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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Potter Marsh and Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

October 6th, 2013 · No Comments

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On my way to visit my friends Marveen and Wayne in Nikiski, Alaska, I passed through the state’s biggest city without stopping. With a 2010 population of 291,826, Anchorage contains more than 41 percent of the 49th state’s people.

But it couldn’t contain me. I didn’t drive 3,226 miles to Anchorage from my home in Boulder to see the city. I had already seen enough of it when I visited my friend John in 2009 just after he had become the senior pastor of Saint John United Methodist Church there. Two years later John married Vicky, who lived a few doors down from him. At their wedding I met Vicky’s sister, Marveen.

Instead of stopping in Anchorage this time, I took a break 13 miles south at Potter Marsh, which John had introduced me to four years earlier. On this trip there I saw one of the most remarkable creatures in the world.

An Arctic Tern Finally Rests at Potter Marsh

An Arctic Tern Finally Rests at Potter Marsh

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I didn’t realize what a remarkable bird that Arctic terns are until I got back home and was reading the chapter on migration in Bird Watcher’s Bible yesterday. Every year these birds make a 49,000 mile roundtrip from the Arctic to Antarctica and back, the longest journey of any creature on Earth. And I thought that I took a long trip, and mine wasn’t even self-propelled!

My next stop was 38 miles further at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, which sits at the head of the 40 mile long Turnagain Arm. This extension of Cook Inlet is remarkable in its own right. It has the largest tidal range in the United States, a mean of 30 feet. The strange name “Turnagain” is a result of the frustration that Captain James Cook felt in his 1778 search for the Northwest Passage. The expedition first attempted to find that fabled passage by traveling the inlet’s Knik Arm. When that led only to a river, the expedition tried this arm, which also led only to a river. “Turn again,” Captain Cook reportedly said in resignation.

Of course, the Northwest Passage doesn’t exist. Yet. At the rate that global warming is proceeding, however, it will soon, although it will be further north.

Then, at Marveen’s recommendation I went to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. It is a nonprofit organization that takes in orphaned or injured animals, providing them with spacious enclosures and quality care. The organization’s website says, “Amateur photographers have the opportunity to take award winning photographs, while animals display their natural, wild behavior.”

While I don’t expect to win any awards for the photos I took there, I did see and photograph some animals I had never seen before, including this pussycat.

The Lynx Is the Only Cat Native to Alaska

The Lynx Is the Only Cat Native to Alaska

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To get the shot of the animal below I had to lie down on the ground, which some people thought was funny. But I got the photo and they didn’t!

A Porcupine Sticks Its Tongue Out at Me

A Porcupine Sticks Its Tongue Out at Me

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I have now seen quite a few of the animals below, which I have identified with ever since a girlfriend told me in the 1970s that I reminded her of one. Of course, I had black hair then.

A Couple of Black Bears Determine Who's Boss

A Couple of Black Bears Determine Who's Boss

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Three hours later I arrived at the home of Marveen and Wayne. My Alaska vacation had truly started.

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