Thursday, June 18, 2009

Our Talkeetna 'Break'

On Tuesday our fearsome foursome (Me, Lauren, Rachel and Jeff) took a day to travel up to the tourist hotspot of Talkeetna, Alaska. We had three goals in mind:
(1) Jeff and I wanted to check out Y Lake
(2) Lauren and Rachel wanted to trap and collect more fish from Benka Lake and X (or Trouble) Lake -- which are both near Talkeetna
(3) We wanted to purchase select jerkys and jams and have dinner at the WestRib Pub

If fewer mosquito bites = relaxing, then this was not a relaxing trip at all. The mosquitoes were abundant and it turned out they like Jeff the most (great for the rest of us -- sorry, Jeff). The echoes from the gun range near Trouble Lake wasn't the most comforting noise especially in combination with the constant buzzing of mosquitoes. The makeshift 'Caution, two bears spotted -- unafraid of people...' posting was not a pleasant note to view before the short hike down to the lake. BUT it turned out to be fairly uneventful (more eventful for the mosquitoes, I guess). Not many fish were caught but the traps were only there for a few hours. It was a good attempt and I finally got to experience the infamous 'Trouble Lake' (infamous to the members of the Foster-Baker Lab from the stories I've been told).

Jeff and I had a nice cold swim in Y Lake -- a very quiet and picturesque lake (I wish I took pictures but left the camera in the car and was in my drysuit and flippers before it occurred to me). And it was cooooold in the lake. We split up and swam in separate directions out of the public access. At first all I found were a few bright males with large fry clouds but after swimming along the shore for a while I found a handful of newly nesting males near fallen trees. There were some fairly large shoals of fish close to shore as well. Most of the newly nested males were still very drab and not ready to court with the gravid females that would approach them. Despite the lack of action and the abundance of cold water, it was a fun lake to jump into. I left fairly consumed by mosquitoes but with a better idea of the microhabitat in which males were nesting, which could be useful when comparing prevalence of sneaking between populations.

Before Y Lake, we stopped to eat lunch at one of the scenic roadside viewpoints for Denali (Mt McKinley). Here is what we could see of Denali from the roadside viewpoint:

Originally, we didn't think we'd see Denali at all, considering the sky was completely overcast when we left Anchorage, BUT the clouds slowly parted as we drove along until we saw the peak -- not bad for expecting to see absolutely nothing but clouds. Here's an artist's rendition of what we could have seen from the viewpoint on a cloudless day:

Me + where Denali might be in relation to the Talkeetna River:

Some Denali facts:
  • It is the tallest mountain in North America at 20320 ft (6194 m -- for those that love the adorable metric system)
  • Denali is the Athabaskan name for "The High One" -- officially called Mt. McKinley
  • Average number of earthquakes in Denali National Park per year: 700
  • WestRib Pub is named after one of the most difficult routes to the summit
  • Youngest person to summit: Galen Johnston, 11 yrs old (June 17, 2001)
It was a late night returning and then it was back to work as usual the next day. We did welcome the addition of a new colleague the next day -- Dr. Matt Wund, who studies behavioral and morphological plasticity in stickleback populations in relation to food sources and presence/absence of predation and the role of ancestral plasticity in shaping evolutionary trajectories. He arrived on 6/17 and will be doing some field work and lab work while here. Tonight we are packing up Lauren to send her home to Tacoma early in the morning :(
I'm sure we'll see her again soon seems she can't stay away from Alaska for too long...

No comments: