Saturday, April 24, 2010

You Otter Check Out These Whales!!!

 Super cute sign in the bathroom of the boat

Today was probably my best experience in Alaska yet. I can't even begin to explain the amazing time I had!! Me and 9 other SAGA leaders got to join the Audubon Society for a boat tour to Berners Bay, a bay just north of where the Juneau road ends. It is uninhabited by humans, as it's only accessible by boat, meaning it is a great place for wildlife viewing. The eulochon fish are currently running there so it was a great chance to see all the marine mammals and the birds heavily feeding in the area. We were super excited to get out on the water and had hopes of seeing some good wildlife. Our expectations were BLOWN out of the water (no pun intended). We first came across this group of Stellar Sea Lions. They are such vocal animals, I loved just sitting and listening to them bark and grown constantly. Many of them slipped off the rocks and just plopped right into the water. 
Stellar Sea Lions. The big fat one weighs about 1,500 pounds!! 

We saw a few humpback whales from the side of the boat as well which was super awesome. They are such huge animals, weighing up to 100,000 pounds! I can't even fathom how big that is!
The spray from a Humpback
It's small but look closely and you you can see the Humpack's Fluke

We were enjoying ourselves sooo much, feeling so grateful to be in Alaska surrounded by amazing mountains with such cool wildlife in sight. Little did we know, this was only the VERY beginning. We arrived in Berners Bay just in time to watch 3 or 4 Orca/Killer Whales feeding on a sea lion. They were so active during the feed, flopping around in and out of the water so much, it was perfect for viewing. They ended up coming SO close to our boat and even swimming right underneath it. I don't think I ever been so blown away. We all had such a high for the rest of the day, I just wish I could better put into words the amazing sites we saw.

Killer Whale swimming directly towards our boat. It eventually flipped on its back and swam under our boat so we could see its underbelly perfectly. SOO close!!
 I was SOO lucky to catch this photo. To see a transient Killer Whale breach is a super rare sight. They only breach right after feeding. 
 Some of the SAGA kids loving the great weather on the boat! Great new friends!

Music, Mud Fights and Chainsaws

The 36th annual Alaska Folk Festival took place in Juneau two weeks ago and it was SO much fun. Craig came back to Juneau for the week so it was super great to see him again! We listened to great music all week long. Most of it was local music from Juneau and other towns in Alaska with a few bands from out of state. Guy Davis was the featured artist and he was an absolute blast! This is one of my favorite songs he played, The Chocolate Man.
Craig enjoying listening to a jam outside on the lawn while little kids played in the grass. We had beautiful weather for the whole festival.

Training continues to go really well. We've been able to do a few service projects and start some trail work which is really exciting. We've also done trainings such as suicide prevention, domestic violence training, conflict resolution, invasive plant species, knot tying and we finally started chainsaw training yesterday!! Yippee!!! The weather has been really nice lately so I've enjoyed some great hikes, bonfires, and trips to the beach. At the beach just next to my campsite, I spend lots of time hunting for sea anemones and star fish in the tidal pools. I've seen sea otters, minks, and a humpback whale from that spot. Some of my favorite times are just hanging out on that beach talking with friends and enjoying the incredible view from our backyard.

Super tiny, cute mink that was trying so hard to take a nap. I wanted him to cuddle with me in my sleeping bag at night!
This one's for you, Karina! Playing in the mud during a SUPER muddy hike. We sank in the mud almost up to our knees!!
During that same hike, we bushwacked off the trail and went straight down the side of a sketchy incline and hiked along the side of the river until it met the road. It was a great adventure and we all ended up with SOAKING wet boots! :)
This is me infront of a tree that fell over, the root system is almost double my height! 
I hiked up to Herbert Glacier for a second time and made it quite a bit closer. I really wanted to be able to get on to the glacier but I couldn't find a way I felt safe with. Others made it and I hope to try again soon. 
This is what can happen when you live in the get really silly!!!
Touch Tank at the Fish hatchery. Sea Stars are really fun to hold!!!
Taking apart a chainsaw and putting it back together again. I'm learning so much about power tools- I love it! 
Me and my friend Kristy Burt. We both went to CSU, lived in the same dorm, graduated at the same time, had mutual friends and went to the same parties but never met until here in Alaska. Small world!!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sunny Days!

I have officially survived a month of outdoor living in Alaska! Woo hoo! I can't believe how quickly time is passing by. Things are busy but so much fun! I couldn't ask for anything more! I am really settling in with the people here and the patterns of the outdoor lifestyle. The sun is shining more and more and I am loving every minute of my time here. The Wilderness First Responder Course was pretty intense and took up a lot of our time with studying and homework on top of the long days in the classroom and doing practice simulations outside. We had a simulation exam and a written exam last Wednesday and everyone passed both which was a huge relief! In between WFR classes, we had trainings in various topics such as Leave No Trace, Van Maintenance, Alaska history and geography, Conflict Resolution, etc.

One of the first sunny days we had and it was a priorty to jump in the ocean even though it was still freezing!! It was SOO worth it!
This was our classroom for Leave No Trace Training. (I can't figure out how to rotate this photo, sorry!)

This is the view from the closest beach to my camp. I spend many afternoons here and if you ever receive a phone call from me while I'm at the beach, this is my view!! (and yes, rainboots have quickyl become the foot attire of choice)

Last week, we got to take an overnight backpacking trip to a Forest Service Cabin in the mountains. It was a 3.5 mile hike in the snow to a super nice cabin with a gorgeous view of the mountains. The hike was on Douglas Island which is just across the Gastineau Channel from Juneau.
The sillyness of the group continues to increase as we get to know each other more and more. This is on the hike up to the cabin.
The beautiful views we had on the way to and from the cabin. I still can't believe this is what I do for work. I dont think that will ever sink in!
This is the Dan Moeller Cabin where we spent the night. Super cozy! :)

Craig just came back to Juneau this past weekend after camping in Wrangell and Sitka for the past few weeks. We are excited to enjoy Juneau's folk festival that is going on all of this week. This weekend we had a very relaxing time at the same wonderful cabin we stayed in last time. We hiked to Eagle Glacier on Sunday which was a long hike but was absolutely beautiful! Pictures are on his camera but hopefully I'll remember to post them soon.