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.