But before we get into all that, check out some more pictures of our trip that I received from one of my backcountry companions, Jake the wildlife tech.
On Tuesday, I put Vicki and Adrian on a bus, since we already had a pretty exhaustive tour of the front country, minus a couple of trails, and they were here for three days. I explained to them their options, taking the different tours or transit buses of varying length journeys. They chose to take the transit bus out to Kantishna, the end of the road. This is a twelve hour round trip journey, and Ranger Fernandez didn't let anyone forget that particular detail afterwards. But if he tries to say anything to you about it, remember that it was their choice; I didn't tell them which bus to take. And also look at this photo showing how happy they both were.
While they were enjoying their bus trip, I spent the day working at the dog kennels. I had been loaned out again, but I wasn't complaining. The kennels staff, including my roommate Malik, showed me a day in the life. First, we did health checks of all 31 one dogs, looking them over and palpating most of their bodies in a structured manner to make sure they had not incurred any injuries.
We went throughout the dog yard and scooped up any poop, remaining vigilant for any more presents throughout the day.
We brought gravel over in wheelbarrows and filled in all the holes the dogs had dug, most of which seemed to be with the intention of sinking their houses into the ground or getting to china.
I accompanied Rachel, a YCC (youth conservation corps) intern, who gave the brief safety talks to the visitors coming to the kennels for the dog demonstrations by bus.
Rangers Jess and Marinell provided most of my instruction, including how to do the health checks and how to harness a dog and hook them up to the sled.
|It was a full house|
For the 2pm demo I actually got to bring a dog over to the sled and hook her up. I got to bring Party over in two paw drive, meaning I held her by her collar, picking her two front paws off the ground so as not to step on them and to better control where we were going. Party is the smallest dog at the kennels, so I guess they figured I would be able to handle her.
I spent some time hanging out by the two dogs who are not roped off, answering questions and making sure people were interacting with the dogs appropriately. The day I was there, Cupcake and his sister Party were the sled dog ambassadors.
I got to spend some time turning over the poop compost. The kennels staff collects all of the dogs' poop and composts it, eventually turning it into rich soil. Turning it over helps increase the temperature and helps the poop break down faster.
I observed while Rachel did some clicker training, reinforcing the dogs knowledge of certain commands, mostly to sit, stay, and get on top of their houses. She had to remain quite stoic while only giving commands and some treats for successful following of those commands, while clicking a clicker.
We took a few of the dogs to the free-run area to see how they would get along. These dogs were scheduled to be the two lead dogs up front during one of the demonstrations, but since they had not worked together in this capacity before the kennels staff was not sure if they would be able to keep their composure together during the show.
I was allowed to make some of the announcements, telling the visitors when it was first and last call for them to go back to the parking lot and get the buses that would bring them back to the entrance area.
When Vicki and Adrian returned from their trip, Meaghean and I met them and we had a late dinner together at the Overlook at the Crows Nest. Many leftovers were given to me which is always appreciated.
Wednesday was our day to take care of business. There were meetings to be had and interviews to conduct. Vicki, Adrian, and I had breakfast again at Black Bear Coffee and we had my interview there. Meaghan and I had an orienteering training from 10 to 12, so during that time Vicki and Adrian met with Chief Ranger Erika Jostad to discuss the program and Denali's participation in it. We had a bit of downtime before a rescheduled meeting with Superintendent Don Striker, Deputy Superintendent Denise Swanke and Chief Jostad. During this time Vicki and Adrian interviewed Meaghan. We also talked casually with some of the other folks in the Visitor and Resource Protection division, Rangers Jim Syvertsen, Chris Shore, and Sarah Hayes, all of whom I had spent at least a little bit of time with. Our meeting seemed to go quite well, with the park brass expressing a lot of support for the program. Not so subtle hints were dropped about my becoming eligible for hire around the same time that Meaghan would be leaving for Mt. Rainier. That night we had our farewell dinner at Black Diamond Grill, where we were joined by Vicki's friend from NPS Fundamentals, interp Ranger Katie Mikulla.
The next morning Vicki and Adrian left the park and headed back to Anchorage to fly home. Their visit was short but sweet. Then I had two days off and nothing of note happened, but the next two days were fairly eventful.
Coming back on Saturday there were a good amount of rangers on duty, so Ranger Page and I were sent on a patrol out west. We went to the Eilson Visitor Center at mile 66, the farthest I had been down the park road.
|View Polychrome Pass|
|Section of road near polychrome that had recently washed out and been repaired|
|Also Polychrome Passs|
|A view from Eilson|
|My phone camera is not very good but there is a carcass in this photo|
We looked for signs to mark off a closure around the kill site in the Toklat Camp. While we were out there Ranger Page showed me around a bit, including the VRP building out there.
We also saw this happy fox, running along the side of the road.
And we saw some caribou perfectly placed for a shot in front of this epic mountain.
The patrol vehicle was quite dirty after the trip, so we gave it a wash. This power washer is pretty luxurious, last summer I had to use a squeegee.
That evening, after work, Meaghan and I had planned to go to the gym together. We were in our gym clothes and walking out the door when she got a call out about a stolen car. Since I was there at the time and it was a law enforcement scenario I had not yet encountered, I put my uniform back on as well and accompanied. We got to the visitor center and spoke to the couple, who said they had spent the last hour looking for their car and were sure they had parked there. One of them had left her Iphone in the car and she was using find my Iphone on the other's phone, and it was showing that her phone was pretty close by. Ranger Page asked the couple to get in the car with us, and using her superior investigatory skills and intimate knowledge of the park, drove us over to the Wilderness Access Center/Bus depot, where the couple's car was parked. They were a little embarrassed and thanked us for our help. Then we went to the gym.
The next day was quite busy. Ranger Page and I made our usual morning rounds and gave out two warnings for out of bounds camping. Some quirk of one of the contacts got us taking about the Supreme Court case Hiibel v. Nevada (2004), which determined that it is not unconstitutional for states to make a law requiring suspects to identify themselves to officers during investigations if the officer has reasonable suspicion of a crime. 24 states currently have such laws, Alaska is not one of them.
A little later in the day the rangers were fingerprinting themselves to renew some kind of partial Alaska commission, making it easier to avoid jurisdictional disputes near the borders of the park. I got to help out a bit by taking Ranger Page's fingerprints using the Digit 10 Inkless fingerprinting system. It kind of has ink though.
We gave out a warning about a generator that was being operated outside of approved hours.
|Thanks to Ranger Shore, who even laid down on the |
ground to further my education
Later in the day Ranger Page and I made two traffic stops for speeding. During one of them, the driver replied yes after Ranger Page asked if there were any weapons in the car. In order to safely complete the stop, Ranger Page removed the occupants of the vehicle and sat them on the car's back bumper. This led us to practice approaching the vehicle during a traffic stop, removing occupants from vehicles, and to a lesser extent performing a Terry frisk to search for weapons.