Arrival in King Salmon

May 8, 2021 | 0 comments

Hello from King Salmon, AK! It has been an absolute whirlwind to get here, but I’ve finished my first week of training and finally have a moment to sit down and reflect in the quiet of this windy, grey Saturday morning.

I’m staying here temporarily for the first couple weeks of training, before we move out to Brooks Camp. Katmai National Park and Preserve is headquartered here in King Salmon, on the King Salmon Air Force Station. It’s still early spring here, so the landscape is brown and windswept. It’s mostly flat, with short, stunted white spruce trees, willow, and alder. When the clouds clear, you can see the snow-covered Aleutian mountain range in the distance. Temperatures have been in the low-30s at night, and getting up into the 40s or 50s during the day. The sun sets around 11pm and rises again at about 6am.

Last weekend, I got on a plane in Eugene and landed in Seattle for a 7 hour layover. I rode the light rail into the city, met up with a friend, enjoyed some Vietnamese food, and spent the afternoon exploring Seattle’s streets until it was time to get back to the airport. Next stop: Juneau.

I landed in Juneau around midnight, with my connecting flight scheduled to fly out around 7am in the next morning. One of only 2 people in the terminal that night, I stretched out across some airport benches and did my best to get some sleep.  When the sun rose, the airport was completely socked in with fog. You could barely see out to the end of the jetways. I wandered over to my gate and saw the dreaded word printed across the screen: “CANCELED.”

Exhausted and groggy, I approached the service desk and handed the attendant my ticket to get re-booked.

“You’re going to King Salmon?” She asked.

“Yep.”

She clicked on a few things and then suddenly went visibly pale and started trembling. “Oh no…” she whispered under her breath. “Oh no.”

“What?” My heart started hammering in my chest.

“No seats available until… May 8th?!” she said, barely audibly. She turned around and whispered something to another attendant behind her.

“Uhhh… I need to be there today,” I said. But there’s only one flight a day to King Salmon, and no matter what, I would be missing that connection at this point.

“I’m going to send you downstairs to the main desk and we’re going to ask them to overbook tomorrow’s flight to try to get you on,” she said.

Downstairs I went, where a long line of people was already gathered. I wrestled my giant bags over off of the luggage carousel, and eventually made it to the desk.

Two very kind attendants spent a half hour or so on the phone with Anchorage, trying to get me on Monday’s flight. It turned out, luggage was 4 days delayed getting to King Salmon, so they were under-filling seats on the flight so they could over-fill the plane with luggage. They could get me on the flight, but my bags might not get there for a few days.

“That’s fine,” I said, without much other choice. I took the next flight to Anchorage, via stops in Yakutat and Cordova, and landed there mid-afternoon. I ended up getting a cheap hotel near the airport, and the next day, made it back with plenty of time to catch my final flight.

Miraculously, my bags did make it to King Salmon, and I was greeted by a small huddle of park rangers who came to pick me up from the tiny airport. They helped load my stuff into a vehicle, and then we walked to the park service dorm right across the street (I’m telling you, this is a TINY town).

Long story short, I got moved in to my temporary quarters, and spent the rest of the week navigating the less-fun ins and outs of finishing the onboarding process here. I’ve also gotten to spend a lot of time just studying the park, which has been a lot more fun. I’ll be sharing more about that in a later post, since this is already getting to be very long.

 

The week has gone by quickly.  Evenings are filled with socializing with the other staff and then usually collapsing exhausted into my bunk at the end of the day. On Thursday, I climbed into a pair of waders, and got into the Naknek River up to my chest to help install a float plane dock, which was pretty fun, and cold (especially since the left leg of my waders had a surprise hole in it…). Yesterday, we drove around the area, toured Naknek, and then I got re-certified in CPR/First Aid.

Most of my food still hasn’t arrived, so I’ve stocked up on some basic goods from the local grocery store until the rest gets here. Alaska prices are insanely high though (we’re talking $12 for a bag of chips, $20 block of cheese, $10 box of cereal), so I’ve kept it pretty simple.

All in all, I’m in good hands, well-fed, settling in, and enjoying the adventure of being here. I’ll try to dedicate the next post to talking more about the park.

If you’ve read down this far, hooray! Leave a comment if you have questions or want to know more about life here. It really is hard to capture it all, even in an insanely long blog post. 🙂

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