I just returned from another field adventure out on Alaska's North Slope, the area north of the Brooks Range. This was more of a reconnaissance mission than anything. I was working with a group from University of Texas at Austin, who was sampling water on the Sag, Kuparuk, and other rivers in the area, all the way up to Prudhoe bay.
The trip up was pretty cool. I took a van driven by a friend of mine, Alice, who has driven the haul road between Fairbanks and Prudhoe for 11 years. She knows every trucker and every tree on that road. We'd be driving in the middle of nowhere and she'd pull out the CB radio to check to see if Jack or Jerry was home. We stopped in Coldfoot to drop off some folks at the airfield. They were going to be flown into someplace for a week of hiking. Man, some people just can't get far enough away from themselves. Sheesh. This is already 6-hours north of Fairbanks. The coolest thing in Coldfoot was that a couple of kids had a lemonade stand on the airfield. How cute is that?
The Arctic cotton was in full force, since most of the snow is gone. Beautiful! Toolik Field Station was home base, a strange M*A*S*H unit for scientists. I tagged along with Jim, Amy, Breton, and Jorges while they sampled the Sag in five places. Jorges was from Peru, Jim and Amy were working in Texas and Breton was from Hawaii.
We ran into this goofy butterfly guy who was camped out at the river, about 60 miles from Prudhoe Bay. Said he was from Salt Lake City, but he'd been at that campsite for weeks looking for caterpillers. When he found them, he put little tents around them and waited for them to turn into butterfies. The day we were there was the day the first one hatched. This made me miss Matilda who likes to chase butterflies.
Toolik is mostly a biological research station, and the summer interns had just arrived. Including a goofy guy named Eugene who was a computing science bigwig who happened to enjoy lying on his stomach weeding mosses. Go figure.
There was still ice on the lake when I got there and a few days later it was almost gone. The loons are the most famous bird on this little lake, but there were also swans swimming in the open water. Very peaceful.