Monday, August 30, 2010



I apologize for not keeping up with my blog, friends. Once again, I’m pretty lazy when it comes to spending time on computers. I wanted to tell about some of the things I’ve been up to for the past month or so. The month of August was pretty quiet around Brooks Camp. The bears usually leave the Brooks River in August to find food elsewhere – berries on hillsides and salmon in smaller streams. So, I spent a lot of time missing the bears and awaiting their return. Now they are slowly trickling back in, and they are really big and fat now! They are also moving pretty slow – as slow as molasses. This is the time for them to eat as much as they can to fatten up for their winter hibernation. A few days ago, I was standing near the river, and I could hear some breathing not far from me in the dense willows. I had a feeling that it was a sleeping bear, so I radioed to my fellow ranger across the river to let him know that I was going to move away. Sure enough, a minute later, the sleeping bear woke up and popped out on the trail right where I was standing. I think this is how September will be – bears taking naps all over the place.
I have done some hikes in August. On my birthday, August 9, I was very lucky to wake up to a pretty nice day – weather wise, so I decided to climb Mt. LaGorce. LaGorce is a mountain just across Naknek Lake from Brooks Camp. I went with a co-worker named Greg. We climbed a very steep but fun rock slide to get to the summit, and when we were on the summit, the sun came out!! It was amazing because we had not seen direct sunlight in maybe two weeks or more. (This whole summer has been wet, cold, and cloudy) We were also awarded with some amazing views of parts of Katmai like the Savonoski River, Mt. Katolinat, and the Bay of Islands. Last weekend, I was very lucky to get to go on a three day backpacking trip to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes with another co-worker, Kent. We had a wonderful time. We hiked to Novarupta volcano which is the site of the 1912 eruption (the largest of the twentieth century). We climbed on top of the lava plug where over 6 cubic miles of ash, pumice, and liquid magma came shooting out June 6 – 9, 1912. Today, 98 years later, the lava plug is still steaming, and we were able to sit next to the steaming vents and warm up. We spent two nights camping in some huts built by the USGS – a research camp. It was very cozy. The huts provided great shelter. The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes is desolate and wild but beautiful and peaceful, and I had a great time there.
I also got to do some fly-fishing in August. I spent one day fly-fishing on Margot Creek, a lovely little creek about 10 miles from Brooks Camp. Greg taught me how to fly-fish, and he did an excellent job. I caught about 8 Arctic char, but I only took one home for dinner. I loved fly-fishing more than I thought I would. It was great fun. I also saw salmon spawning at Margot Creek which was very exciting. At one spot, I watched as a female sockeye dug her nest with her anal fin. As she did this, about three males were waiting in line behind her. One of them bashed or bit another male who was waiting. They can get pretty violent while waiting! It was awesome to watch.
Yesterday I got brave enough to jump into Naknek Lake! I’ve wanted to swim all summer, but I do not like cold water. Since our summer here has been so wet and cold, I’ve been way too big of a wimp to take the plunge. But yesterday, it was sunny, and I went kayaking. I got warm from paddling, so when I got home I got into my swimsuit and jumped in the lake. It was very cold! I stayed in for maybe 1:45 minutes. I felt wonderful when I got out.
We have also had a few tragedies here at Katmai in the last month. At the end of July, a hiker went missing while crossing one of the rivers in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. He was never found. Now, we have another four people missing. Three of our maintenance rangers were flying back from the coast of the park to King Salmon when their plane went missing. This happened on August 21, and they have still not been found! It is very sad. Please pray for them and their families. Thanks.
Well I’m sorry to end on a sad note. Again, I am sorry for not keeping up with my blog.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

July at Katmai

Hi Friends!
I am sorry I have not been keeping up with my blog! There are just so many other things that I like to do in the evenings than sit in front of a computer! But I have been doing my best to take pictures of bears here at Katmai. I am seeing so many bears now that I think it is going to be strange to return home to Louisiana and not see bears everyday! The bears are great to watch. Each bear has its own unique behaviors and personalities. They are a lot like us. There is one bear here that I enjoy watching. She reminds me a lot of me - she is very indecisive, and she avoids conflicts with other bears. She might be my favorite. I have also done some fishing. I have now caught four sockeye salmon. I do need to get out and catch a few more, but it is challenging to fish with so many bears around. You always have to yield your spot to a bear that comes along. I have experimented a little with cooking my salmon. I have tried baking it twice, and last night, I tried to panfry it. If anyone has any good suggestions or recipes for cooking sockeye salmon, I'd love to hear them! I think I am also eating the best that I've ever eaten! Each week, we get fresh organic produce from a farm in Washington. So between eating fresh fruit and veggies and fresh salmon, I am eating like a king/queen! I have spent a lot of time watching bears at Brooks Falls. Last night I saw so many bears catch and eat salmon that I sort of lost my appetite for dinner. Bears can eat an entire 5-6 pound salmon in just two minutes! And they might eat 20 or more salmon a day! Each salmon is 4500 calories! Woah!

I am posting a few of my recent pictures of Katmai in July. One bear that frequents Brooks Camp, Milkshake, has four spring cubs! They are super fun to watch. Another sow hanging around camp has two spring cubs. The spring cubs are the cutest, especially when they climb up and down trees. Well, I hope you enjoy reading this.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Hi friends,

Wow! Today was my most exciting day yet at Katmai! Bears are everywhere you look on the Brooks River! Today, I was working on the lower river viewing platform, which is at the mouth of the Brooks River. Working on this platform is like bear traffic control for the entire river mouth. I have to look out for bears and decide when to open and close the floating bridge to visitor traffic. Twice today a hoard of bears (10-15 bears) came crashing down the river looking for fish. They were all around the bridge - it was so exciting to watch! Several of them caught fish. They can catch fish so much better than I can - I am still learning! It was an amazing day! I also saw for the first time today a bear catch a leaping salmon at Brooks Falls. He didn't catch it in his jaws, but he sort of caught it with his paw and then bit into it. That was also pretty exciting, but I felt bad for the fish. I would not want to be that fish! I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Happy Summer!

Hi everyone. Happy summer! Everything is very beautiful here at Katmai. It is very green, and the salmon are now coming up the rivers from the ocean. So the bears will be coming out a lot more now. The water here is still too cold for me to swim in though. Everything is going well. I feel very lucky to live in such a beautiful, wonderful place. I do need to learn how to fish because the salmon is so good!
I got to do an amazing hike recently to the top of a mountain in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Some of the pictures I'm attaching are from this hike. The one of the volcano steaming is a picture of Mt. Martin, a volcano here at Katmai. I am jumping in front of Mt. Martin. I was so happy that the weather was so perfect and I had a clear view of several of the big volcanoes here - which doesn't happen often! The pink flowers on the mountain are alpine azalea, very pretty. The other picture is of an angler fishing at the mouth of the Brooks River, where I live. And finally, I posted a picture of a sockeye salmon. The first one was caught last Friday, June 18.
I have now given all three of my interpretive programs, and although they still need some work, they are going well. One of my programs is a tour of the valley of ten thousand smokes, which is very fun. I get to take visitors on a day-long outing to the valley. We have lunch out there and then hike down into the valley to the Ukak River which runs through the volcanic ash. I also do a cultural walk where I tell visitors all about the human history of the Brooks River. My third interpretive program is an evening program where I talk about the life cycle of a sockeye salmon. Some of you were wondering what I've been up to here. Well, that's mostly it. I do a lot of informal interpretation also - giving bear safety talks, managing bears and people, and talking with visitors and answering their questions.
Well I hope you enjoy this post. I am going home now to have some hot chocolate. I'll try to post more often!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes

This week, I went to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, the site of the largest volcanic eruption of the twentieth century (June 6, 1912). It was amazing! It's a totally different world from Brooks Camp where I live. The valley is filled with volcanic ash and pumice, like a lunar landscape. Rivers cut their way through the thick layers of ash. The valley was named by Robert Griggs, a scientist who visited the valley in 1916. When he saw the valley, there were thousands of smoking vents and fumaroles throughout the valley, so he named it the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. One of my interpretive programs this summer will be giving a day-long guided tour and hike through the valley. I'm very excited to go back to the valley many more times.

On another note, life is going well for me at Brooks Camp. For all of you readers from the Midwest, I can now play Euker. I have been on a winning team twice now! I have also taught my favorite card game, Oh Hell, to some of my friends here.

I saw two bears this week from about twenty yards away. They are interesting to watch - they can be funny but also a bit scary. I was on an elevated platform watching them eat some vegetation below, and they were definitely watching us out of the corner of their eyes.

Well, thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

my new home at Brooks Camp

My first week at Brooks Camp

On May 18, we flew from King Salmon, AK to our new home at Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park. The day was beautiful, so the flight was amazing! I flew with two co-workers and the pilot, and since I guessed the number closest to the pilot's number, I got to sit up front in the passenger seat! We flew in the Beaver, a great little float plane. We took off from the Naknek River and landed in Naknek Lake (the fourth largest lake in Alaska). The scenery here is more beautiful than I imagined. Brooks Camp is on Naknek Lake where the Brooks River empties into it. To the east of us is the Aleutian Range with huge, beautiful snow-capped peaks, and beyond those moutains is Shelikoff Strait (the Pacific Ocean). To the north, west, and south of Brooks Camp is pretty much all water - Naknek and Brooks Lakes. The camp is great. I live in a tent-frame cabin. It's very simple but very cozy. My roommate, Katie, and I have to run out to the circuit breaker box a few times a day to re-set power. It's fun! We have a full kitchen with running water and a space heater. The bathroom is about a 60 yard walk from the cabin. All of the rangers live close to each other, so we have a fun little community. On Friday night we had our first potluck of the season.

On Wednesday morning I saw my first brown bears! I walked out onto the beach of Naknek Lake, and there were four bears playing on the beach about 100 yards away. They started running towards me, so I just backed away slowly. They continued running past me, playing and wrestling with one another. It was very exciting! Yesterday, a few co-workers and I went for hike up Dumpling Mountain, a mountain just right next to camp. It was probably one of the most scenic hikes of my life. We had a great view of some of the park, and I really saw how huge Katmai is! We did not see any bears, but we did count about 10 bear dens on the mountainside.

I am really loving life here. A few times this week I felt like I was back in Nicaragua because of the simplicity of life here, and that made me very happy!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Flying Over Katmai

This week, I got to fly over Katmai National Park in the park's Cessna 185 flown by our park pilot, Allen. It was the most amazing flight I've ever been on! I had a great view sitting right behind Allen. We flew over Brooks Camp, where I'll live this summer, and then we flew over the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. We turned around before reaching the huge volcanoes along Katmai's coast. I got to see the plug of Novarupta, where all of the magma, ash, and other volcanic stuff came out of the earth during the eruption of June 6, 1912 (the largest volcanic eruption of the twentieth century). That was really great! Other than that, I saw the huge valley of ash (600 - 700 ft. thick in some places), lots of snow-capped volcanoes/mountains, and two moose. I really enjoyed the flight. It was one of the best experiences of my life so far.