Issue Date: July 28, 2008
ACS In Alaska
I am writing this on my second day back in the office after a two-week vacation in Alaska with my wife, Jan. It was our first visit to the 49th state. We visited a ridiculously small proportion of that vast state and still came away utterly awed by the landscape, the people, and the incredible flora and fauna of this northernmost portion of our great country.
That said, an exercise in degrees of separation—otherwise defined as the smallness of the world—was a highlight of our trip. It turns out that ACS is everywhere!
The last stop on our trip was four nights at Camp Denali in Denali National Park, home of Mount McKinley and a wide array of wildlife including grizzly bears, moose, Dall sheep, caribou, foxes, and golden eagles, just to name a few of the species we saw during our stay.
Denali National Park is, by design, not a particularly people-friendly park. It is wilderness and its raison d'être is preserving the ecosystems encompassed by the park, not making them easily accessible to humans. In its 6 million-acre expanse, there's one 90-mile road, only the first 15 miles of which are paved and open to personal vehicles. After that, you take Park Service school buses that will take you anywhere along the narrow dirt road, or buses to one of the four wilderness lodges at Kantishna, at the end of the road. It is a four- to seven-hour drive in, depending on how many stops you make to look at wildlife.
Camp Denali is one of the lodges. It is a lovely place, but it is not for everybody. There are 18 comfortable cabins, but the amount of electricity generated at the camp with a diesel generator, solar panels, and small hydroelectric generator is limited, so the cabins don't have electricity. They also don't have running water. Each cabin has a private outhouse, and there are very nice shower rooms and a dining hall where wonderful breakfasts and dinners are served to the 40 or so guests staying at the camp at any one time. After breakfast, the staff sets out a spread of bread, lunchmeat and cheese, spreads, peanut butter and jelly, fruit, and trail mix for people to prepare a lunch for themselves to take while hiking, biking, canoeing, or whatever.
As Jan and I were settling onto the bus for the drive to Camp Denali early Monday afternoon, I heard a voice behind me say, "Hello there, Rudy Baum." I turned, startled that anyone knew me, and saw John Russell, a chemist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., and the chair of the ACS Joint Board-Council Committee on Publications and of the C&EN Editorial Board. I was dumbfounded, as were Jan and John's wife, Kathy. We all started laughing at the strangeness of our meeting in this very out-of-the-way place heading for the same remote wilderness lodge.
Wait, there's more. During our stay at Camp Denali, we also met Marisa Buzzeo, who has a Ph.D. in chemistry from Oxford University and who had just—the previous Friday—completed a postdoc with Jackie Barton at Caltech. Marisa starts as an assistant chemistry professor at Barnard College on July 28. She was in Alaska with her friend Brian Zeglis, who is working on his Ph.D. in the Barton group.
The four of us and Jan and Kathy took one long hike together during our stay. One-third of the group on that hike consisted of ACS members—that's us on the saddle between Stony Dome and Gravel Mountain! In fact, from our experience, Camp Denali seems to appeal to scientists, engineers, and teachers, as a disproportionate number of the people we met that week fell into one of those categories.
Thanks for reading.
Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.
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