Category Archives: personal essay

Southeast Serenade: A weary intern learns to explore again

A prison emerges from the unknown. Just kidding, I’ll talk about this mysterious guy soon.

The journey to Juneau may as well have been a voyage to another galaxy, for all I could see from the ferry windows. They yielded pitch black scenery whenever I sought clues about my new home. This post-graduation foray into the world of interning should have felt liberating from the onset, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I might be heading to Alcatraz.

That caged feeling Gorilla glued itself to the back of my mind as I unpacked. When I felt confident enough to leave my room, the highway into town felt like little more than a capillary between civilizations, stretching across an overpowering expanse of mountains and seawater. Historic buildings and suburbs alike seemed out of place, too structured to withstand the chaos of winter winds and avalanches.

I scampered from assignment to assignment with the tense survivalism of an exile. I came here to learn and leave.

Just one problem, a vestigial feeling from Fairbanks — I can only find freedom in the forest. Before long, my muscles itched with restlessness. I stumbled to a nearby trailhead. There, I found the mountains and ocean weren’t jail bars, they were gateways. I meandered through the forest, surrounded by unfamiliar and familiar plants alike, the dusk light filtering through the trees in such a way I hadn’t seen since my autumn mornings on the Tanana.

Best thing — it’s above freezing during the day, even in November, yet here I can quell my spheksophobia, for the wasps are long gone for the season. A welcome reprieve from the sliver of time between wasp season and ice fog in Fairbanks.

I came to Juneau expecting to see at least one great example of transition other than the extended autumn. Mendenhall Glacier, I knew, shows the natural sequence from glacier to forest. I had no idea that a 15 minute drive from KTOO could land me alongside the forest’s reclamation of decaying ruins.

And yet, I found myself trekking around Sandy Beach and the ruins of Treadwell Mine this last week. On Wednesday I’ll talk more about that (can’t help myself) treasure trove of history. Until then, any suggestions on where to hike in Juneau?


Closing in on a month in Southeast Alaska

I held my microphone up to Republicans and Democrats minutes after Romney’s concession speech. Four years ago, I finished up my first workday in a university laboratory. How much our lives change in four years, even though it seems the gap between elections is so slim. Case in point: last night marked just three weeks at my internship with KTOO.

I left Election Central at the Baranoff Hotel to spend my first presidential election in a newsroom. There was pizza, yes, but also new faces – the newsroom was packed with livebloggers and reporters. I worked from the intern desk in the digital services room, close to my editor-in-chief turned new-media-producer and roommate, Heather Bryant.

It has been a busy three weeks in Juneau. I’ve stepped out of my science comfort zone to work with education, breaking news, election coverage, and the military. Even between these categories, there is so much overlap, and science finds its way into so much of my work.

The stories I’ve worked on here vary from a couple soundbites for a reporter to packages I produced, from the Coast Guard to 4-H, from salmon runs to student surveys.

I’m still shoving my hands into this big batch of free time and trying to knead it into a schedule that can tell me where my internship gives way to my other projects, where work can become play. Here’s what I’ve been working on in the mean time:

Salmon fill Auke Creek with shorter, earlier runs
Horse Sense: New 4-H group connects kids and horses
New research examines why Alaska students drop out of school
Coast Guard’s only active icebreaker stops in Juneau

This weekend I’ll talk a little more about the very different ecosystem here in Juneau – until then, I’m going to enjoy jumping in puddles in mid-November.

Let’s stitch the boreal forest to the rest of Alaska

Kluane Lake outside of Destruction Bay, YT. Oct. 11, 2012.

Eight days ago, I packed up my cabin, bid adieu to my outhouse, shrugged off whispers of snow, jumped in my car and drove. Six-hundred-forty miles and a ferry ride later, I now live in Juneau and intern for KTOO News.

I miss working for the Forest Soils Lab. I miss sloughing my petrifying fear of wasps to trek into the woods every day. I miss the rise and fall of the river with the seasons. I’m not going to miss this blog, because I’m not leaving it behind like my lovely cabin.

I want to get to know this new place, too, so Boreal Bites is expanding. Let’s smoosh the temperate rainforest into the boreal forest. Heck, let’s throw in the tundra, and the Aleutians and all of Alaska. I’m in a new stage of life, and it’s time for the blog to grow, too. This will henceforth be a blog about Alaska science, science in Alaska culture, and everyday curiosities in the Far North.

Where should we go first?

My trusty steed in front of  Sheep Mountain outside Destruction Bay, Yt. Oct. 11, 2012.