My time with the CLM has flown by again, and I will soon be posted in Homer for the foreseeable future with the Soil and Water Conservation District. I’m thankful for the CLM program, but I’m sure I’ll be in touch with interns past, present, and future while working in my new position! I had a relatively brief field season working three field hitches: in the Nulato Hills region (West coast Alaska, just below the Western peninsula), in the town of aptly named Central (very centrally located), and just outside of Denali National Park, in Cantwell.
I was especially glad to venture to the West Coast, a new locale for me to add to my places-been in Alaska. The softened mountains we set our base camp in fade rapidly to rolling hills and plains, and give the onlooker an inkling of the vastness of the wild landscape beyond. Our basecamp, set in the unfriendly (tussocky) crook of a friendly creek, was just 40 miles from the closest village, Unalakleet, which we flew into before heading out with a helicopter pilot hired for the whole trip to camp with us.
I was glad that we had a helicopter regularly buzzing in and out of camp–a grizzly bear was sighted in the area before we even pitched a tent, and multiple piles of fresh scat dotted the area outside our group tent. But we practiced normal preventative measures, and didn’t have any scares. Moose and waterfowl frequented our bank as well, and the water harbored large dolly varden. Just outside of camp, a herd of caribou was seen cooling themselves off on a latent snow patch on a sunny afternoon. And the mosquitos only sucked us half dry. All in all, it was a wonderfully nice field hitch, with mostly sunny days, a good crew, and an idyllic setting. Having nice working conditions makes keying out plants after dinner much more relaxing.
The next trip (also for the NRCS Soil Survey) was much more lush, as we were able to stay in a full-amenity cabin located in town, and our transects were walked, though most just off the road system. Much of interior Alaska burns regularly, and so many scenic strolls through fire-hardened spruce spears were enjoyed. But hidden in those thick interior forests are some unexpected rewards. (below photo credits: Ronald McCormick)
Great discoveries and camaraderie were enjoyed by all. And again, we were hunted by a humming army of millions noncontiguously, and were thus all the more thankful for the moments we weren’t getting mosquitos up our noses.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos in the Denali area, but delighted in doing more road-side hikes near the town of Cantwell, where several teams-worth of sled dog howls echo off the foothills.
Thanks again to CLM for supplying a much-needed and endlessly helpful conduit for the up and coming land managing generation! And happy season-end to everyone!
NRCS Homer Field Office