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A day in Alaska, part I

Monday, June 11th

It's still very early when my alarm wakes me; 5.45 am. But it's already very light outside, the sun has been up since 4.00 am. One look outside tells me it will be a rainy day. I get dressed; wool underwear, brown Carhartt pants, green volunteer shirt, my own Gore Tex hiking boots and bright orange rain gear. I pack my bag with multiple extra layers, food, water, my camera, emergency package, bear spray and a hard helmet. A quick breakfast and trip to the wash building, and off I am!

I leave my cabin at 6.45 am and walk up to the 'trails garden'. The entire Trail Crew meets in 'the shed' in the garden every day, for a 'good morning talk'. Today, we are welcomed by some serious porcupine poop and needles. Dan (Trail Crew supervisor) welcomes us and announces that one of the first SARs of the season is in motion; Search And Rescue. Two hikers went missing by Eielson Visitor Center yesterday, and the first response is containment. Six crew members volunteer and head out: a possible 24 to 72 hours in the wilderness. If the hikers aren't found within the first 24 hours, all of us will be send out immediately. Chances of hypothermia and dehydration are very big in these weather conditions.

My crew drives out to the Savage River Loop around 8.00 am. We're missing both our Crew Leaders, they are out on the SAR. Our trail is a half hour drive on the park road, which runs parallel to the Alaska Range. Driving on this road is often a highlight of people's holiday - for me, it's my commute! It's very rainy and incredibly foggy when we get to the Savage Trail Head. We unload tools from the truck and spend 15 minutes warming up and stretching. We hike out to our workplace, and simple 10 minute walk by the river. We spend our day working on drainage rock work; the multiple drains from our new trail need to be strengthened with rocks so the water won't wash them out. It's very hard work; we have to dig big holes in hard and muddy ground with a pulaski and shovel. We then move heavy and big rocks around with rock bars and shape them with a single jack hammer. Then we try to fit them like a puzzle in the hole, imagine the puzzle pieces being at least 25 kilo's. We crush other smaller rocks with a double jack hammer and fill up any holes up with this. Last we even it out with mud and tundra, and voila - another drainage is ready! Building a drainage usually takes a couple of days, and can both be very fun or frustrating.

We take three breaks during our day, and hike back out to the trail head for shelter for each of them. I take a couple of photo's every now and then, and whenever the work gets too hard or frustrating I like to look up and admire my 'office'. I wonder how many people work in surroundings like these...

We drive out around 5.00 pm, back to the trails garden were everybody gathers at the end of each day. Good news: the missing hikers have been found! They simply underestimated the different hiking here in Denali, but are doing well.
By 6.00 pm I am back in my own cabin in C Camp. I grab a shower, make some pasta diner and relax. I spend the last part of my evening in the Rec Hall, using the (crappy) internet and watch some TV with a few other C Campers. That's one of the great things of living in C Camp: there are always people walking around, hanging out, watching a movie, baking stuff or simply 'being' in their cabin - and you can always knock on somebody's door.

I go to bed completely exhausted around 11 pm, and try to fall asleep while it's still bright light outside.