For December, we wanted to do something a bit different amidst the hustle and bustle that has become a hallmark of the holiday season. Enduring serial years of the pandemic and political setbacks in a time when we need immediate climate action has taken a toll on our community. We wanted to use this time to reacquaint ourselves with y’all and share what keeps us connected to our work and the responsibility to protect what we love.
Here are some of the ways we connect to the Tikahtnu (Cook Inlet) watershed and what we are grateful for.
Sue Mauger · Science & Executive Director
I love to head to the hills whenever I get a chance. Reaching the alpine after hiking through forest shadows, being teased by glimpses of broad views, and sensing a breeze to keep the mosquitos down is worth every upward step.
During a recent summer trip into the alpine, just west of Nelchina, I stood on the very edge of our Cook Inlet watershed. I saw caribou and bears in the distance, chattering ground squirrels and our beloved dog running with joy. We searched for ammonites and berries. And when the rain started to fall from the vast expanse of sky and trickles headed downhill to fill our streams and wetlands, providing the cool, clear water our salmon need, I felt connected to both the top and bottom of this place so worthy of our attention and care.
David Knight · Community Engagement Coordinator
I will never forget the first time I caught a trout using a fly. It was a sunny and bright June afternoon in the clear, clean waters of the Russian River. I didn’t even land the little rainbow trout; I just felt the tug, watched my line go taut and then zip beneath a sunken log. The fish jumped out of the water on the other side of the log, and spit the fly faster than I could think to set the hook. That was the beginning of a 20-year (and counting) obsession with fly fishing. When I reflect on clean water and healthy habitat within the Cook Inlet watershed, memories of this perfect day race through my mind. It is humbling to think that we have access to an abundance of wild and beautiful places, right here in our backyard, like the Russian River. I am thankful every time I wade into any of the rivers and streams within the watershed. I am also tremendously grateful for all those who support the work we do to protect the Cook Inlet watershed and the life it sustains; without your support our work would not be possible!
Quentin Simeon · Operations Director
Our family lives on the north fork of the Anchor River. We witness the many attitudes and phases as the river changes throughout the year. Sometimes the river is full and happy. Sometimes it’s shallow and warm. Sometimes it’s bubbling with glee. Sometimes it’s angry in the spring when it swells with torrential aggression. We see turbid rising water after a solid drenching, and we see all the life that depends on its health. We have a hungry mink neighbor who fishes the river and even ate one of our chickens. We see moose bring their calves to drink and splash, the goldeneye ducks who swim and hunt in the eddies with their train of ducklings, and we hear the wolves, owls, and eagles that are sustained on the life surrounding the river. We have been witness to the minimal escapement of kings and coho that pass by our home to find spawning beds. We see the water rise and fall throughout the year, depending on its mood for that day. We love falling asleep to the soft babbling when the river is sleepy. The river gifts us with sights, sounds, and experiences that remind us of our relationship and responsibility as its protector.
Bridget Maryott · Digital Engagement Lead
One of the ways I practice being grateful is through foraging in the Tikahtnu watershed. During the warm months, I enjoy long meandering walks where I appreciate the rich diversity of our fungal landscape and the mycelium networks that connects life sometimes unseen. Thinking about the relationships between mycelium networks and the surrounding plants reminds me of my work at Inletkeeper, connecting different people in our community and helping them communicate together and thrive in our mutual landscape. I always do my best to tread lightly and be present with every footstep, not to compact the soil. I ask permission before I harvest and give thanks after, as this is a gift. I am sure to tap the edible mushrooms that I gather to release any spores and collect them in a container that allows them to spread as I walk. I also never take more than I can eat and pass on a few to those who can’t forage on their own. Foraging fungi reminds me that no individual can accomplish everything alone, and the interconnectedness of our communities makes our movement strong.
Taylor Kendal · Communications Director
Growing up in Ohio, I found my way to Alaska by way of Oregon. After college, I headed west and started planting roots in Oregon. Alaska was never part of the plan, or somewhere I envisioned myself. As I approach four years between Anchorage and Homer, I now struggle to imagine myself anywhere else. With no familial ties to Alaska, I waded through strong feelings of being a guest on these new lands. While hiking, fishing, foraging, hunting, skiing, and paddling, I’ve seen and experienced things that have reinforced this place’s uniqueness and our shared responsibility to protect that. I am grateful for the opportunity to deeply engage with place, and to provide for myself and those I love from the abundance around while living with the seasons. Even as a guest who is still fostering a relationship with the lands I reside on, I strive to practice being a good one.
Satchel Pondolfino · Lower Inlet Organizer
On the edge of McNeil Canyon, tucked away at the end of the road in Fritz Creek, Alaska, sits the cabin I call home. For nearly all of the (almost) 6 years I’ve worked for Cook Inletkeeper, I’ve woken up and looked out across at the same, ever-changing view of Kachemak Bay. My appreciation for home wells up in the morning light. This little corner of the watershed nourishes me. Growing with the land, here I have learned to xc ski, grow a garden, smoke fish, and live in community with neighbors of all sorts. In the summer, melodic honks of the sandhill cranes and rustling of moose and porcupine combine with the songbirds, neighborhood dogs, and 4-wheeling passer-byers to remind me to be a good neighbor. It’s quieter in the winter, but when the stars are bright, and it is still, we hear the hoot hoot of an owl. During my walks and skis around the property, I often think of how lucky I am, and I wonder if I will ever live in a place so special again, but I’ve grown up in this watershed, and I know that if it is tended well, beauty and life spring up around every bend.
Ben Boettger · Energy Organizer
Many of the people I know in our watershed fall into one of two categories: those who ski all winter to stay fit for hiking in the summer, and those who hike all summer to stay fit for skiing in the winter. I’m in the first category, a hiker first and a casual skier second. I appreciate both ways of exploring the outdoors, but prefer the one that requires less gear to buy and maintain. This fall, however, I broke that rule in a big way by picking up a used kayak. In the upcoming summer, I’m looking forward to still another perspective on the land, seeing otherwise inaccessible regions of coastline. Looking down on mirror-like lakes from the top of Hideout Hill or Cecil Rhode, or up at the Kachemak coast, there is more than enough to be grateful for in our watershed.
Robbi Mixon · Local Foods Director
Last April, an early spring road trip led me to Talkeetna, where I sat on a snowy river bank, in awe of Denali. The thaw had just begun and the water was flowing heavily. I closed my eyes for some quiet moments, listening to the rhythm of the river, feeling the cold air rise from its service, and reflecting on the sacred water cycle. I’m forever grateful for how these waters flow effortlessly from North America’s largest mountain to reach Kachemak Bay, nourishing salmon habitats, wild animals, humans, and gardens, all along the way. Water is truly life.
Kyra Harty · Local Foods Coordinator
When my partner and I were starting to make plans to move away from Lake Superior and contemplating where to go, we had a simple punch list of what we wanted: beach, mountains, adventure, and I specifically wanted to learn more about growing and harvesting food. When we arrived in Homer December 2016, with only two tote-fulls of winter, work, and outdoor gear, the plan wasn’t to stay indefinitely. But after a few months, it sunk in that we could explore the Cook Inlet watershed our whole lives and only scratch the surface of what it provides. We were hooked, and six years later our outdoor gear has outgrown the totes, we have freezers full of pork and moose; and I can identify and use many wild plants and mushrooms found in Alaska. It is an honor and privilege to have the opportunity to work, play, and grow in this big, wild, and diverse ecosystem.
Kaitlin Vadla · Central Peninsula Regional Director
I enjoy this place we call home every day, whether on a midnight midsummer beach walk or a midday winter solstice saunter down the driveway (saunter sounds more dignified than waddle, which is really the only way to describe how I’m walking these days as a very pregnant lady). It’s the everyday stuff that fills my spirit: magma-colored sunsets through spruce boughs, the old birch in the yard that bends closer to kiss the earth each year, my favorite wiggly grove of adolescent aspen that I wave to on my daily dog walk… the most beautiful thing though, and what I’m truly grateful for in the watershed, are the people who live here. Your beauty, passion, and selflessness make me teary-eyed daily: when you go out of your way to drop off compost even at -20 below, when you bring your teens to volunteer and they blow all our minds with their creativity and insight, when you write Dr. Suess style rhymes about the Pebble mine so that kids of all ages can hear the truth, when you work your butts off to build businesses that give back to the community… YOU, all of you Watershed Walkers who live here in Cook Inlet, I am grateful to walk with you and do all I can in this little lifetime to leave our home better than we found it.
Thank you for reading. We are able to do this work because of member support from concerned friends like you. Please donate today to protect Cook Inlet for our future generations.