To the Kenai with a Keen Eye
I suspect that in the next couple of days, I am going to really appreciate that the grant money provided the four of us in these first two weeks was used to put us up in hotel for my first night’s sleep in Alaska. The trip here was exhausting, and it had just fallen fully dark when I got here around midnight (which was interesting by itself! It is strange to be in a plane headed north and the sky keeps getting lighter and lighter even as your body gets more and more tired). Met up with the other three girls who are here with me for the first two weeks.
Lauren Ackein, a fifth-year master’s student, is in charge of our little group for this trip. This is her third trip to Alaska being in charge of the field collections the lab makes every year. My presence here is being put to good use by helping Lauren with trapping efforts.
The other two members of our party are Jana Loux-Turner and Sophie Valena. Both are junior year biology majors like me (and all of our families are from New Hampshire, too!) and are here in Alaska to continue a project Jana participated in last summer in Alaska testing the water quality of the lakes where we trap stickleback. This is Sophie’s first trip to Alaska, and she’s here to help Jana with the water quality study as well as to think about a possible future project on land cover change in the area.
The morning of the 17th was spent showering and piling on the food at the hotel’s continental breakfast bar. We packed up our Toyota Sienna minivan — oh, funny story. We have a penchant for naming things here. When Lauren and Sophie went to pick up the van from the rental desk at the Anchorage airport, Lauren wanted to know if it was a white van so we could all call it “Vanna White.” No, said the lady at the desk. It’s pewter. And “Pewter” it has become. He was the only male included on our camping trip. So, we packed up Pewter, and went to the lab’s storage unit in Wasilla which is about forty minutes away from Anchorage. It’s a beautiful drive alongside mountains and rivers and forest.
After picking up all our equipment and the canoe (which is big and red and was promptly christened the U.S.S. Clifford) for the water quality girls to use for their plankton tows, we were finally on our way to the Kenai. The long drive was made amazing via the wild views out our windows: the Prince William Sound, more mountains (with more snow), cliffs and waterfalls. We had our eyes peeled for mountain goats, which Lauren has seen in the past, but we were fresh out of mountain goat luck this year. Maybe on the next trip down.
Drove into Soldotna to get food for dinner around 10:30. Set up our tents at a campsite on Hidden Lake. We were right on the shoreline, and as it finally fell dark we crawled into our sleeping bags to fend off the cold, ready for our first day of work in the morning.