Putting down some roots in Anchor-town

As a native of Colorado, the dry, cool climate and adventurous, get-outdoors spirit of Anchorage are welcome characteristics to me as I adapt to my home (thousands of miles) away from home during my 10 month internship working for the Anchorage Fish and Wildlife Field Office. Still I know that it is going to take some effort on my part for me to feel more a part of this town and community, especially when all of the other SCA interns take off in August. Basically this translates to: Dani, go make some new friends.

Luckily for me, it seems like everywhere I go I meet new people who are eager to show off their Alaskan-backyard to me! One such person is my new friend Ariel, a fellow Dickinson College alum who grew up in Anchorage and has since returned after graduating. Although we never crossed paths on campus, our mutual friends put us in touch and I am so very glad that they did!!

By stroke of pure coincidence, Ariel lives with Libby, who works for the Anchorage Parks Foundation and who I’d already met on the job. Talk about a small world! Anyway, thanks to these (plus a few other) new friends, I got out last weekend for my first Alaska backpacking adventure!

The beautiful photos are courtesy of my friend Elizabeth, who was the “trip photographer” for the group as we made our way through almost 7 miles of Chugach State Park (The largest city park in the country! According to these guys) to our destination at Williwa Lakes. We didn’t spot any critters on our trip, but the flowers were in full bloom and the picturesque sub-arctic mountain landscape was breathtaking!! I kept having to pinch myself at how beautiful everything was…oh wait that wasn’t me, it was a mosquito. In fact, I counted over 30 new bites when I got home. No wonder locals tease that the mosquito is Alaska’s “state bird!”

All in all, I had a wonderful time with an amazing group of Alaskan women, and I look forward to all of the new relationships I form as I start to set some roots down here in Alaska. It is a Bizarre and Beautiful (intentional capitalization) place, and I will never know all of its wonders without a little, or a lot, of guidance from people who live here and know it best.

Just in case you’re not jealous enough, one last thing.

During my first month in Alaska, I…

•Canoed down the Chena Slough in Fairbanks to collect water quality and aquatic invasive samples.

•Restored 160 ft of shoreline on Montana Creek in the Susitna Valley.

•Saw black bears, brown bears, bald eagles, sand hill cranes, and more moose than I can count!

•Removed European Bird Cherry along Chester Creek in Anchorage.

•Captured and Tagged Coho Salmon in the Susitna River.

•Fell into an overflowing glacial river during an early morning bird survey.

•Attended meetings with the Alaska Energy Association about the controversial Su-Watana Dam project.

•Visited Denali National Park on a clear and sunny day, perfect conditions for viewing the USA’s tallest mountain

•Did NOT ONCE see a dark sky. :)

~Dani