2000+ miles of outreach–part 1

I’ve been busily writing away at a couple of overdue papers, and the students have been going great guns processing and cataloging artifacts in the lab.  While all this work is important, it doesn’t make for the most exciting blog posts, so I’ve been focusing on the papers.

Last week I wound up doing a couple of outreach events.  The first was a public talk at the Murie Science and Learning Center at Denali National Park.  Since I don’t live anywhere near Denali NP, this was no small undertaking.  I flew to Anchorage, rented a car  and went to the Apple store to pick up some video adapters for my Mac Air on Sunday, picked up my daughter Justine on Monday morning, and we made some sandwiches and set out.  It is a 240 mile (more or less) north out of Anchorage, up the Parks Highway to the Park and the MSLC.  I was speaking at 7 PM, but wanted to get there a bit early to make sure I found the place and my computer worked with their projector & so forth.

We had a pretty nice drive.  The weather was sunny, but since I was driving north that was no problem.  The drive is beautiful, although there were clouds around Denali (the mountain some call Mt. McKinley) so it wasn’t out.We stopped at a couple of viewing areas, but no luck.  There are actually mountains between Denali and the Parks Highway, but Denali is so big it would have been visible anyway except for the clouds.

Alaska Range from Parks Highway

We made good time to Denali.  It is very beautiful country, to my way of thinking, and gets prettier as you climb away from sea level and taiga forests with tundra on the mountains.  It took a bit of doing to find the MSLC, but we succeeded.

Pathway to Murie Science and Learning Center. The white dinosaur footprints lead to the MSLC from the Denali NP Visitors’ Center.

Closer view of MSLC.
Justine indicating where we are for the photographic record of the trip.
Main room of the MSLC, with a couple of park visitors and an interpreter.

We got in touch with NJ Gates, who runs the speakers’ program and she got us settled.  I made sure my computer worked with their projector.  Although this was not a paying gig, they were kind enough to put us up in a yurt that they have for visiting researchers.  Since there weren’t many around, we each got our own room.  I had brought down sleeping bags & a Thermarest (since we thought one of us would be sleeping on the floor) from Barrow.  The Park has wagons, and we used one to pull our gear to the yurt.  I somehow didn’t manage to get a picture of the outside or the bear-proof box into which all food and toiletries went.  The interior was divided into 3 rooms, 2 of which shared an entryway.  We got those two.

Bed in yurt, strewn with gear.
Interior view of yurt & skylight.

After we got settled, we went to the grill at the visitors’ center for a quick dinner, and headed back to give the talk.  We got a decent crowd for a Monday night, I thought.  It went well, except for the earthquake in the middle of it.  It was big enough to really shake the screen, and given that the MSLC is a heavy timber-frame building, I waited a few seconds to see if it would get bigger.  It didn’t, so on we went.  Some folks had a lot of questions, but we were all done, and in bed in the yurt by about 9:30.

This was important, because Justine had a doctor’s appointment in Anchorage at 11AM the next day.  We got up at 4:15, grabbed a couple of sandwiches & a drink and were on the road a little after 5AM.  The weather wants quite as nice, but it didn’t rain until we were nearly to Wasilla (yeah, that Wasilla), but stopped quickly a little later.  Still no sight of Denali, but the drive was beautiful.

Mountains along the Parks Highway.

We made it to the doctor’s office around 10AM, I dropped Justine off, met my husband for lunch (he was in Anchorage on his way back from Ketchikan to Barrow), and caught a plane back to Barrow on Tuesday night.

Wednesday, we got ready for a visit by kids from the City of Barrow summer program.  More about that in the next post.