It's not a vacation up here for me; we work 40 hour weeks and I spent my last weekend doing boat training so I had my first day off in over 2 weeks on Sunday. It ended up being a productive day. In the morning I actually had to finish up boat training, which involves crossing the river to get to Lake Brooks. Of course, a bear was sleeping on the trail right next to the bridge. So after a while we went to wake Imes up, who was all too happy run off a bear. (We call it "hazing" here, so if I use that term don't imagine a grizzly doing a keg stand). The fun part of this was I got to do it with him -- the three of us marched up to this brown bear with Imes in the front clapping and making huffing noises. It turned out to be a skittish female named Amelia who is very small for her 5 years, and more than happy to get out of the way of three apparently insane men. Later, as we were launching the boat, I saw a magnificent moose crossing the mouth of Lake Brooks. This may have been the first moose sighting on the ground this year (many people saw them from the air on the way in), and it was pretty close to us -- within a couple hundred yards, which is plenty close enough to get a good look at such a huge creature. Its movement seemed surprisingly equestrian to me, kind of like an goofy horse who had drank one too many. It actually walked along the beach toward us for a bit before catching wind of us and spooking into the forest. I didn't have my camera but my roommate Matt got a great video of it, I will see if I can post it somehow. Troy, a fisheries biologist and one of our highest-ups here, was giving the boat training and though we didn't want to admit it at first, the main thing we were thinking about as we watched that moose awkwardly slink across the river was how good he would look packed into our freezer for the next 3 months.
After completing the training -- I am now officially certified to operate a Department of the Interior motorboat anywhere in the country -- I went fishing on Lake Brooks with a maintenance guy named Tom. He took me to some good spots to catch rainbow trout and we ended up catching 3, two of which were small enough to keep (they have to be 18 inches or less). I had a huge trout hooked and pulled up to the side of the boat but I wasn't in any hurry to get him in because he was clearly over 18 inches and I thought I was just going to reach over and release him. By the time Tom explained to me that it was actually a lake trout and not a rainbow, and that you could keep any size lake, he had wriggled himself free. So instead of being able to cook for the whole neighborhood, I ended up that night with a nice dinner for two of delicious rainbow trout. Something about catching, cleaning, and cooking a fish yourself makes it taste so much better.
If I seem to be mentioning food frequently, particularly meat, it is because that is quite the concern here at Brooks Camp. If you remember, I am 30 miles away from the closest town, which itself is 300 miles from the closest road system. And the Park Service doesn't pay to fly me into town and back anyway, except for my first flight in and last flight out. Most people, including myself, order their food from Fred Meyer Grocery in Anchorage and have it shipped here, but that takes a week or more and of course cannot include perishable items. So in Brooks Camp many a scheme is launched to try to get perishable foods. Some people are content to slug out the summer on ramen and peanut butter, but among most of us fresh fruits, vegetables, and cheese along with frozen meat are worth their weight in gold. You can bring out some frozen/refrigerated stuff on the way out, but once that runs out it's back to canned goods and pasta. You would be surprised, however, at how well you can eat on non-perishable stuff only. They make a kind of milk that comes in one quart boxes that is ultra-pasteurized and does not have to be refrigerated until it is opened. It tastes great to me, perhaps a little more buttery than typical 2 percent but fine to drink. And if a spanish speaking man in a sombrero would have set the Cheesy Enchilada Chicken Helper I made the other night with canned chicken in front of you on a hot plate in a mexican restaurant, you would have come back the next week for more. Seriously, Cheesy Enchilada Chicken Helper... try it. I've also got a bunch of ingredients saved up to make chili and a lot of other bean soup type recipes (including some meat in the freezer to flavor them with), and I'm working on one of those aformentioned schemes involving a girl who will soon be leaving here for King Salmon going to the grocery and boxing up some fresh stuff to be sent over to me. Between that and all the trout, pike, and (soon) salmon that I can eat I think I will be eating pretty rich for the next few months.
Still, someone has asked me if I have a mailing address so this seems as good a time as any to fulfill that request. Packages are a serious event here; it is pretty much everyone's favorite thing to get one in the mail. Strangely enough to me, candy and chocolate seem to be most desired item around here. A woman giving a presentation pulled out a bag of snickers today and it literally caused an audible gasp followed by a small commotion in a room full of grown men and women. Go figure. So anyway, if you feel like sending me some chocolate, booze, nuts or dried fruit, quilted toilet paper, naked pictures of your sister, or vicious hate mail this is my address:
P.O. Box 229
Katmai National Park - Brooks Camp Interp
King Salmon, AK 99613
Can you guess which one would elicit in me the same reaction that snickers gave most people? A hint: it should probably be mailed in a plastic bottle where it doesnt slosh, since it is technically illegal to send it in the mail (but it does work, I know from experience). And seriously... one-ply sucks.
Well that's about all for now. It doesn't get dark until midnight here, which is great because it gives you a ton of energy to do things when you get off work. Unfortunately, I couldn't go fishing today because there is a 40 mile an hour wind coming from the east; the beach of Naknek Lake looks like an angry Atlantic right now with the waves coming in. I should have my first couple of rolls of film developed soon, so my next post should have some good stuff including some spectacular pictures taken from the overlook of a mountain next to our camp. Check back soon.