Saturday, December 24, 2011

Festivus: Airing of Grievances

This was supposed to happen last night. I'm always a day late and a dollar short. (How's that for a disappointment?!)

Seriously, thanks to my friend Bill and his tribute to a semi-famed (at least in our circle of friends!) co-worker Juan, I've been thinking about finding the good in the bad.

The one 'bad' that most people ask me about?

"How can you stand the cold and dark up there?"

First of all, it's NOT always dark up here. Erase that stereotype from your minds! Honestly, the short days and cold temperatures don't bother me THAT much. On my weekends, I do get out for walks, the pink hues on the mountains at twilight are beautiful, and, as long as I bundle up properly, I don't get too cold.

Hopefully, that topic is killed. I get that question the most, and I want to break that stereotype forever.

As for my real grievances? And can I find good in the subjects of such grievances?

I'm constantly disappointed in the younger people in our society. Attitudes of entitlement, not taking their jobs seriously (especially those who are lucky enough to have employ), not working to their full potential, laziness, and apathy all make me want to scream.

I'm one of those archaic idealistic workaholics who believes in several causes. And for those causes, I will work very hard. More and more, I find myself alone in that effort. Yet I know there are people out there who believe as me: I have a friend (she's about 5 years older than me) who gave up her citizenship in her home nation across the ocean to live in America and support a cause over here in the U.S. And I admire her very much. But I don't see that kind of spirit very often. I try to hold on tight to people like that.

Another grievance? The judgemental hypocrites who tell me I'm wrong, or stupid, or missing the point somehow. I get judged very harshly, yet I know for a fact that I hold my tongue in some situations more than I ought. Some poeple may think they know my real opinions, but in fact, they don't. If they only knew what I was really thinking, they'd probably never speak to me again.

Thankfully, I do have some very good examples to follow here too. I have some very wise friends who have taught me a lot about patience, thoughtfulness and tolerance. Tolerance without lowering your own personal standards.


Ok, so this wasn't remotely about Christmas, but my friend Bill gave me some good things to think about this morning. Even if he didn't know he did so. :) Thanks Bill!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Comfort Food for the Soul

It's the time of year. We can't help but think to favorite dishes or treats, maybe the smells of a Christmas meal, served the same way every year. Personally, I can't wait to get that care package of my mom's cookies. I look forward to her meringue cookies - the ones that the Stegmanns affectionately call "Nighty Nights" (because they 'bake' in a warmed oven as it cools overnight). Mom makes a batch of these meringues every year with white chocolate chips and orange rinds. The crunch of the meringue mixing with the softness of the white chocolate, with just a hint of orange to brighten the experience. YUM. I don't even try to make my own version of them. I just wait for mom's little bag of those cookies.

I'm sure if you think about it for a few minutes, you'll come up with some tasty treat whose memory brings you comfort.

Sometimes it's good to have these comforts around you. The world can throw some horrible punches our way. If you're like me, you'll retreat into your little world where you're comforted and everything is as it should be.

Part of that safe world, as I mentioned in my last post, are the words, the quotes of others, that have reflected the thoughts and ideas I just couldn't seem to get out. They gave me a way to get out those thoughts I just had trouble expressing.

Tonight, I found myself falling back on the one quote that I've said to myself, over and over for maybe the past 20 years. Some people, who really know me, won't be surprised that this is THE excerpt from Harold Bell Wright's The Shepherd of the Hills, written more than a century ago:

Here and there among men, there are those who pause in the hurried rush to listen to the call of a life that is more real. How often have we seen them... jostled and ridiculed by their fellows, pushed aside and forgotten as incompetent or unworthy. He who sees and hears too much is cursed for a dreamer, a fanatic, or a fool, by the mad mob, who, having eyes, see not, ears yet hear not, and refuse to understand.

We build temples and churches, but will not worship in them; we hire spiritual advisers, but refuse to heed them; we buy bibles, but will not read them; believing in God, we do not fear Him; acknowledging Christ, we neither follow nor obey Him. Only when we can no longer strive in the battle for earthly honors or material wealth, do we turn to the unseen but more enduring things of life; and, with ears deafened by the din of selfish war and cruel violence, and eyes blinded by the glare of passing pomp and folly, we strive to hear and see the things we have so long refused to consider.

This set of truths does two things for me:

1) It encourages me that I'm not alone in my perceived fight against the 'mad mob'. Sometimes, I just feel like I'm the only one who sees things as I see them. And often, I don't like what I see around me. I see problems that need fixing, yet I feel helpless - for one reason or another - to do anything, and I feel like all I can do is bide my time until I think I can do something. I really struggle to find the opportunity in the conundrum.

2) It takes me back to a place where I felt a cozy comfort that only the hand-made world can offer. It was a place where masters displayed their works with pride and often took time to pass on a skill or idea to those willing to watch, listen and learn.

As much as possible, I still try to surround and comfort myself with those things that are made slowly and deliberately. Made in a place where time, thought, skill, care and quality count. When people pause in that hurried rush, they might just find something more real.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Deep Ramblings... Quotes to Ponder

More than 10 years ago, I used to write a weekly thought column. It was in a little weekly announcements bulletin for a student group on my college campus. You see, I've always been struck by the words - or lack thereof - of other people. So I took a quote I'd heard or thought a lot about that week and printed it up with a few of my own thoughts.

I guess it was a way for me to work through and express some of my reflections and ideas in a seemingly chaotic world that wouldn't listen. One old saying goes, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease." Somehow, I never seemed to squeak enough. But when I wrote things down, those thoughts somehow got out.

I still have the quote collection - and it is growing. But it's been a long time since I wrote this sort of 'column' regularly. I can't even seem to get a blog out regularly. Most of my thoughts get put into Microsoft Word documents, never to see the light of day.

It's so much easier for me to just put my nose to the proverbial grindstone and crank out project, program, or task at work than to stop and make my voice really heard.

Like every work place in the so-called 'grown-up world', I work in a VERY political environment, as many of you know. Plus, especially in this economic downturn, jobs are scarce and we must be very competitive - even for the most basic entry-level job.

So it's better to BE ineffective than to SEEM ineffective?
-President Mackenzie Allen, Commander In Chief

Although the show Commander In Chief lasted only one season, I've found some lines that grabbed me. I often wonder how effective or efficient I really am. That quote really seems applicable to my week right now. Many people at work seem to bring projects to me, so I guess I'm doing something right. And I try to prioritize work-related tasks/projects based on the greatest good for the greatest number. I want to streamline daily responsibilities without sacrificing the quality of my work. I want to make my work place run better. But it seems I always get hit in the face with the roadblocks of bureaucracy, seniority and politics.

I'm trying to grow up and face these challenges head-on. I know many folks are very frustrated right now by our elected officials and government bureaucracy. No matter what your political beliefs may be, frustration exists on all sides, especially on the INside. But the parks, in my opinion, are worth fighting for. Our national history and treasures are an amazing collection from which we all can and should learn. Believe me when I say that I've had too many happy memories in our parks to not give 100% to my job and career, no matter the daily roadblocks. I'm striving to protect our national treasures and connect everyone within reach to these amazing places and artifacts.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Let It Snow!

Right now, there is a pumpkin roasting in the oven in the kitchen. I love pumpkin; I actually have 2 more waiting to be roasted. And a butternut squash in line after those.

Winter has started to show its face here at Denali. We have about 1.5" of snow right now. Such a small amount of snow? Well, we're not into the heart of winter yet - and the interior portions of Alaska are generally affected by a rain shadow caused by the Alaska mountain range (home to Denali, The High One).

This means we have a beautiful layer of white finally covering the landscape.

Tonight, while the St. Louis Cardinals won Game 1 of the World Series (much to my delight), my mind was on wool yarn, pumpkins, cranberries and hot cocoa. Sometimes I get cold, but really, I love winter and so many things that I associate with winter.

I'm also eager to break in the snowshoe trails here in Denali's front country. Let it snow!

(And also let the CARDS crush Texas in the World Series!)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Old Friends

Upon returning to Denali this week, one of my first tasks was to visit my old friends at the Kennels. Everyone seemed in good spirits and ready to say, "Hello!"

Chinook wanted to go for walk again. But it was too close to dinner time. ;)

And look at Sylvie! She's all grown up and ready to pose. But one step closer and she was ready to give doggie kisses. She's one of the quietest dogs in the entire kennel, but her tail is always communicating her eagerness to visit.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Random Thursday

1) Well, I'm back at C-camp for the winter. Today I did a bit of running around, a few errands and lots of moving bags and boxes.

2) I'm not done with the moving of boxes. Some are still across the road in a friend's cabin.

3) I have to finish moving tomorrow or I'll really feel lazy about all of this.

4) What I really want to do tomorrow is take a walk over to the kennels and see the pups and Sylvie for a while.

5) I know you want to see more pictures of Sylvie. I've missed her while working out at Wonder Lake this summer! Pictures will be forth-coming.

6) Speaking of pictures, the WIFI at C-camp seems much faster now than it was last winter. This could be a problem as I attempt to get things done while catching up on shows on Hulu.

7) I really have a lot of things to do and projects to complete. It's going to be a mad knitting factory in this cabin in the coming months.

8) So much yarn, so little time.

9) And now I want to knit myself a Christmas sweater.

10) I'm going to bed before I come up with any more crazy schemes to lengthen my To Do list(s)...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

[Not Quite] Back From The Land Of Crazy

Where have I been the last six (six?!) months?

Lots of places.

We played in the snow with the doggies until late spring.

Then Denali's west district rangers moved to the Toklat road camp.

Then I finally moved to Wonder Lake.

I worked out at Wonder Lake from June through September.

Then I moved back to C-camp in order to get ready for the winter.

(I don't have pictures of this yet, but I'll be in the same cabin as last winter, so look at those pictures. This year, there's more construction equipment and noise, so last year's pictures might be better.)

Then I flew to St. Louis for my brother's wedding.

Right now, I'm sitting in the Starbucks at Lambert Field (STL International Airport) waiting for my flight to Seattle, on my way back to Denali. This trip to St. Louis (STL) has been a whirlwind, with a busy schedule and lots of what can only be described as "stimulus". A bit taxing with sinus problems and allergies.

I'm ready to slow down and settle into the winter routine in C-camp at Denali National Park. Hopefully, I'll regain control of my schedule and endless list of projects that I want to do, and then I'll spend a bit of time playing with the kennels pups. :)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

My Little Friend

Those of you who have seen my pictures on Facebook know of my little friend from this winter. Her name is Sylvie, and she's roughly six months old....

She came to Denali from a kennel in the town of Eagle (which I actually visited in 2007, interestingly enough), near the U.S.-Canada border. She was six weeks old at that time in early November. You see, Denali's kennel is a working kennel. However, the litter of pups born last season was all males. The kennels manager saw a need to bring in a new female and Sylvie got the job. :) Back when she was still small enough for me to lift with one hand, she posed for a Flat Stanley picture with me:

Since then, we have bonded. She is my little kennel friend. We have walked together several times.

She loves to do the Puppy Pounce in the snow, and usually comes up looking like this:

Every time I visit the kennels nowadays, she gets a hug:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It's Been A Few Weeks...

Things are good. The days are getting longer. The animals are becoming more active. I'm finding myself with lots of projects around the cabin - things I want to do for me.

#1) I have seeds to grow two kinds of green beans, two kinds of peppers, spinach and cucumbers. I want to have veggies this summer. The challenge? Keeping the moose out.

#2) I have started to work on two new pairs of pajama pants. Mom gave me the flannel and notions during the winter, and my cabin finally has great light again to work after I get done at the MSLC each day.

#3) I'm getting pairs of my fingerless gloves knit up in the hopes of selling them at a friend's shop in Glitter Gulch this summer. Extra pocket money never hurts.

#4) I've lost 3.4 pounds. I'm hoping I can keep up this trend; my goal on this front is a much greater loss. ;)


Spring is well on its way for most of the United States. Here in Alaska, we still have at least another month of winter. But I did see a woodpecker yesterday while out on my walk after work. It was a refreshing sight!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

March... How do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

I have two boxes of Thin Mints, one box of Tagalongs and one box of Samoas sitting on the desk in front of me. Tomorrow I will be minus one box of Thin Mints, but my tummy will be very happy.

I love March.

On the 13th, we get REI dividends, and I will be doing some shopping. ;)

And next time I get to town for groceries? I will be coming home with at least one bag of Cadbury's Mini Eggs.

(Yes, I know I'm supposed to be dieting for the bridesmaid's dress in September. But these chocolate events only happen once a year. I must take advantage while I can.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Random Thoughts From When Life Gets Carried Away

It's been a long week. Really 10 days. And the MSLC is the happening place to be this week. I really haven't had any quiet time to think, much less work on my actual projects at work.

1) Winterfest 2011 is over. Whew. Lots of people and kids running around this weekend. But Winterfest was overshadowed by two big storms that moved through, dumping 2'6" of snow in about 5 days. Blowing winds and bad wind chills kept the Winterfest numbers down a bit, but all events were enjoyed and received good feedback.

2) We still have a 6-foot-tall block of ice out in front of the MSLC. It's a big block, meant to be carved into a sculpture. However, due to the storms, the sculptor couldn't get himself and his gear down here from Fairbanks. So we're calling this ice block "Cubism". That's our sculpture.

3) I just had a few men in the MSLC who stopped on their drive between Anchorage and Fairbanks. They looked at the fossil display for a moment and then asked if we allowed subsistence dinosaur hunting. Take as many as you want! (Funny. Very funny.)

4) There is both an EMT class and a superintendent's budget meeting going on here yesterday and today. I have gotten NOTHING done in the office, even though actual visitor numbers are low. The folks in the budget meeting are, for the most part, not in very good moods. I think I'm glad they lock themselves in the classroom for this meeting. Just don't kill the messenger (me) if I ask you to move your car or donate for the coffee you drank. You can't double park or park behind others' cars in the lot just because you were late for your meeting. And we buy our own coffee around here. ;)

5) Because of the never-ending line of park leadership, EMT students and park visitors, I've had some very odd questions - and the expectation that I will know the schedule of every park employee. I've decided that I must be the Magic 8 Ball Ranger: shake me enough times and you'll get some sort of answer. Though you may have to shake multiple times to get the answer you want.

5) Yesterday, the park made me a job offer for this coming summer season. It looks like I'll be working up here at Denali this summer, instead of going back to Mount Rainier. I'm really looking forward to this summer. I'm not sure what district I'll be in or where I'll be stationed - but I think I'm hoping for Kantishna / Wonder Lake. It's amazing out there!

6) I've gone to bed by 10 p.m. the past few nights. This is early for me. I must be tired.

7) Ok, I know I'm tired. I really want to take a nap right now. But I won't be home for another hour at least.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Snowy Presidents' Day

Through next weekend, Denali Borough will be celebrating Winterfest. We will NOT be short on snow. I shoveled for a good 30 minutes this morning. It's still coming down and you can't really tell any more just how much I shoveled. ;)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Haiku Sunday

Driving home from Talkeetna last night, the scenery was beautiful. Until the sun set. Then it was pitch black all around me.

In the spirit of the haiku we have been writing all winter here at Denali, I thought of a new one:

The abyss of night
Moon and stars will guide the way
Winter way up north

Do you ever write poetry? I never used to. But the 5-7-5 Haiku has drawn me in this winter. I now find myself counting syllables when I think up some creative phrase.

February snow
Blowing, swirling all around
Winter's not done yet!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Life Is Always Greener....

We've all had that feeling.

You know.

Life is always greener on the other side of the fence.

This week happens to be the 7th (really??? SEVENTH?) annual RMNP Forums STOMP event.

I'm not there.

Neither is Bill or Sandy. Or Charlie. Or a few other people. But the first three are my companions of the hour.

We're all whining. We've all been sick. (OK, so the fever and sinus/throat issues aren't the reason I'm not there, but, well, they made their nasty curtain call just at the right time.)

It's amazing how a group of friends can get to know each other so well. It seems like just yesterday, I met Bill. And Aaron. But really, Bill and I have been arguing baseball for more than 7 years? How long have Aaron and I been calling each other names?

Time sure flies.

In honor of my friends who are snowshoeing and building igloos in Rocky Mountain National Park this week - and those of us who are elsewhere - I'd like to share Bill's blog entry from today. He writes so well; I couldn't have said it any better! Check it out:

Poppy's Perspective: The Leftbehinders

Monday, February 14, 2011

100 Things About Me On February 14, 2011

I’ve been sick off and on for the past few days. My body sort of feels like a Mack truck hit it. Fever, chills, aches, you name it… So I haven’t been very productive. Except as a germ factory.

I’ve been at home on my couch all day today. Sometimes asleep and snoring because I’m so congested. Yes, my own snoring wakes me up. I don’t snore much under normal circumstances.

So anyway, I’ve had lots of time to think. My mind has been racing; my body just can’t keep up. I’ve been reading blogs and notes on Facebook from old friends, former classmates and acquaintances. One such blog listed “100 Things About Me” written by a high school classmate of mine. Some of those facts I knew, some I didn’t. Her list inspired me to write my own list….

Without further adieu…

  1. No, I haven’t forgotten about “The Trap” which was mentioned in my most recent blog entry before this. It’s still a program in progress and will be added on here tomorrow if I feel up to it.
  2. This winter, I’m living in a little dry cabin in Denali National Park and Preserve. Yes, it is easier than you think. I like the simple life.
  3. This is my third National Park Service site to work at.
  4. Before this, I was a ranger at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state for 20+ months. You should see what 12 feet of remnant snow looks like on July 2. Snowapalooza 2011 has NOTHING on Mount Rainier. Mount Rainier is the snowiest place in the Lower 48 states. (So this wasn’t all about me, but it’s one amazing mountain and deserves recognition.)
  5. I love the summer season at Mount Rainier. The wildflowers are amazing.
  6. Before Rainier, I worked for the Water Resources office of the NPS in Fort Collins. I crunched data. I liked that office, but I’m happier out in the parks.
  7. Did I always want to work for the National Park Service? I told my mom when I was 5 years old – we were on a family vacation at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado – that I wanted to be a ranger when I grew up.
  8. Yes, rangers tend to move around a bit. I’m not the first; I won’t be the last.
  9. I have arrived.
  10. I don’t need anything I don’t have. Except maybe sinuses and ears/nose/throat that aren’t subject to infections all of the time.
  11. I have had three sinus (etc.) infections this winter. Other than that, I’ve loved being at Denali.
  12. My body is a case study.
  13. My nose doesn’t smell (my mom’s doesn’t either). I like to think my other four senses are heightened because of this. But I really don’t know if they are.
  14. My eyesight is deteriorating slowly. Thanks, in part, to a severely scratched cornea that I had in 2006. That’s the only time I’ve worn contacts.
  15. I’ve never worn glasses except for sunglasses and safety goggles. But never fear; my time is coming!
  16. I have mild arthritis in both legs from a deformity which I was born with. Technically, I’ve been told by sports therapists that I shouldn’t run. I can’t run fast anyhow, so who cares?
  17. In November 2009, I had my gall bladder removed.
  18. The surgeon put me on a no-red-meat diet.
  19. My Republican, flag-waving father LOVED that. It’s a Liberal habit, after all.
  20. I had to remind him that I didn’t eat a whole lot of red meat BEFORE the gall bladder problems were discovered. I just can’t eat heavy foods like that.
  21. I’ve loved salads and fruits since I was a kid.
  22. Alaska and Washington are GREAT states to live in if you like fresh berries. Many wild species – which are ALWAYS better than farmed or hot-house varieties – of Vaccinium (blueberries and cranberries) and Rubus (raspberries) carpet the mountain slopes in every direction. In the fall, I rarely take snacks with me on hikes – just water. The mountains provide enough nourishment.
  23. My real food addictions are coffee and chocolate, much of which I have to plan ahead to get as a ranger in a National Park.
  24. Thankfully, the mountains provide more than just physical nourishment. Europe has cathedrals; North America has its mountains.
  25. Religion is a very touchy subject with me.
  26. No matter what I say, I’ll offend someone.
  27. I like approaching it from an academic perspective; either you do or you don’t.
  28. I believe in God, but most of the modern church in today’s culture either insults me or scares the crap out of me.
  29. Especially when they get mixed into politics.
  30. It took me a long time to get the courage to say that out loud. Since then, I have been a much freer person.
  31. I’d rather commune out in a park somewhere alone. Where there’s no distractions or peer pressure to be something I’m not.
  32. See? I told you I’d offend someone. (see #26)
  33. The only pastor – that I’ve actually heard preach on more than one occasion – that I still respect is the pastor of my childhood. Many of you know him.
  34. I love reading his daughter’s comments on my Facebook page.
  35. As an academic pursuit, I love comparing religions, church history, etc. etc.
  36. I am a nerd; I love learning.
  37. The Ph.D. will be finished eventually. Just don’t ask when.
  38. Because of my upbringing, I spent part of each day – usually either 6 or 7 days a week with the same group of people: my classmates. From Kindergarten until we graduated from high school.
  39. One of these (no longer) “young men” had a conversation with me on Facebook maybe 2 years ago.
  40. He told me that he’d had a crush on me in grade school. I thought we had a fabulous conversation! I loved hearing how he and his family are doing now.
  41. Most of the men I’ve dated or liked have been utter disappointments. I’m much happier single.
  42. One of my life-long best friends is a man. He’s not a disappointment.
  43. I’m touchy on that subject too. Peer pressure is a nasty thing.
  44. I’m from St. Louis.
  45. Next answer: Hazelwood Central.
  46. Give me a break; I’m broke because of grad school, but I turned out just fine.
  47. I have two other STL loves, besides family and friends
  48. The baseball Cardinals (you can’t argue with that)
  49. Fritz’s ice cream stand
  50. I’m going to get a Praline sundae in September when I’m in STL.
  51. I’m going to be flying in for my brother’s wedding.
  52. I’m one of the bridesmaids.
  53. I haven’t worn a formal dress – by choice – since high school. This is going to be awkward.
  54. I live in wool, fleece and uniform pieces.
  55. I hate all leg-related hosiery. Except my hand-knit wool socks.
  56. I have like 25 pairs of hand-knit socks that I’ve made for myself.
  57. I haven’t bought socks – not even the required NPS uniform socks (gasp!) – for about 8 years.
  58. I had one supervisor at Rainier who encouraged me to wear my colorful creations, even though they were breaking uniform regs.
  59. I thought that supervisor was cool.
  60. She didn’t follow rules just to follow rules and be liked.
  61. I hope to buck trends and think for myself in an equal manner some day.
  62. I know. I just offended a few more people.
  63. This same supervisor taught me how to hunt for wild chanterelles in the Cascades.
  64. I won’t spend money on chanterelles from the grocery store. They always disappoint me. Yes, I have tried grocery store chanterelles. But I did dehydrate a batch last fall at Ohanapecosh and the remainders are up here with me in my cabin’s freezer.
  65. Both white and yellow chanterelles are now my favorite mushrooms. They are great, sautéed with butter and garlic over pasta.
  66. I might also add peas and sun-dried tomatoes to such a dish.
  67. I like peas.
  68. Actually, I like most any vegetable.
  69. Except bitter greens. Unless they have bacon in them. Sadly, I can’t do this much. (see #17-20)
  70. I’m not a picky eater; I love almost any ethnic food.
  71. The one thing I really don’t like or eat is liver.
  72. I think it’s a texture thing. I’m not really sure.
  73. I’m hungry now.
  74. I wish I had some Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch or Dublin Mudslide.
  75. Yes, it’s -10F outside right now, but Alaskans eat more ice cream per capita that most other states.
  76. I am one of THEM.
  77. I’m not quite a true Alaskan Sourdough though.
  78. I do like having a shower house across the street.
  79. I have some sourdough starter ready for use on the counter.
  80. I’m going to make myself a pancake when I’m done writing this entry.
  81. I love all things sourdough, especially the sourdough doughnuts.
  82. I’m happy I mastered this recipe that my dad handed down to me!
  83. Since I’m staying home sick again tomorrow, maybe I’ll make doughnuts.
  84. I hate sick days. My body doesn’t want to move but my mind is still going.
  85. It makes me feel stuck.
  86. Being in my cabin here in Denali feels freeing, not “stuck”, unless I'm sick.
  87. I got my truck 9 years ago today.
  88. It has seen many miles and many mountain passes with me.
  89. That truck has been the most reliable vehicle I’ve ever owned.
  90. That truck was a smart decision – though some at the time doubted my sanity.
  91. I hate making decisions. They take me forever.
  92. Some people doubt my choices, but the times when I’ve followed my instincts, I have had no regrets.
  93. My cousin Kelly helped with the logistics of picking up the new truck at the dealership when it came in. (I ordered it from the factory, to my specifications, thank you very much.)
  94. Kelly is the older sister I never had.
  95. We don’t always agree on everything, but she’s always there for me.
  96. I’ll be staying at her house in September when I’m in STL for the wedding.
  97. I’ll be renting a car for that week, since my schedule will be crazy and I’m flying into town. I’ll be grateful to get back to my truck after dealing with a rental car.
  98. I’m going to have to get a new cell phone soon. The phone I’m using is 5 years old, but it’s the most reliable. I won’t be buying smart phone unless Verizon requires it of me. I’m not a doggy on a leash.
  99. I need reliable things that work when and how I want them to work.
  100. I believe strongly that, if you want things done right, you need to do them yourself.
  101. Prepare yourself for as many situations as you can and build as many skills into your life as you can.
  102. I love my skills, hobbies, projects and tasks at work, and I love working for our National Parks. It’s enough.

Ok, so that’s 102 Things. I don’t like following rules. (#103)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Spark

What inspires you?

Where does your inspiration come from?

What is the result of this inspiration?


I've been thinking a lot about inspiration today. Mostly because I feel a bit overwhelmed. So many things have inspired me lately. For knitting projects, for road trips, for meals, for future projects in the parks I work in, and for career goals.

At the moment, one of my tasks at work is to create a history-based snowshoe hike to be given at the upcoming Winterfest event here in Denali at the end of February. The hard part? This time of year, most of the historic sites around the Denali front country are covered in snow. Most are not even visible without significant shoveling.

I thought I was going to have to use a canned program for this hike - an outline created by one of the summer rangers. But this really didn't fit, since I cannot physically get at some of the 'props'.

But after watching the late David Larsen's "Gun Talk", I am inspired in another direction. I'm going to base my entire program on a single historic object: a steel trap used in the 1800's and 1900's used to ensnare animals.

How can a steel trap be the symbolic relic of a park? I'll post my entire write-up in an entry later this week. For now, you can leave comments about what that trap might conjure up in your mind. How do those mental images make you feel?


Based purely on numbers, it would seem we had a busy day here at the MSLC. But really, we had a huge tour group come through this morning and it's been relatively quiet ever since. I've spent a couple of hours watching videos, programs and interviews with David Larsen on (of all places) YouTube. He's said a lot of thought-provoking things and given me quite a bit of inspiration for my history program.

When he died (way too young) last month, the National Park Service lost a great modern leader. He will continue to inspire those who take the time to listen.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Night To Stay In

My friends down in the Lower 48 are dealing with, what they have termed, "Snowpocalypse 2011". Giant storms are blanketing the midwest and eastern U.S. and everyone is hunkering down. It makes me smile.

It's +19F here in the Denali frontcountry. Earlier today it was +34F. Yes, that's a heat wave for this time of year. It's subsequently clouded over and started snowing again. The winds have picked up a bit too. Flakes are swirling around the MSLC, blowing off the roof in big gusts and it LOOKS like it's getting colder outside.

Tonight will be another night to curl up in my cabin with an Irish coffee, turn a movie on, and attack the long list of UFOs in my knitting bag. And shelves. And purse. Ok, so my entire cabin is a study in "unfinished objects".

I've been following the Yarn Harlot's progress of Finishitupitis the past few days. I'm not sure whether I feel inspired or guilty. But hopefully, this little motivation will lead to good things.

The stress of jobs, moving, choices, etc. is even more fresh in my mind than yesterday. I received another interest/availability inquiry from another park that I applied to, so I might have another interview coming soon. It's good that I have choices and opportunities, but it doesn't make the choosing any easier.

I hope that, by keeping my mind on finishing (or at least working on) knitting projects tonight, I'll relax, refocus and be productive tomorrow.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Two Long Weeks

It's been two weeks since my last entry. I guess that's because nothing too out-of-the-ordinary has been happening.

Winter is progressing here at Denali. We're starting to get more and more daylight - almost 7 hours and 15 minutes each day now! It's been warm the past few days as well - between +20-+30F. The Lower 48 seems to be colder and icy/snowier than we are right now. A little odd, perhaps, but I'm not complaining. ;)

Chinook, with snow on his nose. He loves to dig.

Last weekend, I took one of the kennel dogs, Chinook, out for a walk in the afternoon. It was warm enough that we walked up the park road for a mile or so and back without getting too cold. He's a big boy, and I was hoping that he wouldn't want to run or pull me too much, but he's great as a walking partner. He likes to sniff and explore the trail and isn't in a hurry. He also knew I had doggie treats in my pocket and every time I went for my camera, he'd turn to look at me. Word to the wise: never put your camera in the same pocket as the doggie treats. His whole muzzle was in my pocket once, almost before I realized it!


This time of year can be a bit trying for many of us in the National Parks.

Not because of the weather, as many people in the country are facing storms, ice, snow and cold conditions. (This week, their weather is worse than ours up here in Alaska!)

But this is THAT time of the year... when parks start the paperwork and processes to bring back their seasonal workforce. Budgets, hiring, competition for jobs - and competition to hire the most qualified candidates, and planning for the upcoming summer 'busy' season occupy all of our minds. From superintendents to front-line rangers, many of the folks around here are a bit on edge right now.

I have the potential to return to Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state for the 2011 season. I also have a couple of other interviews coming up in the next week or two. My stomach is doing flip-flops over this choice. Planning for any necessary travel will have to happen sooner than later. Personally, I don't worry the actual details too much; the choice and timing of these required choices is what gets to me the most.

Not much of an excuse, but that explains my absence the past two weeks. Suffice it to say, the dogs are sweet, the mountains are beautiful, and I still want that little cabin in the woods. I'm just not sure where the jobs will lie this summer.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend

The picture above was taken this past week one day. Notice the horizontal cloud in the very middle of the shot. Clouds sometimes hang low over the rivers and creeks - this happens to be the Nenana River.

As the sun gets a bit higher in the sky each day, I'm constantly in awe of the light. People think Alaska is dark all winter. But it's not, and the light makes for a great show. During the depths of winter, sunlight is at a much lower angle - as the sun barely scrapes the horizon for a few days - turning the surrounding mountains various shades of pinks, salmons and purples. Add a few clouds into the mix and you've got a sky that stops you in your tracks. Or it stops me in my tracks.

I went out for a walk yesterday. It was -25F at about 1:30 p.m. when I left. It was cold. But I kept moving - I needed the exercise and fresh air.

At one point, I couldn't help but stop. I was heading down the trail towards a footbridge over a creek. The trail was lined with alders taller than me. The snowflakes that had settled (grown?) on the alder branches caught the light so that the whole shrub sparkled like a pile of diamonds.

After about a minute, I caught myself. No, I had not fallen, but I had lost track of time - even for a split second. I looked around. There wasn't anyone around me. I heard a raven somewhere in the distance. The wind blew a few snowflakes around in circles on the trail ahead of me. I looked back to the branch of diamonds that had drawn me away from my walk.

I guess diamonds really are a girl's best friend. ;)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Not really a Ranger post...

On New Year's Eve, a cousin (over the phone) asked me what there is to do up here in Denali in my spare time.

I resisted the urge to laugh.

(Yesterday, I took Sylvie, the littlest pup in the park kennels for a walk for an hour. Isn't she adorable???)

Suffice it to say, there is WAY more to do in my spare time than I'll ever have time for. If you know me - or really, any knitter - you'll realize that we have a stash, a list of on-going projects, and more ideas stored away for that proverbial 'rainy day' (or day with temperatures below -20F here).

Simply put, I don't know where to begin.

I am overwhelmed.

Which is why I went to the kennels yesterday, on my day off, to walk a dog. Or a pup. Or anything that would get me away from the chaos of ideas and projects at home. Sylvie was a fun distraction for an hour or so. This was one of her first leash walks. She's only about 4 months old. Later this winter, she'll be harnessed up to run loose alongside the team (as the older pups - 7 months old are doing now). She was a bit nervous as we left the yard. She kept turning back whenever she heard the other dogs barking. Then she would look at me, clearly saying, "Are you sure about this?" But we just did a little loop along a maintained trail and the park road. She did great.

(You're noticing by now that even my writing will be distracted from the necessary topic at hand.)

Anyway, here's a sampling of what I'm either in the middle of or have lined up for the next month or two:

1) Finishing the Totem socks - about 60% done with that project;

2) Two pairs of flannel pajama pants - not started, had to get the holiday baking done before using my counter for something that should NOT be mixed into flour and butter;

3) Writing patterns for a couple recent projects - more explanations to come later;

4) Another batch of either bagels or English muffins - yes, my mind is also on food, never mind the resolutions;

5) Another batch of homemade chocolate-hazelnut spread (think Nutella) - the first batch went way too quickly ;) ;

6) A new sweater and accessories for my impending trip to STL in September for my younger brother's wedding - I have the yarn and a few ideas, I just need to settle on a few patterns.


So. Do you have anything to keep you occupied in your spare time?!?!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Random Thursday

1) Today is Thursday, but it's really my Friday, since I have Friday and Saturday off this week.

2) I did something to my left ankle last weekend. It is sore. Not sharp pain, but more like a bad muscle strain/sprain.

3) I might not go snowshoeing this weekend because of said ankle.

4) It's snowing outside, and I'd like to go play in it.

5) I can't go play because I'm at work. And slightly bored today.

6) I don't really think it's boredom. I'm just really tired. I don't know why I'm tired. I got sleep last night.

7) I REALLY want to eat an English muffin with Nutella right now.

8) I still have to finish up the last pair of gloves on order (purchaser was NOT at knit night last night).

9) The salmon-cream cheese spread I have is really yummy.

10) I'm hoping this has woken me up a bit so I can get back to my real work. ;)


I hope everyone is having a good week!!!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Pulling Weeds

One of my current 'office'-type projects this winter involves pulling together information on plant research in Denali National Park and Preserve. In the course of my research this morning, I came across the follow statistics from a 2010 park resources report:

Here’s the 2009 roster of non-native plants removed (species with more than 50 lbs pulled) in/near Denali:

  • Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): 225 lbs (Denali Park Road corridor)

  • White Sweet Clover (Melilotus alba): 96 lbs (Miles 232.5 and 238 Parks Hwy)

  • Hawk’s-Beard (Crepis tectorum): 135 lbs (Sewage lagoon; Mile 0 to 3 of the park road)

  • Wormseed mustard (Erysimum cheiramthoides): 85 lbs (East Fork bridge area)

For those of you with gardens out there, how many dandelions do you pull each year?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Good Ending to 2010

I went for my first mushing trip ever! I got to go out with our kennels manager from the park. We had 11 dogs pulling, with two of the pups running along side. It was way too much fun! I sort of wish this were my actual duty station this winter. I love the dogs, but I'm not sure about traveling this way in -30F temperatures for hours on end.

Either way, I'll be back at the kennels this week to pet the doggies. ;)