I think that everyone in the lower 48 states has an idea of what Alaska is like or all about. First things that jump to my mind are moose, glaciers, vast expanse of forest and the odd off/on structure of daylight throughout the year. Basically anything outdoorsy or involving wildlife seems like Alaska, with a healthy dose of ice and snow. I never really considered day to day city life before moving here but now that the VetsWork program has set me up in Anchorage with the Forest Service, operating in the Chugach National Forest, my perspective on Alaska has changed as it developed.
My first week in Anchorage was hectic as I was just relocating and starting a new job at the same time I was wrapping up finals week in my graduate program. I wasn’t able to get out much beyond the walk to work and back, but I was able to get the lay of the land and see what kind of city Anchorage would be. Everything seemed grey in the beginning because of the weather and being focused on so many different directions. Once I finished up my school and got into the swing of things at the office, I was able to meet more people and get some opportunities to get out into the forest.
My first trip was to Girdwood where we met up with another VetsWork member and got to check out some of the visitor centers, campsites and the regional office. It may sound like a routine trip to visit sites that could have taken place in any city or any state, but the difference was along the way we passed by 13 moose, a handful of glaciers, dozens of bald eagles and visited a small seasonal town that required us to drive through a 2.5 mile long tunnel cutting through the Chugach mountain range. These are the types of things that really set Alaska apart from other states and all of this is normal for most people’s daily commute.
Much of my work will be in an office, but we are going through a ton of training that will allow me to get into the field this summer to do some data collection. I am really looking forward to that aspect of the job and the training is a lot of fun too. We just finished our boat passenger training which is mandatory before getting to ride on a Forest Service boat, and Bear Aware training so we know what to do “not if, but when we encounter our first bear in Alaska.” Now I realize why they keep saying these things are specific to Alaska and that we have our own training and procedures that other agencies or regions don’t have to go through or focus on as much as they do up here in the last frontier.