Trip report by Friends volunteer Justin Simonton
This summer I volunteered for the weed pull along the Dalton Highway. I am a 16-year-old rising-Junior at West High School in Anchorage Alaska. The team consisted of a Chief Biologist, five Friends (including my grandfather), and three interns. We were looking for two specific types of invasive plants: Bird Vetch and White Sweet Clover. These species grow around river crossings. It is a threat because the rivers and streams along the Dalton run into the Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge. The seeds of these plants are transported along the Dalton mainly by vehicle traffic. This makes the job even more important because of the sheer number of big rigs taking supplies and equipment to and from the oil fields on the North Slope.
We worked for five days with the first and last day dedicated to traveling 260 miles between Fairbanks and Coldfoot. A typical day started at eight in the morning and ended at five in the evening. We lived in dry cabins and packed our lunches every morning; usually a sandwich, some chips, and maybe an apple. Sometimes we would travel hundreds of miles and comb each section of the river in two-man groups and come back around to clean up what the first group might have missed. In the evening, we ate at the Coldfoot Camp buffet and there was always something new to eat. After dinner, we would head back to the cabins and read or talk until we would try to go to sleep despite the sun never setting. My grandfather and I had such trouble that we put up towels in front of our window to block the sun.
This was my second year volunteering for this project. The only difference between this year and last year was that there appeared to be much less White Sweet Clover and Bird Vetch. This made me hope that our efforts were really helping protect the refuge.
Additionally, during my past year at West High School I made a presentation to my English class describing last year’s invasive species project and urged my classmates to join Friends and volunteer for future projects.
Hopefully, given my busy upcoming academic schedule, I will be able to continue to volunteer to Friends in future projects.