We met for weekly meetings on the University of Alaska - Southeast (UAS) campus in this classroom covering everything from research strategies to bear behavior.
Sometime within the first few days we had kayak training because, as they told us, we would be doing a lot of it and it would be better not to die. The training lasted something like six hours and involved countless flips and rolls of the kayak, wet exits, drainages, and so on.
Thankfully, we had dry suits, because the water was about 35 degrees. The Coast Guard gives you a 50% chance of survival of you fall in over fifty yards from shore - that is, if you don't have a dry suit. Another one of these rules of thumb, which came from WFR, was 1-10-1. In cold, cold water you lose a minute as you catch your breath, have about 10 minutes of useful movement, and then about an hour before you die from the cold… assuming that you've latched onto something floaty by the end of those ten minutes.
Following the training, we drove the van back to UAS and walked up Back Loop Road towards the path leading up the hill to our apartments.
A day or two in they arranged for several of us to take the UAS driver's training course for the big 12 passenger van the campus had scheduled for our occasional use. Since I'd originally learned to drive in a massive conversion van, this was a piece of cake. However, the truly wonderful part was that I got to spend the rest of the summer driving about in te van… despite having only a permit. The longest stretch of road in Juneau is only fifty miles or so, and it's quite rare to use all of that. From Auke Bay, where we were living, to downtown was a ten mile stretch. From our house to the FredMeyer was maybe four miles. Life was good.
Within the next few days we went shopping at the FredMeyer (a big grocery/everything store) on Glacier Highway, explored, and then all drove out to Eagle Valley for a weekend of those get-to-know-you team building-type things.
This also served as a chance to get some background information on what everyone was researching - hence the projector in the living room.
The next morning brought a beach walk with two marine biologists.
Gellatenous blobs (anemones) are cool just by themselves (if you poke them, their tentacles go hide inside), but, in the company of said biologists, they took on a whole new life.
A crab husk. The crab climbed out of itself and grew a new home.
On the beach for our first group photo. Aww….
We have: Derek, Kevin, Dinorah, myself, Rosemary, and TJ.
Ge'Yanni, Isaiah, and Steffi hadn't arrived at this point.
Heading back to the Eagle Valley center.
Night time kayaking! Not that it can really be called such when it's still twilight at 11:40PM. Dinorah and I double-kayaked it and we all watched a lone humpback whale make a circuit of the area, stopping to bubble feed in the 80' water just a few feet out from shore. TJ eventually figured out where it was going to come up and got in close enough to get sprayed.
Some group activities…
The practical application of slacklining: showing off.
A humpback whale, one of my Alaskan friends.
A meadow and I. This was the day Kevin, Steffi, Derek, Rosemary, TJ, Dinorah, and I took our long hike. We had heard rumours that an old rusted rail line that had been used for mining ran through Eagle Valley and decided to find it, and follow it. Steffi ended up turning back sometime early on because she had an appointment with her mentor in town, Rosemary, TJ, and Dinorah went back with her.
Derek, Kevin, and I continued. This was the only time out of the whole summer that I saw mosquitoes. Clouds of them, such that you were practically inhaling them. Eventually, we found the track and followed it all the way through the valley and its dense floor of pine trees, Devil's club, rivers, and swamps, where a misstep could send you up to your knees in standing water.
Finally the trail came out in a marshy place with sunlight streaming in from above. Some searching revealed a bridge, and a road. We followed this seawards and then out and along a long sandy beach - the only such beach in Juneau.
We followed the beach for maybe a half-mile or more. Somewhere along the way a set of shoe prints suddenly emerged fro mthe waves. We followed them along the beach, trying to fathom how their owner could have got there. We finally found her, just standing there. She had a wad of kleenex sticking out of her mouth and, when we spoke to her, she didn't speak to us. She just nodded. It was creepy and we afterwards dubbed her the zombie lady. Shortly thereafter the beach revealed itself to be a peninsual and we were forced to make a choice: wade through the icy water or go back and have our brains devoured.
Luckily, Juneau's Boy Scout camp was just across the water. Kevin volunteered to swim across and commandeer a canoe, which enabled us to all ferry across. From there, we hiked down the trail towards the road and then had a spectacular idea! We could shortcut back across the mini-mountain! Thus began a saga. We started by walking out past a latrine, finding a way between several huge fallend trees and then beginning our ascent. After that, it was a montage of ducking under and climbing around and over an endless stream of such trees. All the while, we had to worm our way around the unthinkable pain that is Devil's Club.
Eventually, we started down and found that the topo lines were spooning. The trees, being larger, were more spread out, leading to longer unstoppable dashes than we were really comfortable with.
On the valley floor we bushwhacked our way along until we intercepted a bear trail. Following this worked for a while, but eventually we were back to wade through rushes. Some differences in the way Derek and I approached the problem of finding our way back surfaced during this which, in essence, characterised our relationship for the rest of the summer.
By the time we made it back the others had already finished a campfire, but had not nearly reached the point of looking for us.
The next morning we paddled the kayaks around the headland to a bay where we could pull them out and onto the top of the big UAS van. This is another group shot. Myself, Derek, Dinorah, Kevin, TJ, Rosemary, Matt (my mentor), and Beth (the program director).