you Em.

The King X

Grandma said...

Hi Emily,

Glad to hear you are having so much fun. We miss you and enjoy reading about your adventures. Talk to you soon.
Love, Grandma

Karon with an 'O' said...

Hello Emily:
Absolutely brilliant photo's..Noah particularly liked the seals, especially the one on its back!
I am so glad you are enjoying yourself and I think I will live my life vicariously through you and this your dad informed me that you are off to Ireland next year...
You are indeed, Emily Indy...Anna..Jones of Titusville..
Carpe Diem..and God Bless,