Hi my name is Nathan Thomson and I am the 2016 Conservation Intern for the Iditarod National Historic Trail. I am a 23 year old graduate student from Virginia who has been involved with the Student Conservation Association for the past two years. 2015 saw me living and working in Idaho, mostly for the Forest Service as a Wilderness Ranger in the Frank Church River of no Return Wilderness. My current position with the BLM is the next step in my journey through the environmental field. In about a months’ time I will begin my Master’s program at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. There I will study Political Science and Environmental Policy. I plan on using my degree and my experience with the SCA to work for the protection and expansion of public lands and equal access.
This summer has been a complete whirlwind and it is hard to believe that it was just two and a half months ago that I finished my bachelors program and left the south for the last great frontier. These months in Alaska have been productive, eye opening, and fun. In my capacity as intern for the trail I assist Kevin Keeler with day to day activities, fabricate the safety tripods, and travel into the field to work on the cabins. Getting to work in the field has been an absolute treat, especially since the land we are working on is practically inaccessible during the summer.
On our first hitch at the Old Woman and Tripod Flats cabins our team focused on repairing the Old Woman door, improving her foundation, and removing trash. At Tripod Flats I refitted the chimney and helped repair the outhouse. These opportunities in the field have given me a chance to see the Alaskan bush in a manner that most never will. From fishing Dolly Varden out of Old Woman river to tracking moose and beaver, the area is truly wild and beautiful. It is my hope that the work we did out there will positively contribute to the long term health and sustainability of the race and the trail.
Around Anchorage I have been keeping busy with reorganizing our Conex, manufacturing trail markers, and completing odd jobs around the office. In a week’s time Kevin and I will head back out into the field, this time outside of Flat. We will stage the trail markers for winter time construction, and we will apply protective coating to some of the safety cabins. Our work would not be possible without helicopter support, and the chance to view the world from 500ft up is one I do not take for granted. The time in Alaska has flown by so quickly and soon enough I will have to return to the east coast. But this experience has taught me a great deal and it has really given me clarity over what the next steps will be in my professional life. From the bike trails of Anchorage to the fishing boats of Norton Sound, this has truly been a unique experience.