Monday, May 12, 2008

Anchorage Creek Cleanup

I remember the first weekend I spent in Alaska after moving here. It was April 12th, 2005. Brian and I were staying in Wasilla and the one hour drive from Anchorage to the Valley was amazing. I remember looking up to the mountains and thinking of the endless possibilities for adventure in them.

But during that month, whenever we drove into Anchorage I couldn't help but think, "Wow, this is a dirty city. This is Alaska?" The truth is that post break up (or Spring) in Anchorage is a dirty, dirty time. All of the garbage, gravel, dirt that has been littered over the city in the six months of winter has melted out and is just staring at us. Before the trees and flowers bloom the city is gray and brown. It's an awful time to visit Anchorage.

I recall having a drink in a bar one night early on, and the bar tender told me and Brian, "Just wait. One of these days you'll wake up and it will be like Bah! in your face, the city will be clean and the trees and flowers will have bloomed. It happens really fast. You just have to wait for it."

So we waited, and we started seeing these BP trash bags all over the city. People were cleaning up. The entire community was helping to clean the city. The sun was shining about 16 hours a day and one day we drove into town, and saw buds on the trees. On the way back the trees started to bloom this bright green color all over the place. The next day in town we saw flowers blooming everywhere and the grass was green. The city was clean. The bartender was right.

So every year around this time, we wait. It's a time full of anxiety, because the trails are still wet and muddy and not bike friendly, they city is dirty, the grass is brown. Hiking is not that enjoyable because most of the trails are messy. We know any day the city will be filled with tourists, everyone will be talking about how many salmon they caught last weekend, which family members are visiting, where they camped, or telling some story about a bear encounter. That is what summer in Alaska is all about, but not yet. It's like waiting for the first snow in the fall. Is it going to happen this year?

This year instead of waiting around I decided to help out in the cleanup. My company got a group together to participate in the Creek Cleanup around Anchorage. I rode my bike down the Campbell Creek trail down to Taku Lake Saturday morning and collected trash and recyclables from the bottom of the lake and the surrounding park for hours. It felt great to be a part of the cleanup rather than just waiting around. I will definitely be back next year.

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