Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Glacier Ranger Station

I feel a fleeting claustrophobic panic as I try to find the armholes of the full-length drysuit that fits more like a straight jacket, with an innertube collar. I suspect it’s overkill, so I decide on the bright yellow Kokatat jacket instead, which has rubberized cuffs but a more forgiving velcro adjustable neckline. It will prove waterproof and comfortable. All the other gear I’m borrowing from the Forest Service, including a tent, sleeping bag and pad, bear spray and headnet, are stowed into a huge duffel bag. I am trained on protocol in using my marine radio and then take a seat in a cubicle in the basement of the Glacier Ranger Station to fill out the paperwork which will make me the first Artist in Residence in Prince William Sound, Voices of the Wilderness program.
Barbara easily picks up the duffel and hands it over to me. I try to pretend I’m not struggling to hoist it over my shoulder and we walk across the parking lot to my room in the bunkhouse. Barbara checks over the gear I’ve brought in two 20 liter dry bags from Providence, RI. She had sent me a very helpful gear list, so I’m pretty well prepared. My new shiny brown rubber Xtratuff boots get the nod, a few extras are weeded out, and I add my gear to the bulging duffel.
We then jump into a Forest Service SUV and head north on the Seward Highway to the nearest supermarket to buy our food. Barbara has made a list and has the planning down to a science—lunches and dinners and snacks for 7 days of kayaking and camping, with a few extra meals in case we are stranded by weather. We buy nuts, energy bars, chocolate—all the food we couldn’t get away with eating if we were not going to be constantly moving, hauling and paddling. Still, it seems like an awful lot of food, but I have underestimated the appetite that we will have. Back at the bunkhouse I follow Barbara’s orders for discarding packaging, chopping and prepping. Like puzzle pieces, she fits it all into half a dozen large heavy plastic canisters — “Bear Cans”.
Then it’s time for me to pack up my gear, compressing extra clothes in my drybags, sealing art supplies in ziplock bags, and picking my clothes for our first day in the field. We are leaving early in the morning so I turn in with the sun still shining.

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