On Assignment in Alaska 

Kris Long with a flyfishing pole on the Delta River. Photo by Karen Laubenstein

Kris Long with a flyfishing pole on the Delta River. Photo by Karen Laubenstein

Alaska was an unforgettable experience for me. As a long-time BLM-Idaho Public Affairs Specialist, I know about Idaho’s 12 million acres of BLM-managed public lands, with places like the stark Owyhee Canyon-land Wilderness area, the snow-capped Tetons, or the rugged Lower Salmon River. Yet, Alaska’s vast landscapes fill the horizon on a much grander scale—a scale I couldn’t appreciate until I was there.

In August I took a whirlwind weekend road tour and stayed three days at the BLM Tangle Lakes Campground. I traveled a loop from Anchorage on the Glenn, Taylor, Denali, and Parks Highways over about 600 miles. I experienced the overwhelming beauty and vast autumn landscapes of the Matanuska Valley, Eureka, Mendaltna Creek, Chugach and Talkeetna Mountains, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Gulkana Wild and Scenic River, Paxson Lake, the Tangle Lakes Archaeological District, Delta Wild and Scenic River, Alaska Mountain Range, Maclaren and Susitna glaciers and river corridors, Denali National Park, Denali State Park, and much more. Along the way, I visited BLM’s Glennallen Field Office, Paxson Lake Campground, Gulkana River Trail, Clearwater Creek Wayside, and Sourdough and Brushkana Creek campgrounds. I participated in the BLM-partnered Project Healing Waters weekend for recovering soldiers and their families, and met many employees from the BLM and their partner organizations.

I was almost hit by a fleeing caribou on the Denali Highway. Photo by Karen Laubenstein

I was almost hit by a fleeing caribou on the Denali Highway. Photo by Karen Laubenstein

Every turn in the road revealed something new and exciting, like migrating tundra swan, moose, caribou, arctic ground squirrels, thick spruce forests and beautiful glacial vistas. I visited tundra for the first time. I picked ripe tundra blueberries, though I slipped and dropped a gallon on the trail. I experienced Alaska mosquitoes. I spent one evening with folks of all ages around a campfire as the stars came out and I heard the story of authors David Suzuki and Sarah Ellis, The Salmon Forest. I tried my hand at flyfishing for Arctic grayling in the Delta Wild and Scenic River. I was even almost hit by a fleeing caribou on the Denali Highway.

I will never forget working at BLM-Alaska or that weekend road trip. It reinforced the pride I have about the resources BLM manages, the opportunities these lands provide and the magnificent scope of Alaska’s landscapes. I also realize I experienced only parts of what the Glennallen and Anchorage Field Offices have under their purview and it whetted my appetite to return someday to experience more of BLM-Alaska.

— Kris Long
klong@blm.gov