Thursday, August 7, 2008

Oh Happy Day

To appease the recent complaints I've received in the past week in a half, I've decided to write another blog entry. (Or to possibly capitalize on the opportunity to yet again brag about what I have sown?)
Anyway, my time here is soon coming to an end, and that fact has been depressing me. As is clearly evident by my blog posts, I've had (and am still having) an absolutely amazing, life-changing time here in Alaska. The fact that I must leave this gorgeous place to suffer the hottest temperatures of Florida's summer, quite frankly, makes me want to cry. Since the days of my internship are quickly waning, I'm trying to soak in all that I can before I leave.

This Sunday marks my and Sam's 5-day off period to do whatever we want. We've planned to partake in a surmountable hike of 23 miles, stretching over the Summit Creek and Devil's Pass trails (check it on the map of the Chugach National Forest near the Cooper Landing/Hope/Seward area) in two days. We've heard it's a beautiful hike, so we're looking forward to it. After that, we plan to travel to Seward to check out the SeaLife Center and go on another Kenai Fjords Wildlife/Whale-watching tour (even better than the one I did when I first got here - see first blog entry with the pictures). We'll camp in Seward for two nights, and then leave for Anchorage the following day. We'll stay the night at Sue's (grad student that's been periodically staying with us at the bunkhouse while she does her field work), hike Flat Top Mountain, and check out all the museums and shops Anchorage has to offer. Then that Thursday, (August 14th) Sam and I travel back to home sweet home, to do a wildberry fun walk (!) the next morning.

All in all, I would say the days since my last blog post haven't been as exciting. Spent 5 hours trying to get the tracker un-stuck, pet some moose, caught some halibut, counted snowshoe hare poop, fed a robin, watched the dipnetters at Beluga Lookout during a beautiful sunset, and caught a salmon. Yep - not exciting at all.

This picture is just the preview. This is a little teensy weensy halibut. Dusty told me I had to take a picture of it to show that all the halibut I'd been catching were around this size. Then I caught this one:

and then he shut his mouth. Yeah, that's right. This is a 61-pounder! Dusty had to hold it up because my weak arms couldn't handle the massive weight of this behemoth. So, we went halibut fishing yesterday. Dusty (as I'm sure I've mentioned in an earlier blog post - he's a law enforcement officer at the refuge) was kind enough to take both me and Sam out to Anchor Point yesterday, to catch us some fish. We jetted to about 10 different spots in all (I think), and all caught our limits (2 per day). I caught about 10 halibut in all...but threw back all of them (with the exception of one: according to Dusty, you have to keep your first fish you catch - otherwise it's bad luck), until I caught this tank. After we were done fishing, Dusty filleted all of the fish, and then we drove home. I took the fillets to Peninsula Processing where they will be vacuum-sealed, and then I'll take them to the bunkhouse, freeze them and then take them on the plane with me home. Here's a better view of the monster. It was more than half my size! Should make for some good eats.

This is the 25-pounder Sam caught. What a beaut! She was so excited. I'm glad she got to go halibut fishing, and surpass her fishing license's worth. Here's one of the many seabirds we saw that were constantly following us. They smelled the herring we used as bait and were hoping to get lucky.

So, I think I mentioned something about the tracker being stuck. Yeah, those were good times. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of the hilarious event, so those will just have to remain in my heart. About two weeks ago, Julia, Sam and I had a field day assigned to us, in which we had to go garbage-picking around the Swanson River Rd/Swan Lake Rd canoe area. We finished around noon, so we (okay, I did) had the great idea (and it was great, lemme tell ya) to go to the moose pens! The moose pens is a highly restricted area. It's regulated by both the refuge and the Alaska Department for Fish & Game. The moose here are held in captivity (but for the most part, it's pretty natural. The pens cover several miles. Only calves are held in smaller ones.) because they have been injured by human and/or natural causes. Its purpose is for research: they are studying the effects of copper deficiencies in moose.

Anyway, we heard about the moose pens through Annie, who is a researcher there. We met her previously and she had told us that we were welcome to come out there and check the place out (and possibly feed the calves!). So, after getting the proper gate combinations from headquarters, we went through about 8 different locked gates until we got to an area where there were a number of log cabin-ish buildings. We knocked on several doors, but got no answer. The place was completely desolate. So we decided to go through one final gate. This gate marked the transfer from gravel road to no road. We weren't sure about it, but we decided to steadfastly drive on. At the very end of this path, two gates on either side led to more non-gravel roads. We decided then that we'd gone far enough, and turned around. Not 1/4 mi on the way up, we got stuck. I forgot to mention that it had been pouring rain this entire time. So the dirt was slick. After about an hour of trying to do whatever we could to stop the wheels from spinning, Julia walked the way back in hopes of finding someone to help. Lo and behold, she found Annie! Her and Annie came back with a four-wheeler. Annie surveyed the damage, and decided that her F-250 should be able to do the job. Annie came rolling in with her truck, and you wouldn't believe it - but, that got stuck too. All this time I kept on thinking to myself, there's no way a truck like that shouldn't be able to handle this. All the same, Annie thought that adding gravel to the path may give the tires traction - so another two hours later, we started piling shovel upon shovel of gravel onto the path. Tried the truck again - but to no avail.

At this point, Annie was cursing up a storm and told us we better radio our people. Until this point, we had kept quiet. We figured we could take care of this predicament on our own, without having to notify the entire world what dumbasses we were. Unfortunately, we had to commit the deed. We radioed headquarters, much to our shamefaced embarassment, and were told that we had an "emergency team" headed our way.

Then Annie's partner researcher, a city girl from Los Angeles, had the smarts to realize, Hmm, don't you have to do something with the tires to have it in four-wheel drive? (the city girl, of all people. Come on.) Annie loudly proclaimed "Shit!" and then locked the tires. And guess what - the truck got un-stuck. So we hooked up some rope from the tracker to the truck, and within minutes, the tracker was freed.

We radioed all the necessary people again and told them that everything was under control. But the damage was already done. We came back, heads hanging and our eyes downturned, and suffered all the mockery from all angles. But we did get to pet(and feed) some moose:

This is a baby calf. She's eating fireweed.

And apparently some us even got to kiss some moose, too.

Sam, Julia, and me with the calf. You can't really see it so well, but if you look close enough, you'll see how muddy we are.

About a week ago, Sam had the brilliant idea for all of us to enjoy a sunset at Kenai Beach, while enjoying glasses of champagne and the warmth of a fire. But when we got to Kenai Beach, it was absolutely crowded with dipnetters.

Dipnetting, for those in ignorance, is a way to fish, only open to Alaskan residents. Depending on how many mouths there are to feed, one can fish up to 100+ salmon for one household. It's considered "subsistence fishing." They take a big net, put it into the water, and catch as many salmon as can fit.

So, since the beaches were so packed, we decided to go to Beluga Lookout, which overlooks the mouth of the Kenai River, where river meets Cook Inlet. Eve, Sam, Julia and I all sat on a bench, sipping champagne and realizing that this place is absolutely remarkable - and we're really gonna miss it - and eachother.

Alright, these last couple of photos are of a momma moose and her calf that like to hang around the bunkhouse and headquarters. This calf is just a yearling, so it was born this year. Anyway, feast your eyes upon the photos - I gotta run. Post later!


likerenoir said...

Hi Emily,

Thanks for keeping us up-to-date. I loved the photos and it looks like you are loving every minute (even the muddy ones). Those baby moose are so cute.

See you in two weeks!


The King said...

The Fish Tale Almanac (TFTA)Continues ...

Dadgumit Emily ... (see, even a sophisticate like me can talk turkey ... country ... and even Southern like y'all), ... yew bin reelin' in some reel big 'uns of late!

These heer "behemoths" are almost as big as yew are my young lady, an' I'm surprised they didn't pull yer over the boat into the salty drink wiv 'em.

Amazin' fish tails from the photos, that will not only make good eating but good re-taling too(I'm making up words like you do now), when you get to sittin' 'round the campfire an' regaling yer spellbound

"Hmmmn ... Are y'all ready ...? Let me tell you 'bout the time I caught the biggest behemoth the Alaskan coastline had ever seen.

Now heer yer see ... I only wey 'bout 78lbs an' only stand five foot nuthin, an' these heer monsters that were chasin' our itty bitty pontoon were bigger than the Loch Ness Monster, Jaws, King Kong and Godzilla all put together. But I wasn't scared yer see 'cause I come from good stock and I'm the product of a mixed marriage as me Mom's a former WWF wrestler an me Dad's a reference librarian ... so not only am I not afraid to tackle somethin', but I can i-dentify it also. "

And so the fish tales go ...

You are amazing Emily and the stories are more incredible with each subsequent entry. Gainesville is going to seem all so humdrum after your Alaskan adventure and no doubt have you itching for more.

Television networks have had several series of the Deadliest Catch, portraying all of the dangers encountered by the Alaskan fishermen who brave the Bering Sea ... but I think there should be a second series of:

"Emily Williams the intrepid, though diminutive explorer, going boldly forth where the meek and mild and taller folk, ne're not tarry ... Stay tuned for the next wonderful adventure of Impmonster!"

Love the series and can't wait for the next episode.