Thursday, August 19, 2010

Work is not a four letter word

I often forget I'm working when I'm at work. I have the privilege of living and working in the most beautiful place on earth. to wit: my paid adventure in the wilds of Kruzof Island. I had to finish the field work for mapping the soils of South Kruzof, a young volcanic terrain with the iconic Mt. Edgecumbe. I am lucky lucky lucky.

Four intrepid souls packed into a remote shelter via the Mt. Edgecumbe trail. It was rainy, sunny, foggy, and wonderful. We packed out more than 80 pounds of soil to send off for sampling.

This is part of the trail as you move away from the volcanic plains near saltwater and onto the plateaus at the flanks of the cinder cone. The trail is a narrow, gravel path with cedar logs as both steps and drains. It blends very nicely with the surroundings.

At the top of Mt. Edgecumbe, we had our first sample site. Here we all are in the alpine meadow. I'm taking a point with my semi-awesome Trimble Nomad. (It is incredibly crotchety, a neat tool but so very temperamental. I want to throw it against a tree at least once per day.) We had to dig a soil pit, describe it and pull samples out to send off to a soil lab.

Make no mistake, I love dirt. I love my job that lets me study dirt. I love the touch, taste, and smell of dirt. Here I am, placing the measuring tape for the official photo. I am super happy. That is not a fake smile, I really like what I'm doing that much.

The shelter has 3 sides and a wood stove with a few bunks in the back. Basic, and perfect. Up here, you pretty much only need a roof. I believe this was burrito night, we ate really well.

After Edgecumbe, we hiked up crater mountain. She sits just to the north of Edgecumbe (in the background of the above pic) and is not really a cinder cone. I felt like I should be wearing a dirndl and herding some sort of sheep. The place was otherworldly.

The vegetation is tundra, the same as caribou feed on and is found in the main part of Alaska. It's dominantly small grasses, heathers, and forbs. I just wanted to sit quietly in this landscape.

I wanted to camp there instead of the shelter. We were lucky enough to have a clear day to hike up here as the day before was foggy and wet. This is an andesite dome that is the main part of Crater mountain. The little waves in the foreground are formed by frost heaving from freeze-thaw cycles in permafrost. They are perfectly contoured to fit the human body and are immensely comfortable.

They aren't the organic soils I was expecting and they even had spodic development. Weird.

I love my job. Do you love yours?


  1. Thanks, I wanted a post about the alpine! Very cool pictures (I wish I knew how to upload pics smoothly onto my blog). Love Edegecumbe scenery!!

    Um. Love my job? Sometimes. I need to go back down one rung, I think.

  2. Yeah, I am at a perfect rung.

    Try the little picture button at the top of where you write your post.

  3. I love mine, most of the time, except when I don't. Even when I don't, I am very grateful for the living it provides me, along with the flexibility I need to fit it into the same life as my family. Lucky us!

    @Mary, I have this idea of a "career diet". Too much responsibility/ambition/promotion can definitely be bad for you, but not enough is also a problem. The trick is getting the right balance, isn't it?

  4. Nice photos...but you forgot to mention the gourmet all-sausage diet!

  5. Yes, I do love my job! This post answers my previous question, but what's permafrost doing in SEAK? I didn't think it belonged there???

  6. I don't think that it's permafrost, Chris. It is topography like permafrost but the soils are spodic and cryic. That's why it was so bloody wierd.