Life Again at the Hardware Store

Leanne Phelps compiled this photo essay for our blog back in late July, 2014. I hope you'll enjoy this snapshot of life in the summer at the Old Hardware Store. It was a pleasure to host Leanne at the WMC while she conducted her research for her masters dissertation. We were especially lucky to have her exceptional eye behind a camera.

By Leanne Phelps

As you may well know, I’m staying in McCarthy again this summer to do my masters dissertation on human-bear interaction. While that’s my primary focus, I frequently find myself distracted by vibrant people and places, of which there is no shortage here. I was in McCarthy four years ago on the WMC college program, and decided it was about time to come back. It’s been great to get a different vantage point this time around, and I’ve been feeling proud to be part of the WMC crew this year, which is fitting well within the local community. It’s getting close to that time where I’m supposed to be heading out of town and back to London. As anyone who returns to McCarthy knows, there are a lot of reasons to feel uneasy about leaving. Meeting locals and talking about bears has been more than great. If you want to read about that you’ll have to wait a little bit longer, but in the meantime, here’s a bit about what goes on at the old hardware store.

(Ginny, Kathryn, Claire)

(Ginny, Kathryn, Claire)

These are the official WMC interns (a.k.a. The Wrangell Mountains Center Girls) this year. At first they were uneasy about the slew of photos I was taking, but I think they're used to it now. They enjoy a variety variety of activities including gardening, cooking, reading, hanging out around town, sauna-ing and bonfires. They especially love bonfires.

It seems like there are always tiny, dark green, iridescent swallows flying around. And babies. Baby swallows everywhere. I’ve certainly taken to them, and not just because they battle a small percentage of the mosquitoes. Sometimes they look like puppets, sometimes penguins.

(Rachel, Bryan)

(Rachel, Bryan)

Rachel is the Wrangell Mountain Center Kitchen Manager. If you want a chat and good food, pop into the WMC kitchen and she’ll probably be there. She’s been awesome about incorporating subsistence into our meals, like the fiddleheads pictured above, which she fried in tempura batter and served alongside garlic-chili mayonnaise. She also caught and prepared delicious salmon and shared it with all of us.

Bryan is the Wrangell Mountain Center maintenance man, and always a fun person to talk to. His favorite tool is the water pump, or at least that’s the tool he probably spends the most time using. He’s constantly improving the facilities at the hardware store, and is always a good person to have around. I think we just wish he was around all the time.

Kristin took us out on a group trip to the Kennicott glacier earlier in the season. We found glacial pools, a giant moulin and some tourists. It was fun.

This captures how unimpressed the interns were with my “BS” card playing strategy, which is to call BS every time and collect all the cards.

So the season may be drawing to a close and I may be leaving soon, but it always feels like McCarthy will just keep going no matter what, and that keeps a little pocket of contentment inside of me. I don’t know when, but I’ll be back.

To see the results of Leanne's research and several high quality and informative movies about human-bear interaction in the McCarthy-Kennicott valley, check out Leanne's YouTube channel.