By Janelle Eklund
It was a beautiful almost clear day. Just a few puffy fair weather clouds floated against the deep blue sky. NPS botanist, Mary, picked me up at 8:00am so I could help with volunteering to conduct vegetation mapping of the Bremner historic mining area. As we were driving to the Chitina airstrip we encountered a moose that jumped out on the road in front of us, bringing our hearts to our throats as we barely missed a crash encounter.
At the airstrip we met the Park Service pilot with the NPS Tern. The Tern is like a super cub (pilot and one passenger) but feels a little more roomy. Mary was on the first run - about a forty five minute flight one way. While I waited for his return I read the book ‘Candle Tarn’.
As we took off we flew over the Copper River and then up the Chitina River and into the mountains south. We climbed to 5,000 feet flying between rocky mountain peaks where water rushed down through deep narrow canyons. Part way down some of them stopped for a rest in a little bench forming a crystal blue lake. Others continued on to feed valley bottoms resting there in marshy lakes and grasslands. The lakes were calm and reflected the clouds in mosaic patterns. A variety of vegetation under the surface of one lake made splotches of blues, greens and gold's.
When we landed at the small dirt airstrip the helicopter pilot was there ready to take us up and start the work from the air. I scarfed down a quick lunch while he gave me a helicopter briefing. Then we hopped in and did the first vegetation survey through this drainage. Mary dictated to me and I recorded it. We flew to the end of the drainage and then up to the top of it. After we finished the pilot picked up our gear at the airstrip and flew us the mile up to the cabins in the mining area. After putting up our tents I crawled in and took a little cat nap. Then we both hiked up to the top of the valley doing vegetation mapping and identifying birds. The day stayed clear and beautiful and the mountains stood so proud in this serene valley.
We arrived back at camp about 8:00 pm. The cabin we stored our food in was nice and warmed up from the sun so that’s where we prepared dinner. As the sun's rays dipped behind the surrounding mountains the air started cooling fast with a brisk wind chilling it even more, but the sky was still clear. We feasted on veggie burgers and fry bread. For dessert we had two spoonfuls each of cookie - the no-bake cookies had melted together in one big glob as they had absorbed too many sun rays today. We got water for breakfast from the nearby creek.
We snuggled into our sleeping bags, me wearing my pile clothes to keep the chill of the night at bay in my light summer sleeping bag.
From my light to yours-
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.