First off: I finally got my first COVID vaccine! I’ve been really worried that I’d be working this summer in constant contact with people from all over the world without being able to get vaccinated before starting my position. Thankfully though, my county just moved up their eligibility timelines last week, so I was able to get an appointment yesterday. I never would have imagined I’d be going through a drive-thru vaccination site during a global pandemic in my lifetime, but here we are.
Almost to the tents!
The whole ordeal took about an hour. I drove into town and found my way to the vaccination site, where I joined a long snake of cars funneling into 2 lanes of traffic in a big parking lot. Eventually, I got to the first check point where an attendant in a neon vest asked how many people in my vehicle were getting vaccinated, and then marked a 1 on my windshield when I told her it was just me. She handed a clipboard through the window to fill out. The two lanes merged into one, and then into ten. More attendants pointed cars down different lanes, moving at a snail’s pace. It was enjoyable enough for my partner and I, though, as we rocked out to music and chatted along the way.
When we had nearly gotten up to the long row of tents where the vaccinations were being administered, yet another attendant approached my car, took my paperwork, and handed me the iconic little vaccine card. He explained that once I got to the tent to hand my card to the healthcare worker and then I’d get my vaccine. Then I’d have to wait in the parking lot for 15 minutes to make sure I didn’t have a reaction and then I could be on my way. If I did start to feel unwell, I should honk my horn and turn on my hazard lights, and an EMT would be right over.
What strange times we are in!
If you know me, you know I hate needles more than almost anything, but that just shows you how important this feels. The healthcare worker who administered my vaccine was quite friendly and chatty. He engaged me in a conversation about sabertooth tigers for a moment while stabbing me in the arm, then wrote a timestamp on my window denoting when I could leave, and then I was on my way to the waiting area.
Fifteen minutes came and went with no reactions, so I carried on with my day, glad the pokey part was over. Of course, I have to do it all over again in 3 weeks for the booster shot, but I’m happy to do it. I’m so relieved that I’ll be able to travel a little safer now and hopefully not have to worry so much about potentially infecting other people this summer, or getting infected.
Today my arm has been super sore and I’ve been pretty tired, but otherwise feeling fine. I’m glad I had the day off. I spent some of my lazy time today learning more about Katmai and getting stoked for the summer.
So let’s talk about Katmai!
The park was established in 1918 to protect the volcanically devastated region surrounding Novarupta and the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, which had just erupted six years prior in June of 1912. People in the region began feeling earthquakes a few days before and evacuated, which was a good thing, because Novarupta became the largest eruption of the 20th century. It ejected 30x more material than Mount St. Helens in 1980.
The ash cloud it produced blanketed the region in darkness for three days, and was carried around the globe through the Earth’s atmosphere, actually causing temporary global cooling around that time. More locally, massive amounts of ash and pumice layered into the valley, creating some of the unique landscapes you see there today.
The natural disaster attracted volcanologists, biologists, and researchers of all kinds after the eruption, eager to study what had happened and how the land would recover. One such inquiring mind was a man named Robert Griggs, a botanist who was interested in studying vegetative recovery in the wake of such a large eruption. Funded by National Geographic Society, he led expeditions to the region to study it, and became so enamored with the place that he began to lobby for its federal protection. In 1918, it was declared a National Monument by presidential proclamation, thanks in large part to Griggs’ advocacy for it.
Today, the park remains home to the world’s largest protected population of brown bears, as well as a host of other epic Alaskan wildlife, ecosystems, and fascinating human history. I’ll be posting more about all of this soon, but I’m going to wrap it up here or else this post is going to get way too long (I know, it already is). As you can tell though, I’m super excited to be digging into the history of the park and starting to nerd out about all the cool facts there are to learn.
Thanks for reading, if you made it down this far! Feel free to leave a comment or any questions you may have about Katmai (or COVID vaccines or anything else). Catch ya next time!