Sunday, August 7, 2011

July at Brooks Camp

Bear on spit in front of Naknek Lake

park rangers at a sushi party at Lake Brooks

Bears on the Brooks River

My full circle produce!

My first salmon of 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

Hello! I will now tell you about part 2 of my back country trip. I spent three days at Sukoi Bay,
which I told you about previously. I then spent three days at Hallo Bay on the Pacific coast side
of Katmai National Park. Hallo Bay is a place many people go to watch bears. Bears go to
Hallo Bay to feed on sedges, a highly nutritious plant. The sedges grow in these huge, vast
meadows. One bush pilot I know who flies people to Hallo Bay says he calls the bears there
“scary cows” because they resemble cattle or even bison grazing on the plains. Hallo Bay is a
beautiful place. Besides the vast green sedge meadows, the bay is surrounded by tall snow capped mountains. A few glaciers, including Hallo Glacier, meander down through the
mountains into creeks and rivers that flow out through the bay. We camped along Hallo Creek
which is full of glacial sediment from the glacier that feeds it at the west side of the bay. The
bears at Hallo Bay are similar to the bears I know at Brooks Camp because they are used to
seeing people watch them. I got a little bit too close to some of the bears at Hallo Bay. One
evening, we were sitting on a log watching a sow with a yearling cub feed on sedges. A large
male bear came up behind us and began making a huffing noise at the sow. The sow was
clearly agitated that the male was trying to take over her grazing spot. The little yearling was
very stressed too. He started to make a groaning noise. Both the sow and the large male spent
several minutes huffing at one another and popping their jaws. These are both behaviors that
bears show when they are stressed or uncomfortable. The sow did not totally give up her spot
to the male, though. She just moved a little bit. It was very interesting to watch the bears’
interactions with one another.

Sow with cub when the large male came upon them

Me at Hallo Bay with the bears

"scary cows"

We also saw a couple of fights between male bears. Some of them were just playing rather
than fighting. Two males, though, got into a pretty good fight. One of them was a huge, and the
other one was rather small. I thought for sure the larger male would have the advantage and
win, but this small male was very strong. He used his strength to get onto his hind legs and just
push himself against the larger bear. This was enough to make the larger male fall back. They
eventually called it quits, and I do not think any blood was spilled. However, I was watching
from very far away.

two bears playing

Hallo Bay is also where Timothy Treadwell spent much of his time. He is the man who spent at
least 14 summers on the coast of Katmai National Park studying and filming brown bears. Two
films were made about him, Grizzly Diaries and Grizzly Man. He was killed by a bear at Kaflia
Bay in Katmai in October of 2003, and his ashes are spread at Hallo Bay. He called Hallo Bay
the Grizzly Sanctuary. Now that I’ve been there, I need to re-watch the films about him.

We had no problems with bears disturbing our campsite. One evening around midnight, one of
the guys I was camping with did start shouting. I got up and looked out of my tent and saw two
bears grazing on grass right next to our electric fence. I did not sleep very well that night, but I
think it was because I had to use the bathroom and didn’t want to get out of my warm tent.
Hallo Bay was a great place to spend three days. Our park pilot was unable to fly over the
mountains to pick us up the day we were supposed to leave, so we had to spend an extra night.
None of us were upset about it. We had plenty of extra food and water in case that happened.
On the flight home to Brooks Camp, I saw several beautiful rivers and waterfalls. We also flew
over Kaguyak Crater, one of many volcanic craters on the Alaska Peninsula. The crater had a
lake inside with a nice little island in the middle.

Well I hope you enjoyed this. Goodbye for now.

bear cooling off in the river

Kaguyak Crater from the float plane

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Everything is going well here at Katmai. Happy Fourth of July! It was a pretty peaceful fourth here at Brooks Camp. Many bears are in camp! I was just washing some kale in my kitchen sink a few minutes ago, and I looked up and out the window and saw a sow with two yearling cubs scratching themselves against a tree just ten yards from my cabin. It is definitely July! I then watched as Imes, one of our bear technicians, and Brett, another ranger, came and pushed her out of camp. Imes was saying, “Come on, Mama.” Imes is from Arkansas and has a great accent. So, lots of bears and visitors is what’s going on.

I spent one whole week in the backcountry of Katmai a couple of weeks ago – June 21-28. It was amazing! Kara, myself, and Roy, our supervisor, spent three days at Sukoi Bay on the Katami coast and three days at Hallo Bay, about thirty miles south of Sukoi Bay. Our reason for the trip was to assist Roy and a filmmaker from Homer, AK, in shooting some footage for the park documentary that Roy is working on. This is a park documentary that should be finished some time next year. Kara and I went along to assist in carrying around the film equipment. We were both thrilled to get to go and see some of the beautiful parts of Katmai that are so far from Brooks Camp. Sukoi Bay is on the northeast side of the park, on the Pacific Ocean (Shelikof Strait). We camped inside the bay, right on the beach in a clearing of driftwood. We had an electric fence surrounding our camp and bear resistant food containers. Kara and I had a huge tent to share. It was great fun spending a week in a tent with my co-worker, Kara! Every evening, we went on a long excursion to film. Sukoi Bay has some breathtaking scenery, which is why Roy and the filmmaker wanted to film there. We hiked over to a lovely river behind our camp, and on our first night, we saw some bears playing on the river. They definitely noticed us and were checking us out. They seemed a bit leery of humans. We mostly filmed mountain scenery, beautiful sunsets and sunrises (I never did wake up for a sunrise, though), wildflowers, and some wildlife. We got a little bit of bear footage, but we also filmed a red fox that came past our camp about three times a day, a semipalmated plover and her nest, and a bald eagle and her nest. During the day, Kara and I got to explore the bay a little. We enjoyed being at the ocean and smelling ocean smells and finding ocean creatures on the sand. We also enjoyed looking at all of the bear tracks on the beaches. There were some beautiful rock features at Sukoi Bay that Kara and I hiked to and some cave-like formations as well. My diet was not the best on the trip. I ate many dehydrated backpacking meals which have a lot of sodium. We also ate lots of trail mix, Lara bars, and oreo cookies. I did also eat a few apples and some yummy bread from a bakery in Homer.

I also caught my first fish yesterday, July 5! It was an average-sized female adult sockeye salmon. She did not want to die, though. It took me at least twenty minutes to reel her in to shore. I will enjoy cooking that salmon!

The pictures above are all from my three days at Sukoi Bay in Katmai National Park. Next time, I’ll write about my three days at Hallo Bay and post pictures from there. I cannot download several pictures at a time, so that is why I am just giving you a glimpse of Sukoi Bay. Hallo Bay will be for next time.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hello readers. I have has been a little busy since I’ve come to Brooks Camp. I had a couple of weeks of training during the second half of May, and then we have been doing our regular ranger duties since June 1. I am also trying to get my interpretive programs in shape to present to visitors. During the last week of May, I got to do a week of MOCC (Motorboat Operator’s Certification Course) training. It was great, but challenging! I learned how to tie many different kinds of knots, like the bowline, clove hitch, anchor bend, sheet bend, and others. Most of the training was inside in the classroom, but on the final day, we got to get in a boat and drive! We were tested on a few exercises like kissing a buoy, a serpentine pattern, and a star pattern. Finally, I had to swim in Lake Brooks (a really cold body of water!) out to a boat and then get into the boat. My muscles did not work very well after swimming in that water! It was exciting. I almost did not pass one of the exercises – kiss the buoy. You had to pretend that the buoy was a drowning victim (perhaps unconscious). You had to drive the boat up to the victim without hitting the victim, “Bob,” and have the person in the bow of the boat reach out and touch the buoy. I kept killing Bob. BUT, I believe that I passed, and after some practice hours, I should be able to operate a motorboat all by myself!
The only other adventure I’ve had in the past few weeks was going backpacking in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes during Memorial Day weekend. About 9 rangers went on the trip, and of course we had a blast together. It was still pretty cold out in the valley. If you do not know what the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes is, it is a 40-square-mile valley filled with the volcanic ash of Novarupta volcano. It was the largest volcanic eruption of the twentieth century, and it occurred on June 6, 1912. It is a pretty spectacular place if you are at all interested in geology. Anyway, it was pretty cold out there. In order to hike to Novarupta, the source of the eruption, you have to hike about 12 miles from the drop-off location and cross two rivers. One of the rivers is the River Lethe, which comes from the glaciers on Mt. Mageik, an active volcano. Well, when we went to cross the Lethe, it was about knee-deep, and there were icebergs the size of watermelons rushing by. Yes, I got hit in the shin with one of them. It hurt! But that was the worst injury on the trip for me. We did not actually make it to Novarupta because of so much snow and muddy ash. However, we had a great time!

The pictures below are 1. four of my co-workers hiking in the Valley. Mt. Griggs is the snow-capped volcano in the background 2. Katie and Ellen hiking on top of Broken Mountain. The Valley is in the background 3. The Knife Peak Glaciers coming off of Mt. Katmai in the Valley. Notice the glaciers are covered with ash - ash insulates snow and ice! 4. My co-workers enjoying the hike through the Valley. Snowy Mt. Mageik is in the background.

It is still good to be back at Brooks Camp! I love my cabin. I attached a few photos of the outside of my cabin above. I have my nutria fur hanging on the wall that my friend, Imes, gave me last summer, so I really feel like a trapper woman. The bears are not around in large numbers yet. I’ve only seen about five or six bears since I’ve been back. I am trying to become a better birder. I spend my time on the river trying to identify birds that I don’t know.

Pictures below are 1. Me and some co-workers on top of Dumpling Mountain 2. Katie and Kara acting like bears at Brooks Falls (Katie is my roommate!) 3. Our staff photo of all of the interpretive rangers!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Brand new summer - 2011!

Hello! Thanks for checking out my blog! I am beginning my second summer as a seasonal interpretive park ranger at Katmai National Park in southwest Alaska. Currently I am in Brooks Camp in Katmai. Brooks Camp is a small, remote camp on the mile and a half long Brooks River which is between Lake Brooks and Naknek Lake (the fourth largest lake in Alaska). Brooks Camp is where I will live until the end of September. People come to Brooks Camp from all over the world mostly to watch bears but also to fish in the beautiful rivers and streams and to study volcanoes.

Before heading to King Salmon, Alaska for training, I got to visit Ryan and Amber, two friends that I worked with two summers ago at Mount Rushmore. Amber lives in Anchorage, and Ryan will be working at Kenai Fjords National Park. Amber and I were lucky to get to drive Ryan down to his new home, Seward, Alaska! We had a lovely day there. I ate halibut tacos and got to see a sea otter! Those were the highlights.

I then flew to King Salmon and spent about two weeks training. King Salmon is a transient bush town where Katmai National Park headquarters is located. I did two weeks of training there. As an interpretive ranger, I help visitors to the park understand the park's resources such as the bears, salmon, volcanoes, and culture. So training consisted of lots of lectures on birds, geology, plants, safety, salmon, and Bears! I still have two weeks of training to go before June 1, our first day with visitors.

I will be living in a hard-sided cabin this year, and it is super! It is very cozy and rustic, and I love it already. I'm excited to go fishing this summer and be able to clean my fish in my cabin and not worry about a bear swiping its paw through canvas if it feels like it! Our staff had several people return from last summer, but we have a few new folks. All of them are great and I'm sure will bring great experience to Katmai. We're looking forward to a great 2011 summer!

The first picture is of the Naknek River near King Salmon, Alaksa. The Aleutian mountains are in the background (some of them are active volcanoes). The second picture is of me, Ryan, and Amber, my buddies from Mount Rushmore. The third picture is of an old boat in Seward, Alaska. The fourth is of a red fox outside of its den near King Salmon, AK. The fifth picture is the 2011 interpretive rangers at Katmai.