I’ve never kept a blog before so this is something new for me, but since I’m in Alaska I figured this is the best way to keep family and friends informed about what I’m doing. I only have Internet at most once a week so there will only be a few posts but I will shoot for quality over quantity. I am planning on only posting a couple of photos here so if you want to see all of them I will have a running album on my Facebook page.
As you may know, I flew into Anchorage a week ago and then drove three hours into Copper Center, a very small town within the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, or WRST (“worst”) as it is called here. Since I was one of the last seasonal workers to arrive, my new neighbors watched as my supervisor, Glenn, and I pulled up to “Boxtown” like a new animal moving into the zoo. Boxtown consists of a kitchen, a bathroom, a common area and 5 small, one-room huts housing two people each. In all it looks like a no-stoplight town heavily secluded by trees and shrubbery. If you stand at just the right angle you can see through the forests to St. Elias peak rising in the distance.
After I moved in my nine neighbors invited me to go listen to a bluegrass music festival at a nearby campsite. Despite waking up at six that morning I decided to force myself to stay awake much longer in order to not only get to know these people I would live with for the next ten weeks, but also adjust to a three-hour time change. I don’t know what I was expecting a “music festival” in rural Alaska to be, but I bet I was pretty close. The music was pretty good – mostly covers of old songs by locals – and the audience enthusiastic, but the most beneficial aspect for me was meeting at least thirty National Park Service staff members, all under the age of 25.
When I pictured my life here, I predicted there would only be 3 people in this park – my boss, Glenn, my roommate, Riley, and myself. But I was way off. It’s definitely not close to being overpopulated, but there are just enough people to not remember anyone’s name. Of course, I did meet them in the span of only a couple hours, and I had been up for 21 hours straight at that point. By the time everyone else wanted to go home it was midnight here, which meant 3 am in Minnesota time. At this point the sun had gone down hours ago and yet the sky was still illuminated as if dusk lasted all night. I will never get used the sound of birds chirping at midnight.
Its very hard to make myself go to bed at a reasonable time here because it perpetually feels like five o’clock, but if I close all the shades and pretend I’m taking a nap, I can usually trick myself into going to bed. Which is good because my job requires a lot of energy all the time. My job basically consists of being a personal assistant to Glenn and leading four high school students who are part of the Youth Conservation Corps. They are mostly local kids who work 8-hour days, five days a week, learning and experiencing all the different departments of the National Park Service. So far this week we have mostly worked with maintenance to build and install benches around the Visitor’s Center.
After the typical first day shyness, the kids really have started to open up, and I think we will have a really close, tightknit group. At least that’s what I’m hoping. At the end of the day they’re still high schoolers, and they keep me on my toes. For some reason one boy likes to test the screwdriver on anything he can get his hands on – including his leg – and one of the girls likes to wander off when I’m not looking. But so far I’m managing! If I make it out of this summer I think I will have a lot of valuable experience running a ten-week summer crew singlehandedly and living on my own.
When we’re not working there is actually a lot of free time, which is a bizarre concept for me. I’m used to running around between classes, meetings, practices and hanging out with friends so to actually be able to sit down and read or write or do a puzzle is pretty refreshing. Then again, I’m only one week in and ten weeks from now I may have finished all my puzzles and books and I might have a different opinion. For now I’m thoroughly enjoying hanging out with awesome people, learning to function in a stressful profession, and living in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to.
Love you all, and I will write again soon (when I can find internet)!