Monday, June 9, 2008

hey ho the salmon stream

It's been a while...since I could hold my head up's been a while...since I last posted...

I must apologize for the delay. Since I've started actually working now, I'm constantly on computers and so it's taking a lot of me right now to come back to Headquarters (HQ: the visitors' center - aka: work) to write this post.

A lot has happened and yet, not a lot has happened. We started official work last week - where we learned how to man the visitors' center and the visitor contact station (40 mi. away from HQ in a little 10 x 10 box). My work week is divided up as follows: three days of working the visitors' center, 1 field day (where I get to hike), 1 day working the visitor contact station (VCS) and 1 day to do my campfire program - which is on salmon, by the way. My work week won't be that organized until we've done our first campfire program - which doesn't start until June 20. Until then, my field days won't start. What should be my field days are 8 glorious hours of sitting on the computer, putting together an outline of everything salmon. By the end of this summer, if any one ever has a question regarding salmon, I'm your woman.

Now, what is a campfire program, you may ask? Well, a campfire program involves me and a partner (Sam) coming up with a 30-45 minute presentation about a certain topic (salmon). On the day of our program, we travel 50 miles from HQ to Hidden Lake campground area, where there is an ampitheatre sort of thing - where there are seats and a presentation area. Before our program, we must advertise it throughout the refuge, so that we'll have a large audience for when we present. Pretty exciting.

I thought I'd share these two photos with you. These photos are from 3 weeks ago, when we did our CPR/First Aid training. Me and Sam were practicing wrapping our near-fatal wounds.

Eve was in so much pain. She had just broken her arm. And I made her sling! Doesn't it look amazing?

Anyway, so it doesn't seem like a lot's going on here, but we have been doing a lot of hikes and other extracurricular activities that are keeping us busy. This is a photo from a hike we did down the Russian River Lakes Trail. It was a 4.6 mi hike, and the end result was absolutely breathtaking. The speed and rush of the water was unreal. And I finally got my postcard pictures.

Eve was a little perturbed by the fact that our supervisor gave us a can of INERT bear spray for our hike. We didn't realize 'til we were halfway through our hike that we had been carrying around a useless can of bear spray. It's a good thing we didn't come across any bears...because I would have had to bring out my kung fu moves and there would be a dead bear we'd have to worry about.

This sight was RIGHT outside of our bunkhouse just down the road. A momma black bear and her two cubs. Since I've been here, I've seen three momma bears and her two cubs - that's 9 bears - plus three lone bears - that's 12 bears I've seen here since I've been in Alaska. How cool is that?

This is a photo of Eve and me rolling down a hill. We went on a hike down these trails that are used for cross-country skiing in the winter. We saw this hill and we just had to roll down it. Below is a photo of Sam, me, Eve and Julia. These are our uniforms! Now you know (yes, Katie, you especially) how we look like and what we have to wear. We are sometimes mistaken for cops. But I don't have a problem with that. Anyway, this is us on top of bear mountain. This was an approx. 2 mi. hike - and let me tell you, the name fits. We saw 6 places where there was fresh bear scat, and trees that had their bark torn off. Bears have been sighted on this trail. I'm sure if there's been record of any bear maulings, though. Have I got you scared?

This is a tree that shows the typical signs of having encountered a bear. I felt where the scratch marks are, and my hand got covered in sap. On the other side of this area on the tree, there was just gobs and gobs of sap that had run down the side of it - it kind of looked like a the side of candle that had been burning for hours.

And there's the bear! AHHHHHH!!! Pretty strange looking bear, if you ask me. But when we asked if it was a bear, she promptly replied, "Yes. I am indeed a bear."
Bear scat! This is how it usually looks like. That is, if it eats its typical diet of shrubbery and berries. Human diet, though...may make it look a little different.

This is a picture of Julia, Jetta (a totally cool ranger at the refuge), Eve, and Me. We all got dressed up for seeing Sex in the City.

CARIBOU!!!!! Three weeks into living in the awesomeness that is Alaska, we still hadn't see the elusive caribou. We had heard that they were here, but we still hadn't seen any! Then on one night on our way to Kenai beach, as we were crossing the Kenai River, we saw a group of caribou! It's hard to see them as they are so well camouflaged against the hayish grass, but they are there. There's two females and one male in this picture. And if you look closely enough, you'll see antlers on the male in the middle.

Me and Eve frolicking. On Kenai beach. This was the same night we saw caribou. We went out to the beach just for the sole reason of seeing an Alaskan sunset. And boy, was it pretty. We didn't leave the beach 'til midnight, and the sun still hadn't gone completely down. Anyway, back to telling you what's been going on. Two nights ago, I wentKing Salmon fishing. It was so much fun. Unfortunately, I didn't catch anything, but I did get two bites and I just sucked on the reeling in part and they got away. But my roomie, Sam, did indeed catch a 20 pounder! It's little by King Salmon standards...but a big fish nonetheless. It was 28 1/2 inches pretty big. We went with three guys - Dan the Man, Ken and Frank (both guys that work at the fisheries office). They had a pretty big fishing boat - we all had comfortable free-standing seats to sit on -- and all the gear necessary.

This is the beaut! So lovely, eh? I held it up as well (shame we didn't get any pictures) and it was heavy! I was extremely in awe/proud of Sam.

So I just had to go to the local grocery store here and buy a 1-day fishing license ($25) and a King Salmon stamp ($5). It was totally worth it. We went out around 5:30 and didn't get back 'til about 1 am. We left the waters around 11:45...and the sun still hadn't gone down yet.

This is Sam holding up her catch! Big, eh? She was so ecstatic.

Sam's sending half of the fish to her Dad for Father's day...and the other half she's sharing with me (haha - YUM!). Ken skinned and prepared the fish right there - it was really cool getting to watch how they did it. It totally wasn't gross at all. By the time they prepare it - all the blood's run out so it's not all bloody and gooey like you think it would be.
This is a photo of another Alaskan sunset over the upper Kenai River. It was so beautiful. In the lower right hand corner was our boat.
One more picture of the sunset.

So, we're definitely going to have to go fishing again...because I have to catch my Alaskan salmon.

We went to the Russian River Ferry site two days ago - that's where hundreds upon hundreds of fishermen come to buy their Russian River Ferry pass to cross the river and go fish. So it's a booming place. This place is what defines "combat fishing." I want to check it out just to see how it really is - but I wonder how long it will take me to get there - because apparently, the traffic is horrendous, and cars upon cars pile up to get into the parking lot where the ferry site is. Anyway, we went to the ferry site to get a free ride on the ferry and check it out - and we met three of the guys who will be working it. They are all college-age, doing a similar summer thing like I am, and there's about 15-20 of them altogether, I think.

Picture of me, Julia, Eve and Sam on the Russian River Ferry.

So we got to talking about fishing - and they said they'd take us out anytime. So hopefully at some point we'll come back when a couple of them have their days off and they be opportunely waiting for us to take us out on the boat. Haha.

So, if you're wondering what we did 'til 1 am the night we went fishing...I guess that's just something that will have to remain a mystery...

Just kidding. We went into Sal's restaurant and had some good midnight food. I know - how gross, eating late at night -- but oh, it was glorious. It's crazy, actually. Most of you who know me know that I'm not a burger eater -- and I never eat burgers at restaurants. I pretty much always go for fish - salmon, tilapia, you name it. But up here, since what I really want - halibut or salmon - is so expensive, I order a burger as it's cheaper. And I've had three burgers now! And you know what's even crazier? Is the fact that they all have been absolutely delicious! They all have been so good.

So last night, as you may have now ascertained, I ordered a burger and fries. And it was so good. Sal's was absolutely packed - and according to Dan, we really missed out -- because Sal's is the place to be around 2-3 am - when it's hoppin'. Apparently, it's so packed out because all the drunkies are coming in to soak up some of the alcohol they just consumed at "The Mav" across the street or Hooligans right down from Sal's.

Sal's was this awesome hole in the wall place with all of this hunting, fishing, and trapping paraphernalia plastered all over its walls. The menu was really cool -- it was made to look like an old timey newspaper from the Gold Rush Era. The front and back of it were news stories - and the inside was actual menu items. We'll definitely have to come back - because, according to Eve, Sal's is the best place for breakfast (if you want to feel like a tub of lard later - teehee).

So yesterday and the day before, Soldotna was hosting the annual Kenai River we went to that for a couple of hours. I got my first Alaskan Sockeye salmon dinner there...for a whopping $6! It was so awesome. The whole reason why I haven't had any salmon or halibut here as of yet is because it's so expensive. You wouldn't think it would be that expensive, seeing that we're right here - but it still is. I've seen halibut dinners going anywhere from $16.99 to $ getting this salmon was an incredible deal. It was a huge hunk of salmon, with generous portions of tabouleh, potato salad, a piece of bread, and a rhubarb muffin (first time for rhubarb, too!). And it was absolutely delicious. The salmon was so tender and fresh...all of you would have loved it. Soooo good.

The festival was really cool too...they had all these little tables with homemade wares, jewelry, quilts, and other such things...and a big stage where people were singing and playing music. Jelly-making (is there an official name for that?) is really popular here. There was this table where one single woman makes all these jellies - fireweed jelly, spruce tip jelly, rhubarb butter, salmonberry jelly - all delicious. We could taste test some of them.It was really cool getting to taste the fireweed one, because on one of our work days last week, we had a nature tour with one of the rangers, and she showed us all these plants - and fireweed was one of them. There are a ton of plants here that you could make jellies out of. Even spruce! That was crazy...I didn't realize you could make jelly from the tips of spruces. We asked her how she made it...and she literally goes out and picks the very ends (new growth) off of spruce branches (gets hundreds of them) and with a combination of pectin, sugar, and honey, (I think) she makes the jelly. Sooo good.

This photo is from last night. I was just practicing my gun skills. Because I'm a real cowgirl and everything.
Me and Eve went over to Jetta's to play some Balderdash. Jetta is half-native Alaskan. This is one of her brother's pistols. She's a supporter of guns. Lots of guns.

Picture of Sam on a tree/log across Skilak lake. We went on a 2.6 mi hike today on Hidden Creek trail. It was so beautiful and clear out today.

Anyway, I'm ending this post as it's ridiculously long and I'm tired. Hope it was enjoyable! Hopefully I'll be writing back with more fishing and hiking tales...because supposedly I'm going fishing again tomorrow! Whee!


Emily said...

I apologize for all of the spelling/grammar errors. I was rushed typing this, and I didn't check it. I hope you get what I mean.

Oh, and Katie and family, the picture of the four of us dressed up for Sex and the City? We're standing outside of the bunkhouse. So there's a little peek into how it looks like. I promise I'll post pictures of the bunkhouse and how it looks like inside.

Love, love.

Eve said...

Emily- I swear Sam and I told you to promptly delete the pic of us on the ferry. And there you go posting it on the blog. Typical.

PS When are we going back to the ferry? Soon, I hope. Nice scenery in them parts.

Anyway, life's lonely at the VC without you. See you at lunch!

The King said...

The next installment of Yogi Bear, his Friends and The Gunslinger ...

Hey Boo-boo!

More stories, more breathtaking photos! I'm convinced there's no one doing any work out there!

I don't know about police officers ... you look more like parolees to me, in your prison blues! Do you have jailhouse nicknames too? ... Shorty ... Missouri Mo ... Salmon Sam ... Bunkhouse Bonnie ... Junkyard Jetta! Add pistols and other firearms and we've got us a "Shootout at the Alaskan Corral!"

Thanks for the picture of the bear scat ... I've always wanted to see what it looked like in the wild!

The tree with the recently clawed away bark was impressive ... sort of gives you an idea of the power of the beast.

Looking forward to hearing more ... Look after yourself and keep the stories coming.

Miss you x

[kades] said...

Aww, that second photo of you in front of the mountains is beautiful, Em (both you and the scenery)!

Missing you, but glad you're having such an amazing time. You deserve it, kid, you so-so-so deserve it.

Thank you again for the postcard!

Talk to you soon (hopefully tonight)!

p.s. the bear poop... wow, thanks you for that gem. You are much too kind.

likerenoir said...

Thanks for the update Emily and for all the photos. The scenery makes me wish again that I was coming for a visit. Have enough fun for both of us and try to get some work done too : )
That Visitor Command Center in the 50 mile outpost sounds pretty remote. I thought it might be like when I worked in a 6 x 3 foot toll booth in my college years, but we were never that far from civilization. Bring some books to read as I'm sure it will get lonely out there.

Look forward to hearing more of your adventures.

Love and miss you!