How do I sum up the Kenai Watershed Forum? A group of cooperative individuals who are motivated to work together amongst each other and with the community for the betterment of all the Kenai Peninsula. It is incredibly encouraging to see so many different agencies and members of the public all working together with KWF. I was often left with a feeling of hope and accomplishment after our days with the public, seeing the passion that our volunteers have. All were full of a drive to learn, make a difference and protect the rivers and lands they call home.
Kenai Watershed Forum was a welcoming and productive work environment, offering me a once in a lifetime intern experience. Most of the summer my coworkers and I would only see each other in passing as there is always much fieldwork to be done, but I always knew that if I ever needed advice or help it was there. There were many long days in the field as the invasive species intern, but I was always eager for the next. Surveying, spraying, cutting seed heads, and pulling invasives were all great times spent with passionate professionals and the public.
One memory that will stick with me forever is going to do an Elodea survey at King Lake. Elodea is a highly invasive aquatic plant likely to be spread to remote lakes primarily by float planes. My co-worker Nathan and I went out on a float plane with around 70lbs of gear each and were dropped off in a massive bog in the rain. Before the plane even left, we realized we were surrounded by bear scat and other signs of bear activity. We kept our bear-spray close as we began to hike to the highest ground we could find. Each step went deeper into the squishy, soaked vegetation more than it went forward. Finally finding a spot higher than the swamp surrounding us, we set up camp in the rain. All things said, once we made a fire it was rather cozy in the wilderness. We ate a hearty dinner in the field by the fire. That evening, we took advantage of the amazing location and went fishing. After cleaning trout slime from ourselves to prevent any bear issues, we warmed up once more by the fire before getting some much-needed sleep.
The next morning, we re-lit the fire and had a hot breakfast to knock the night’s cold from our bones. We packed up camp and once again began the most arduous ¾-mile hike of my life. We put all our gear in our pick-up location and began our survey. We spent hours paddling through nature so gorgeous it felt it shouldn’t be real. Identifying vegetation, thankfully all of which was native, and observing the wildlife made the survey not even feel like work. As we reached the point in which we had to begin our paddle back to the pick-up location, the wind had completely shifted, and the overcast sky opened with a torrential downpour. We paddled for nearly an hour before our plane, which arrived an hour early, made splashdown. The pilot picked us up and explained that two rainstorms were about to converge over us as we taxied to our gear. After grabbing our things and making the flight back to Kenai, we unloaded. We were soaked and tired but had smiles on our faces as we waited to be picked up by a coworker. My partner and I looked at each other and agreed we would do it all over again in a heartbeat!
I have to say thank you to KWF for the incredible memories and experiences I have gleaned from my time there!