Top Ten Things I Will Miss About my Corner of the West – Installment #2

By Stephanie Malin

Taking up where I left off with Installment #1 of this two-part series (so official sounding!), I’m going to dedicate this blog – one of my last with the WRDC, for now at least – to sharing what I will most miss about the West as I venture to the East Coast for the next two years.  Having adopted the West as my “home region” years ago, I now feel a deep ambivalence about leaving.  I know the move to Brown is an amazing opportunity, a wonderful chance to collect new experiences, and an adventure that must be embraced quickly given its temporary nature.  On the other hand, I’m saying goodbye to a landscape that fills me up, a community I’ve come to think of as home, and a group of people I love.  I tell myself all new opportunities happen when they do for a reason, and I know my husband and I will love our northeast adventure and then find our way back to our “home region” sooner than later.

Without any further (sappy – sorry!) delay, I share below the top five things I will miss about my corner of the West.

5) The Unique Aroma of Logan Canyon:

An odd thing to miss, perhaps.  But I will miss in nonetheless.  This has hit me several times in the last few months, since this decision was made, usually as I would exit Old Main in the evenings and take a deep breath of fresh canyon air.  Utah State University sits in the foothills of the Bear River Mountains, nestled in among the green-to-brown, sometimes blue landscape.  The winds from the canyon occasionally whip onto campus – especially during Logan’s notoriously snowy winters – but most of the time, there is a pleasant, light breeze that wafts into the valley, passing campus on its way.  It’s made its way through Logan Canyon from Bear Lake, brushing over the sage brush, off of glistening Logan River, and through the aspen trees.  The canyon smells like a deep, comforting cinnamon to me, a smell that brings instant comfort because deep breaths of it have gotten me through tough courses, comps, and some serious bike rides and hikes.  It is a lovely combination of juniper, sage, river, and wilderness that I will always love…and wish I could bottle.

4) Wildlife in Abundance:

Grand birds of prey can be seen during a daily bike ride.  Moose often amble down the mountainside from Tony Grove.  Majestic elk descend from the tallest heights during winter and feed in the valleys.  Bighorn sheep create surreal silhouettes along the ridgeline.  The Tetons, only a few hours away, boast wolves, grizzlies, wildlife galore.  I will miss driving thirty minutes from home and seeing antelopes in the distance and eagles high up above.  The West has treated my husband and I to a wonderful wildlife show while we have been here, made even more varied by Utah’s unusual and multi-faceted terrain.  In ten hours, we could go from seeing lizards to bears….Amazing!

3) The people, both serene and rugged:

The people we have met here have made the West feel like home.  We were fortunate to encounter people from around the world who called Logan their home temporarily, and living here brought us together.  The camping, hiking, biking, and other recreational opportunities created an atmosphere in which we all bonded around our love of those past times.  Outside our immediate circle of friends from USU, my husband and I met several families native to Utah or the West, families that opened their homes to us.  Through them, and in visiting rural communities for my research, I’ve learned that Western folks are largely an interesting combination of serenity and ruggedness.  The remote landscapes of rural Western communities lend people relaxed and contemplative demeanors, even as they make a living in extractive industries, ranching, or entrepreneurial endeavors.

2) Being in the thick of energy issues:

I love studying impacts of energy extraction and development, from individual-level experiences to community-level social movements.  For the next two years, I will continue to study these issues, of course, but I will feel further away from the “hotbed” of many of these controversies.  I have met memorable characters in uranium towns, have been fascinated by fracking’s outcomes, and lament the oil spills that currently plague our rural communities.  The West is the stage upon which our energy future will play out, and I plan to be back to observe it firsthand!

1)The mountains:

I grew up outside of Chicago.  While the city is gorgeous and its outskirts are pretty, green, and full of beauty, the terrain is flat as a pancake.  Our middle school clubs used to take “skiing” trips to large hills, and our young minds were blown.  I longed for mountains even as a young girl and living at 4,500 feet for six years has been a dream come true for me.  For me, the mountains exude an energy that is unparalleled…except for the surge of it I feel at the ocean.  Perhaps the coast won’t be that bad, then….

Thank you, WRDC and all of our stakeholders for letting me share the West with you for the past several years….I look forward to sharing it with you again in the future.

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July is National Park and Recreation Month

Orange Hawkweed, Douglas Island, Alaska :: (c) 2011 Linda Kruger

Orange Hawkweed, Douglas Island, Alaska :: (c) 2011 Linda Kruger

Somehow I missed June. It slipped right by. The first topic I had intended to focus on in June was going to be the weather, which seemed to be pretty unusual almost everywhere. Certainly here in Juneau it was more beautiful than we have come to expect. Then, an invasive species distracted me … in my own yard! I thought I’d write about invasive species, and I promise that I will write more on invasive plants later this month. I actually spent a couple of Saturdays trying to gain some ground against the orange hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum) that has moved into my yard and many other locations around Juneau. I think the persistent little plants are still winning … more on invasive plants and the weather in another blog.

July is National Park and Recreation Month. I hope each of you out there will help me celebrate by getting out, getting active and getting healthier! Take your friends and families along too. National Park and Recreation Month has been officially celebrated in July since 1985. Not only does this make July special this particular July is VERY special.

In case you haven’t checked out a calendar there are 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays in July! This hasn’t happened before in any of our lifetimes. In fact, it only happens once every 823 years . . . so don’t expect to see it happen again! Another interesting fact about this year (2011) is that if you take the last two digits of the year you were born and add the age you will be this year (before the end of 2011) the result will be 111 for everyone in the world. How does that work?

4th of July Fireworks, Juneau, Alaska :: (c) 2005 Linda Kruger Library

4th of July Fireworks, Juneau, Alaska :: (c) 2005 Linda Kruger Library

We will be celebrating the fourth with fireworks (weather permitting) at 11:59 on July 3, becoming the first event on July 4th. The days are so long and it is light so late into the evening that it has to be that late to be dark enough to really see them. Unfortunately sometimes clouds do get in the way and if that happens the event is delayed for a day or two. Later, during daylight hours of July 4th there are not one but two parades in recognition of the earlier days when Douglas and Juneau were two separate cities. Juneau’s parade starts first at 11:00 AM followed by the Douglas parade at 2:00 PM. That leaves enough time for parade entrants and spectators to get from one parade venue to the other. Many of the floats and vehicle entries participate in both parades, and even some of the marching groups make their way from Juneau across the bridge and into Douglas. The Douglas parade is known for its kids on decorated bicycles and other kinds of kid entries … and both parades are know for flying candy! I dare anyone to go home without candy in his or her pockets or without sampling some of it on the spot! (Trust me I’ve tried and I’ve failed year after year ….)

4th of July Parade, Juneau, Alaska :: (c) 2006 Linda Kruger

4th of July Parade, Juneau, Alaska :: (c) 2006 Linda Kruger

At 1:30 the 2-mile fun run starts at the base of the bridge on the Douglas Island side and runners run into downtown Douglas, with finishers leading the parade into town. There is a sandcastle building competition on the beach, and after the parade there are field events for people of all ages including 10 to 60-yard dashes, 3-legged races, sack races and other fun events. All participants receive $1. (No one gets rich but it is fun!) There is a deep-pit beef barbeque (and a variety of other food booths), soapbox race finals, pony rides, a dog frisbee contest, a watermelon eating contest and live music and dancing. In other words, there is fun for all. We often walk the two miles from our house to Douglas and leave our car at home. Unfortunately again this year the weatherman is calling for showers. Here in Southeast Alaska we are used to wet weather. Folks pull on their Xtratuf rubber boots and rain jackets and head out to enjoy the festivities in spite of the weather. You’ll see the mayor, legislators, even the governor out in Xtratufs.

4th of July Sandcastle Building, Douglas, Alaska :: (c) 2006 Linda Kruger

4th of July Sandcastle Building, Douglas, Alaska :: (c) 2006 Linda Kruger

Circling back to our celebration of National Park and Recreation Month, following the parades, many of the days fun events, the sandcastle competition, field events, concert and food booths take place in Savikko Park, managed by the City and Borough of Juneau Parks and Recreation Department. In Juneau we are fortunate to have a variety of parks and trails managed by the City and Borough, Alaska State Parks, and the US Forest Service. Residents and visitors alike will be enjoying a variety of activities—some are organized like the 4th of July events at Savikko Park and others are informal family and friend events—at parks facilities around the borough. Some will walk, hike or bike, others will arrive by car, and some will travel by kayak or boat.

What is your favorite 4th of July memory? How will you get out and experience a park or trail? Think about how to celebrate National Park and Recreation Month. Please take a moment to share your favorite park or trail experience.