Week 5: First Spike at Child’s Glacier! (June 15 – 23)

Hello, and again I must apologize for falling behind on updating you all, it’s proven to be quite a challenge to make myself sit down at a computer during my time off when there are so many great hikes and views waiting right outside the front door of the bunkhouse, but I’m very glad that you are interested in my summer and want to stay up to date. This post is about my trip out to Child’s Glacier with the trail crew for a little over a week.

So our adventure began on a Wednesday, since this was our first spike out on trail of the season we needed to go through all of the equipment and gear and go through it all and make sure everything was functional. So we spent our whole day Wednesday finding everything after it was put away last season such as propane stoves, cookware, plates, cups, silverware, coolers, ice packs, etc. We also went on a shopping trip to get all of our groceries for the week. In years past the Forest Service used to give the trail crew a budget as to how much the could spend on groceries for the week and it was all covered by the Forest Service, but this year that isn’t the case. I get an extra stipend of $45 a day for each day spent out on spike for food. So we decided that everyone would buy their own groceries for breakfasts and lunches, and we would do group dinners every night, this method seemed to work really well and I wound up spending about $100 in groceries for the week (groceries are significantly more expensive up here than they are back home).

After spending a whole day preparing, on Thursday we finally packed up the trucks and headed out the road! (there is only one main road that runs out of town up here and everyone refers to it as “the road”) We had two trucks with trailers and a third truck with just an atv and a bit of gear int the bed.

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We made our way out to 36 mile (36 miles out the road) to where the copper river had washed away the bridge several years ago. From here we unloaded all of our gear and loaded up captain Jack’s twin prop airboat. It only took two trips to get all of our gear which included; brushers, chain saws, camping equipment, food, cooking supplies, two atv’s, and a utv across the river.

Once we got across the Copper we unloaded all of our gear and started to load up captain Jack’s small truck and 15 passenger van that he let us use, as well as the atv’s and small atv trailers. I hopped on an atv, and of course I was the last one in line and so I had to drop way back in order to not have a face full of dust the whole time we were riding out. We had about 15 miles to go yet until we got to the campsite and at about 12 miles in one of our other atv’s that bossman Rob was riding started to overheat so he pulled over and I sat with him for about 10 minutes to let it cool down. We hopped back on and after another few miles it overheated again, this time it took almost 20 minutes to cool back down, but I didn’t really mind, I got to take a few moments to take in the views along the road.

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Once we finally got out to camp everyone else had already set up their tents and were working on getting all of our gear put away and our kitchen area set up. We here lucky enough to have a nice campground that was built to be used when the road was still in tact the whole way out to the glacier so there were really nice facilities. We used a large pavilion with a good view over the Copper River to Child’s glacier as a cooking/dining area. There was a locked shed which we used as a staging area for all of our equipment for work throughout the week that was about 50 yards away from the pavilion, and then we each had a nice campsite to set up our tents only a short walk from the work shed so that we were a good distance away from our food. We also had solid metal bear proof boxes to keep any toothpaste or deodorant in.

On Friday we spent the day brushing out some of the viewing sites around the campground, clearing the sides of the roads, as well as making sure that all of the road signs are cleared and easily visible. During our lunch break along the river we got to see an otter catch a salmon that was as big as he was! We also got to watch a few seals swimming along the bank as well fishing.

Over the next few days we cleared a few more viewing areas, as well as widened out a trail that ran from the campground, along the Copper, and on up to the million dollar bridge. I helped swamp out all of the weeds and brush that were cut by the brushers, and I also got the chance to run a chainsaw for a good part of the day cutting out alder trees in order to widen and open up the trail for better winter access. We also cleared a short hiking trail up to a lookout area that had a good view down over the campground and Child’s Glacier. The area also had a large “microwave” tower that was used to bounce cellphone reception to the house and sonar building for the state workers who monitor the fish sonar along the river.

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The Alaska Fish and Game folks were pretty cool people, we got to meet all three of the state employees who were spending their entire summer at Child’s Glacier monitoring the sonar 24/7. They work in shifts so there is always one person at the sonar building, and their job is to watch a 10 minute recording of the sonar, and count how many fish swim by. Each hour the computer system records a 10 minute segment so they aren’t always staring at a computer screen counting each and every fish, they then plug their number into an algorithm to get an estimate for how many fish pass the sonar each hour and then report their numbers to the state, where the findings are used to control when the fishing seasons open and for how long.

The sonar they use only stretches out 33 feet from the South bank of the Copper and 60 feet from the North bank of the Copper. They find that the vast majority of the salmon swimming up the river to spawn swim very close to the South bank, and they aren’t sure why.

Overall the trip was awesome, we had a few small hiccups every now and then with miscommunication or brushers not working properly, but overall the trip was a success. We got a good amount of work done, we survived the constant barrage of bugs and we only got rained on once. But the trip was awesome, we got to camp and work right next to a glacier everyday, we had beautiful weather, and we had a lot of fun doing it all, I can’t wait to get back in a few weeks.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any bears, we did find fresh bear scat and bear tracks through the campground a few mornings and on the out of camp at the end of the week we found some large wolf tracks as well as bear tracks side by side on the road. Unfortunately the website is being finicky at the moment and I’m having trouble uploading the last of my pictures, but hopefully I’ll be able to try again another day and get this straightened out.





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