3 weeks in Alaska
2 weeks of training
1 visit to the park
Just for a moment on Friday, I felt like I was actually doing my job and working. There was no more training, no more trips, and I could focus on researching for a post on the Katmai Terrane Blog. I got excited about the possibilities of what to focus on and how to present it.
The moment didn’t last long.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am happy about what I have been doing and what’s planned. I just needed that moment to last a little longer. It feels like I have been going non-stop for awhile now. How am I going to explain what I have been doing the last three weeks? I don’t know, but I’m going to try!
My first week of training really seems like a blur. There was a lot of resource knowledge shared of the local towns. King Salmon and Naknek have an interesting history with the land of Katmai National Park and Preserve. Like many gateway communities of the National Park Service, there is a disconnect between locals and the park. To work on mending that, the NPS and other agencies offered a community wide potluck. I really enjoyed this and hope they continue doing it in the future. We learned a bit about the salmon, the fishing industry here at Bristol Bay, and subsistence fishing. A quick run through of geology and volcanism and our first week was done.
Since many of the rangers were heading to Brooks Camp before Migratory Bird day, the Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) gave a little bird walk for the few who wanted to go over the weekend. It was cold, windy, and a little rainy but no bugs! A few of the bird species we saw were Greater Yellow Legs, Gray Jays, a Parasitic Jagger, and a Common Loon. I loved hearing the Loon call; it was so soulful and sweet.
The second week had a bit more intensive training, which included Water Ditching Survival, Aviation training, and bear safety. Since the only way to the park is by boat or plane (bush or float) it’s required that we know what to do in case of an emergency landing/crash over water. Water Ditching is something I hope I never have to do, but I also am glad I at least know what to do. In the “Dunker”, a pipe contraption with cargo net surrounding it, was a seat and seat-belt that we were strapped into. We wore a helmet that was plugged in and needed to follow the steps correctly to pass the course. We had to do that a total of three times and each time they would change the direction of which way you are facing in the water. Thankfully, I only had to do it three times! During the course we also went over PFDs (personal flotation devices) and group survival strategies. (I have more photos of this training on Instagram/Facebook and Twitter.)
Bear safety was really different from bear safety at Yellowstone. It definitely added to my understanding of bears and how they interact with their environment. I hope to do a compare and contrast post about the differences and similarities of bear management between the two parks. Maybe I’ll do that post for the Katmai Terrane Blog?
Since I didn’t leave for Brooks Camp with the Interpretive Rangers on that Friday, I got to participate in the Migratory Bird Count the USFWS did. Our “next-door neighbor” in King Salmon is the Alaska Peninsula and Becharof National Wildlife Refuge office. These are an amazing group of people and I really hope I get to continue to do things with them. Their knowledge of the birds here is mind blowing!
Last Sunday I left with a few others to ride the boat over to Brooks Camp. I was able to help lead training for the Interpretive Rangers. I’m not sure exactly how I got wiggled into that, but I’m happy I did! Leading training was challenging because we didn’t have time to really plan it. However we were welcomed with open minds and everything went well. (We, as in the new District Interpretive Ranger for Brooks and myself.)
It’s weird that I am now a “senior” for the National Park Service. I’m not the youngest anymore and I am one of the few with the most experience. Those of you who have been following me these last few years, I have reached a stepping stone in this career. I don’t think I have ever felt like my opinions and ideas have ever been so appreciated and welcomed.
Just like every time I go to a park for the working season, I struggle to think that people like me and actually do enjoy spending time with me. As I left the Interps at Brooks Thursday I was blown away at the number of people who told me that they wished I could stay the weekend. That they were thankful for my suggestions during the training.
Someday I will stop thinking that way, but in the meantime, I have friends!