Where Will I Be Working This Summer?
DENALI, ALASKA- I’ll be spending the summer working at McKinley Creekside Cabins & Café, a small boutique lodge & restaurant 13 miles south of the entrance to Denali National Park. Creekside is one of the largest privately-run employers in the area, though this isn’t saying much at all since the area around Denali isn’t all that large…in fact, most are surprised to find out that there isn’t even a city, village, or town within twenty miles of the park entrance. Cantwell is thirty miles to the south, and Healy is fifteen miles north. All that exists at the mouth of Denali are a few large resort hotels (Princess, and the Grande Denali Lodge, to name a few), and a slew of tour companies fighting each other tooth and nail for the business of hundreds of thousands of visitors over the hundred day season.
There are a handful of independently run businesses, but the bulk of the seasonal employees work for a large employer like Princess (of cruise-ship notoriety). However, the opportunity to work for two local businesswomen, Holly and Tracey, is unique in the fact that I’ll have the opportunity to meet members of the local community, and really get a chance to see how Alaskans live. I’m fortunate in that I don’t think I’d get this chance working for a larger company.
Creekside is situated on a few gorgeous acres of Alaskan bush, directly off the George Parks Highway (or highway 3, as some call it). The thirty or so seasonal employees working here have come from all over the country to spend their summer washing dishes, selling tours, serving guests, digging holes, making breakfast, and any number of other odd jobs that they’ll be paid to do to spend four months in the pristine environs of the Alaskan bush…though this might be a good time to point out that we collectively live in what can best be described as college dormitory in the middle of the woods. From here on out, I'll refer to it as "housing". Two floors, two common rooms, shared bathrooms, bunk-style bedding, and bare furnishings will likely facilitate lively conversation, sleepless nights, and the overstepping of boundaries. I'll likely refer to living "in the wild" quite often, but that's hardly the case. I can shower daily with hot water, unlike many other people that live around here.
There is a single hiking trail that leads into the wilderness behind the dormitory, snaking quickly off through the woods and ending up at a juncture a half-mile down affectionately known as the power lines (due to the large power lines that tower overhead, quite a feat of engineering seeing as they bring electricity from Anchorage to Fairbanks, a distance exceeding three hundred miles). From there, you’ll find yourself with your choice of trails spanning as far as you’re likely willing to hike—just don’t forget to bring bear spray. It's one reminder that even though we have heating, we do live in the wild.
I look forward to exploring the grounds around Creekside, meeting the wacky people that have decided to spend the warmest months of the year in a cold-weather climate, and learning more about myself as I live in the most remote environment I've ever found myself. That's all for now.