This featured image tells two stories.  One is that someone struggled for forty-five minutes in the knee-deep mud before pulling themselves out. The second is that the blob of mud next to the bottom left-hand corner is a hiking boot that was encased in that very spot for a whole day. It turns out that surveying shorebirds can be a difficult and messy job that can result in having to hose down two jackets, two pants, a sweater, hiking boots, socks, binoculars, and your bag before cleaning the passenger’s and driver’s seat of the vehicle you had used. Even with all that struggle and cleaning work, I was unable to identify the birds that eluded my sight and it was frustrating to have that kind of result to report. Alaska, however, never fails to surprise me, and allows me to witness a secret world high in the mountains. Climbing over 1,500 feet of steep wooden stairs and platforms, which were wrapped with moss and lichen, I20160330_110500 was able to view with a co-worker, Jackie, a beautiful land above the clouds on Institute Creek Mountain. The hike was excruciating and I could label it as one of the top three hardest workouts of my life, but the open scenery, the piles of snow, and the various of mountain plants around us were truly amazing. Not only that, but we found evidence of wolves passing through, and my excitement went on overdrive to know my favorite animal was only a five-minute drive and over 1,500 feet above from the Wrangell District office. Then, on March 31, 2016, I was able to witness 260 Black Turnstones, as if Alaska was giving me a make-up day.

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