Phase II/III

July 25, 2009

Writing for an audience is a welcome change from the analytical essays of academia. Over the past month I definitely feel like I’ve strengthened my practice of environmental journalism. I’ve become much more comfortable conducting interviews, synthesizing vast amounts of information, and describing animals in an engaging manner.

Early last week I finished ten drafts about the Adopt-an-Animal program animals and transitioned to Phase II of my project— taking their photographs. Photography was my primary creative outlet at Milton, but in my eagerness to explore practically every academic subject possible at Stanford I often forget how magical just a few hours behind the lens can be for me.

However, I’m disappointed that after four weeks of 80° weather, we’re suddenly receiving extreme downpours! But I’ve been capturing preliminary pictures in the less-than-stellar light so I can better take advantage of good conditions when they arise. That way when the weather turns around, I should have a strong sense of the subjects and compositions I’m looking for.

The unfortunate rain forecast has also given me a head start on Phase III— creating the brochures. Right now I’m determining their design by making mock-ups with the few photographs I have. I’m working on selecting the color scheme and number of panels, making arrangements with the printer, and re-learning the ins and outs of InDesign… like picas, color swatches, and jumping text!

I thought I’d be outside this week developing a farmer’s tan rather than shivering in spandex leggings, ear warmers, rain pants, rubber boots, and double layers of Patagonia fleeces, but hopefully the stormy weather will soon pass.

Rocky mountain elk fawn

Rocky Mountain elk fawn

Rocky mountain elk fawn

Rocky Mountain elk fawn

Rocky mountain elk bull

Rocky Mountain elk bull... don't his antlers look like an upside down spider atop his head?

A younger Rocky Mountain elk bull itching his pesky antlers!

A younger Rocky Mountain elk bull itching his pesky antlers

I think this musk ox resembles Marie Antoinette!

I think this musk ox resembles Marie Antoinette!

I love this musk ox's little white curl!

I love this musk ox's little white curl!


New Vocabulary

July 22, 2009

As a Miltonian and Comparative Literature major, language is a constant source of fascination for me. Here are a few unfamiliar Alaskan words and phrases:

Bear Can: Bear-resistant food storage canister
Bear Spray: Pepper spray to defend against bear attacks
Blanket Toss: Inupiaq tradition during the spring whaling festival
Bore Tide: A tidal wave that returns to a shallow, narrow inlet from a broad bay after an extreme low tide
Carrion: The rotting flesh of a dead animal
Cheechako: Alaska newcomer
Combat Fishing: Elbow-to-elbow angling
Dipnetting: Subsistence fishing with a net (only Alaska residents allowed)
Flightseeing: Viewing Alaska scenery from a small plane
Lower 48: The continental United States
Mew: A cage for keeping hawks in
Midden: A pile of refuse outside the mouth of an octopus den
Rut: A period of sexual excitement that recurs annually in male ruminants
Salmon: An Alaskan staple… the five kinds are the most prized king (chinook), silver (coho), red (sockeye), pink (humpy),
and chum (dog)
Sourdough: Alaska old-timer
Qiviut: The soft wool that grows beneath the long outer coat
of the musk ox


Dall Sheep!

July 19, 2009

The Seward Highway is supposed to be a wildlife lover’s paradise— beluga whales surface in Turnagain Arm, brown bears forage along the mudflats, moose feed in the marshes, bald eagles call from the treetops, and Dall Sheep frolic on the rocky mountains. But I have yet to see any animals since my eyes are always glued to the road ahead of me. However, on my way back from Anchorage this past Thursday, I finally spotted a female Dall sheep and her baby. Hopefully I’ll glimpse the males’ gigantic tightly curled horns before I leave!

Dall Sheep 1

Dall Sheep 2

Dall Sheep 3


1100 Miles and Halibut

July 12, 2009

My little PT logged our first thousand miles as we cruised down to Ninilchik Thursday for a halibut fishing trip with an AWCC intern’s relatives.

Haley went halibut fishing? Those who know me well are probably shocked and stunned by the picture below. I’m definitely surprised by myself, but the spot opened up at the last minute and I decided to seize the opportunity, as I am trying to keep an open mind. Needless to say the day was quite the Alaskan experience… and even though the Cook Inlet was a little rough I was happy to be on the ocean again.

"Sunrise" on the early morning drive to Ninilchik

"Sunrise" on the early morning drive to Ninilchik

The middle fish weigh 45-50 pounds and were about 15-20 years old. Blessed be.

The big middle fish weigh 45-50 pounds and were about 15-20 years old. Blessed be.


Fourth of July in AK

July 11, 2009

My favorite holiday came and went with little pomp and circumstance. For the past twenty years my family has celebrated with fireworks over the Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor, and last summer was our first Fourth atop the foredeck of Restless. But this July broke a two-decade-old tradition as my first away from home.

Mike and Kelly told me about the crazy Mount Marathon race in Seward, Forest Fair in Girdwood, and midnight fireworks in nearby Whittier. I was psyched for the fireworks and even rounded up a fun crew to accompany me when one of the girls remembered Whittier’s underground tunnel. Its last entry is 11:15, which means we would have been stranded in what Frommer’s describes as one of “the oddest towns in America” until the first tunnel back at 5:30 in the morning. Va bene. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for calling me from Boston so I could at least hear fireworks in the background!

But my Fourth was enjoyable nevertheless. Campers, canoes, trucks, and kayaks flooded the Seward Highway on their way south to the Kenai Peninsula for the weekend. We’ve been experiencing a record heat wave, and Alaskans say this is the best summer weather they’ve ever seen. I was happy to have a surprise visitor from South Africa, Steven Seiler, stay with me in the apartment. He’s living with my landlady in Anchorage and working as an outdoor guide at a local summer camp. On Saturday morning we cheered for the endearing small-town parade that basically consisted of Girdwood’s few families, dogs, and children; and perused the Arctic voodoo dolls, qiviut mittens, and birch and elk antler baskets at the Forest Fair booths. Mike warned me that any food I purchased from a vendor would contain marijuana at the very least… so I packed my own lunch. Steven was a little sad I missed the belly dancing while working at AWCC, but I met up with him in the Beer Garden for folk music later that evening. I made friends with a Swiss girl with whom I was absolutely thrilled to speak Italian, as well as a guy who just moved here from Nantasket Beach, about 12 miles from home. He doesn’t miss it, but I do!

Steven and me... Perhaps my hair is making up for the fireworks I missed?

Steven and me... Perhaps my unruly hair is making up for the fireworks I missed?

Firetrucks kick off the Girdwood town parade

Firetrucks kick off the Girdwood town parade

Boy and Girl Scouts

Girdwood Boy and Girl Scouts

Lion's Club of Girdwood

Lions Club of Girdwood

Unclear...

Unclear...

U.S. Forest Service

U.S. Forest Service

TK TK TK

Flamingos!

Rafting water cools the hot day!

Rafting water cools the hot day!


Writing About Animals…

July 8, 2009

… Is difficult! During my first week Kelly and I selected about ten species to feature in the new AWCC Adopt-an-Animal program materials— the bald eagle, black bears, brown bears, great-horned owls, lynx, moose, moose calves, muskoxen, porcupine, red fox, and Sitka black-tailed deer. If I have time, maybe I’ll also create brochures about AWCC’s caribou, coyote, elk, plains bison, and wood bison.

I’m starting with the brochures’ writing component, as I believe this will be the hardest part for me and I’d like to be able to edit my drafts routinely until I’m happy. I’m trying to restrict myself to 500-word essays about each animal because I want their brochures to have plenty of space for compelling, eye-catching imagery.

First, I spent two days extensively researching all the animals’ biology. I’m hoping to highlight just one or two intriguing facts, such as the owl’s pellets, moose’s antlers, bear’s hibernation, and porcupine’s quills. Then I started interviewing the animals’ respective caretakers to learn more about their individual stories and personalities. Deniigi the newborn moose calf became separated from his mother and sibling while fleeing from a hungry brown bear, and survived five days alone; Hugo, Patrón, and Joe Boxer the brown bears are learning responses to commands that will help veterinarians brush their teeth or sample blood from their paws; and in the winter Snickers the porcupine naps in the gift shop’s jewelry closet. Almost all of the AWCC animals actively fulfill the center’s mission of public awareness about wildlife conservation, from starring in Animal Planet film projects to participating in roadkill and bottle-feeding demonstrations.

Again and again I am deeply humbled by the impressive compassion and dedication of AWCC staff to ensure the animals’ well-being. For example, Kelly fished for hooligan for Adonis the bald eagle while nine months and four days pregnant, and stellar intern Vanessa Gibson miraculously nursed Jack the moose calf back to health when he had only a 20% chance of survival. She even slept with Jack until his legs grew too long to fit the two of them in his cabin! Finally, I’d like to calculate each animal’s estimated yearly maintenance cost so visitors can understand how expensive it is to offer top-notch lifelong care.

Now that I’ve written about seven essays, I wonder how I can improve. I worry about the appropriate level of anthropomorphism, and am concerned that my writing isn’t accessible or witty enough. Perhaps these fears are unfounded, but dear readers, what would you like to know if you were considering sponsorship of an AWCC animal?


Mountain Goats, Snowmen, and Hoary Marmots: The Harding Icefield Trail

July 4, 2009

On Tuesday a group of AWCC interns invited me to join them for the hike of a lifetime along the Harding Icefield Trail. We camped on Kenai Lake the night before with a bonfire and s’mores, and sleeping in the back of my little PT was surprisingly comfortable! The next day, Monday’s beautiful aqua mountains falling into the ocean transformed into alpine meadows and panoramic icy Exit Glacier vistas. Over the course of five hours, we climbed four miles and nearly 3,000 feet! The view at the summit is impossible to describe though words or imagery, and the six of us spent about half an hour up there huddled in silence.

I thought about Star, as this is the first summer I’m missing the island after eight years of attending a moving weeklong Unitarian Universalist youth conference. I grew up with raspberry lime rickies, Women’s Group, sunsets at the Summer House, the YRUU-Pel softball game, polar bear swims, star gazing on East Rock, rocking chairs, midnight foghorns, rainbow laundry, worships, and the Barge Song. Last summer my Star sister Sarah D’Alessandro and I finally “aged out” of our conference after meeting on the dock in Portsmouth when I was only fourteen. Our leave symbolized a quiet exit from childhood and entrance into young adulthood, and I was thrilled to feel a sense of completion and bliss. I’m happy and grateful for Star’s loving community, memories, realizations, celebrations, strength, confidence, and growth. Throughout high school and college, this last week of June was always my favorite— a time for rejuvenation, perspective, and new beginnings. Well, this year during Star week I sat atop a new Alaskan mountain— an island amidst an icefield— and Star was with me. Blessed be.

Another two and half hours brought us back down (with both mountain goat and hoary marmot sightings!), and by the end my left IT band was ready to dislodge itself from my knee. What better way to top off a magnificent day with new friends than a three-hour sing-along home to Elvis, MJ, the Backstreet Boys, No Doubt, and Britney?

[NOTE: Group photos are on another camera… hopefully I’ll be able to post them soon!]

In front of Exit Glacier

In front of Exit Glacier

At times a little chilly!

At times a little chilly!

Bellissima

Bellissima

Contentissima

Contentissima

Harding Icefield

Harding Icefield

Summit!

Summit!

Can you see the crevasses in Exit Glacier?

Can you see the crevasses in Exit Glacier?

We all made tiny snowmen!

We all made tiny snowmen!

Beauty on the downhill trek

Beauty on the downhill trek

Exit Glacier illuminated in late afternoon sun

Exit Glacier illuminated in late afternoon sun

Alpine meadows

Alpine meadows

Double waterfalls!

Double waterfalls!