Sunday, October 17, 2010

Greetings from, well, Anchorage!

It has been well over six months since I've graced my blog with key strokes. Sorry about that, if you found yourself missing reading my ramblings. Since this blog thing is suppose to be about Alaska and my experiences up here, I figure it's appropriate that I continue where I left off. Let's see where was that again? Oh yeah, it was mid-April and I was eagerly anticipating the arrival of spring, only to be disappointed by the newly fallen foot or more of snow. Lucky for me, and anyone else who doesn't care for that white nonsense that falls from the sky, it didn't stick for long.

A week or so after my last post, our best friend from California, "Colin," arrived in Anchorage to join us in our relocation to Denali National Park for the summer. We hung out here in "the city" for a week and then we loaded up the trusty black beast (after a trip to Costco in which we somehow ended up with a 30 pack of un-rung-in Coors Lite...nice) and began our 238.4 mile drive up the George Parks Highway. Destination: The Grande Denali Lodge. More on that later.

This five, yes five, hour drive took us through the towns of Wasilla, Houston, Willow, Talkeetna, and Cantwell. Maybe in that order, maybe not. Either way, it's close to accurate. The weather was nice (meaning there was none) and I drove the whole way at about 50-55 mph. Reason for this snail pace was to enjoy the gorgeous Alaska scenery which included an unobstructed Mt. McKinley (Denali) and many rivers, gulches, other snow capped mountains, etc. We did make one stop so the boys could shoot a rifle. . .


So, we arrive in "glitter gulch" (a term coined by locals, so I'm told, of the area just outside the park where all the hotels/restaurants are located). This is where we would be living for the next 4 months. We arrived a few days earlier than the majority of the seasonal workers and because of this, we got to help clean the restaurant where we'd be working. This was actually fun, because Wiley, Colin and I got to set up the bar how we deemed fit. This task, though fun, was challenging because whoever designed the bar at The Alpenglow (located inside the Grande Denali Lodge) had obviously just graduated kindergarten and didn't know the first thing about bars or working in one for that matter. That's neither here nor there.

Part of the joy of relocating to a somewhat remote location to work, was that we got to live on site. This was a new experience for me and the boys. The hotel/restaurant was situated high on the side of Sugarloaf Mountain and employee housing was located slightly further down on the bluffs...coincidentally adjacent to The Denali Bluffs Hotel (the other hotel ran by the same company). And yes, we worked there, too.

Maybe a week after our arrival to "glitter gulch" we started to see other workers trickle in. A vast majority of these workers were from Serbia and Bulgaria. Turns out, Serbians and Bulgarians are -for lack of betters adjectives at the moment- friggin' awesome people! We ended up making so many friends from these foreign lands that I think a trip to these places for a visit is in order! Yes indeed. Later, we'd meet people from Moldova, The Dominican Republic, Macedonia, Ukraine...that's all I can think of at this time. They were all such interesting people. Thank goodness for Facebook, am I right?

So, working at the Grande/Bluffs was "a'ight." Our bosses and co-workers really made the whole waiting on crotchity ol' folks bearable. My questions right now are, "Why don't young people come visit Alaska," and if they do, "Why don't they come to Denali?" Just sayin'.

We didn't make the big bucks this summer as we had hoped, but you couldn't put a price on the experience. That's my opinion. I feel that Wiley and I lucked out and had the most awesome neighbors we could have hoped for. Colin and CJ shared a bathroom with us and next door were Tim & Araceli (a couple who had returned to Alaska to work another season). Building C was full of F&B staff, and bartenders in particular. Just across the porch were Jared and Ryan ("The Robinsons" as they were so affectionately categorized); brothers from Kansas whom Wiley and I had both worked with at the Embassy Suites in Anchorage. Jared and Ryan were, well, Jared and Ryan. Special, they are. We'll leave it at that. Having all these folks as neighbors made the summer a fantasic one. It wasn't just these guys however, it was the collection of beings that congregated on our porch nearly every night that helped make countless memories.

So far, I've only talked about the grounds and the people of our summer work place. I haven't even mentioned the park! So here we go...

Remember that this is from my perspective. I didn't get to see the park as many did because I never ventured further than we were allowed to drive. The first time into the park, we were able to drive in 30 miles. Later, once the toutists, AKA "Blue Hairs," AKA "Crotchity ol' folks" arrived, we could only drive to Savage River (15 miles). On this first trip, Colin, Wiley and I saw a mecca, a slew, a glorious variety of wildlife! Such wildlife included; a grizzly bear on the side of the road, moose, ptarmagains, and a lynx! It was my first but not last time seeing a grizzly bear in the wild. It was, however, my first and last time this summer that I'd laid eyes on a lynx. Oh well, I live in Alaska year round. There will be more opportunities.

The park is beautiful and wild and one of my absolute favorite things to do this past summer (besides trying in vain to make Brian's hair look like Edward Cullen's) was to just drive in those 15 miles by myself -usually after work- and take in the wonder of where I was.

Once August rolled around, it was time to start saying farewell to our new friends. Boy, I tell ya it was really hard to say bye to some people. But it was also hard to say bye to this new way of life that we'd discovered. It flew by, but will never be forgotten. Would I return for another season in Denali? You betcha! But it's the stunning backdrop that calls me back; the rainbows over the mountains after a fleeting rainstorm, the dramatic sunsets after midnight, the changing colors of the trees as they ready for winter, the pristine air, the wildlife! That's what will bring me back, not the crotchity ol' folks.

Perhaps throughout my time in Alaska and my returns to this blog, I'll share more stories of my summer in Denali. Each story could be pages and pages long. Next time, though, I want to talk about our crazy adventure in Wrangell St-Elias. 'Til next time, y'all! <3

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thanks for following my blog, Momma!

Sooooo...yeah. Last night I was all giddy because I thought spring was here. Let's just say I woke up this morning to a white, WHITE Anchorage. I've heard from a couple of different people (guy at the gas station, and a worker in a sportsman's shop) that we're going to get 10+ inches of snow today; and this isn't counting what fell last night, which was about 8 inches.

I should have kept my mouth shut.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


It's mid April now, and the days are getting longer. We are up to about 14 hours of daylight a day and gaining 5-6 minutes every day. It is 10:10pm right now and I am looking at an orange horizon outside the window of our studio. It's hard to get use to all the daylight. 7:00am looks like 10:00am. 10:00pm looks like 7:00pm. I really can't complain at all. I really like this time of year, despite a few things. Spring is in the air, along with all the dust and allergins. All of the vehicles on the road are covered in dirt--almost to the point that you can't make out what the heck they are. The lower half of our Suburban is covered in a thin layer of dirt, and there is absolutley no point in washing it, for it will be back in the same condition in a matter of hours.

I have observed other signs of spring--the several feet of snow and several inches of ice in Anchorage have receeded dramatically (and I say "dramatically" because it happened fast). I've seen ducks and Canadian geese in the area, too. Why are they here if spring isn't around the corner? Also, it's been warm (if you consider 48 degrees warm). Last week it snowed for two days and to my surprise and joy, it did not stick.

While I'm on the subject of recent events, I may as well mention this (though it has nothing to do with spring): We've been feeling little earthquakes once or twice a week. We had a 4.6 which was centered somewhere near Wasilla last week, and a few days ago another one of the same magnitude about 110 miles east of here. The little ones are exciting. I'm hoping that that's all we feel.

That's all for now.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Changing the major...

So, if you know me on a personal level (or any level for that matter) you are aware that I'm currently attending the University of Alaska in Anchorage. I'm creeping ever so slowly to my goal of obaining that damn bachelor's degree. I'm currently an Elementary Education major; reasons being I love children, I want to be influential to future generations and I know I'd be a damn good teacher. BUT- I've been thinking lately of changing my major to English Literature. What can you do with that degree? Good question. Bartend, I guess.

I've been pondering my future a lot as of late and I've come to realize that I am really just after the piece of paper that proves I graduated from college. In the long run, the piece of paper isn't going to matter and I won't be taking it with me where ever I end up after I die. It will be the most expensive piece of paper I've ever laid hands on, but so-help-me it will be mine!

I don't want to be married to a career, I just want to wander for the next 10+ years. If I do decide to settle down somewhere, I'd still like to teach (high school English). I've chosen this subject to study because looking back on my childhood and teenage years, I loved to read and write! I have gotten away from writing and I am sad about it. Same could be said with me and music. But I was always a better writer than I was a musician. I'm changing my major and going down a different road so that I may hone my writing skills and appreciate the great works of others. Hopefully, 3 of my teachers will be proud; My 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. King (I use to always leave short stories on her desk); my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Pickett (loved one of my poems so much she still uses it in her lessons); and my 8th grade teacher Mrs. Lavender (poor thing had to read the longest stories and poems ever scribbled). Thanks, Mrs. Lavender, for the inscription in the back of my yearbook wishing me luck with my writing career; though I never expressed wanting to have one.

All that said, I know it has nothing to do with Alaska. After all, this little blog is suppose to be my account of what I see and experience up here. Right now (this minute), that is nothing. Perhaps tomorrow I will report back with details of the snowboarding adventure we're going on!

I hope whoever is reading this has a lovely night.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Some Blogger I Am!

Well, howdy once again! I know it's been a few months since I've graced this site with my randomness, but I'm here now and you can all just chillax. Things up here have been progressing day to day, inch by inch. Spring semester has started and it's going to be a relatively easy one. My anthropology professor is helping out in Haiti right now, so I won't be seeing her for a few weeks. Though I like the lady, I like not driving to Eagle River for her class even more.

Let's see, work is fine. I am bartending a few days a week and serving still. Sometimes I am in roomservice, so I sit around and wait for people that are too lazy to come down to the restaurant to call and order something. I'm not complaining though because that's an automatic 21% gratuity (thank you, lazy people).

Today was a warm day! I think the temperature got up to about 34 degrees F. Snow and ice have begun to melt, only to freeze again over night. I'm also starting to notice that the days are getting longer. There is still a little bit of light outside at 5pm, when just a few weeks ago the sun was setting at 3:30pm and rising at 10:03am!

Wiley and I took a little drive down the Seward Highway past Beluga Point. I realize this means nothing to most of you. Driving south on the Seward Highway will eventually get you to the Kenai Peninsula where Homer and well, Kenai, are located. It's a gorgeous drive and even that is an understatement.

This summer, we're going up to Denali to work at a remote resort. Our best friend, Colin, is coming too. I'm very much looking forward to bartending up there because that means major money for the ol' bank account and an amazing experience to boot! We can potentially make so much money up there, we won't have to work until it's time to go back. How lucky we are to have landed such a job! Most of the people we'll be serving have saved their whole lives to take this trip and there we'll be getting paid to see the same things! I'll be sure to keep you folks updated from Denali (if they have internet).

It was cloudy here in Anchorage today. That means we couldn't see Mt. McKinley (sometimes that's the highlight of my day; driving over the Tudor overpass and looking north just to see the mammoth mountain off in the distance. Even from 160 miles away Mt. McKinley trumps the other mountains. And it occurred to me the other day that we can only see the tip of it from Anchorage! I can't wait to see the entire thing.)

Okay folks, I'm going to end this one here and maybe I'll see you here again in a few months.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Brisk, Clear Sunday...

Today was one of the clearest days I've seen since we've been here. We could see Mt. McKinley (aka "Denali," 20320 feet) from town!

So I've heard from multiple sources that Mt. Diablo in the Bay Area of California has the 2nd farthest vantage point in the world, next to Mt. Kilimanjaro. If that is the case, I wonder where Flat Top Mountain ranks. Flat Top is just east of Anchorage, and though we didn't make it to the summit today, there were views from the ascent that rival the views from Mt. Diablo.

But- that's from my perspective.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Anchorage Observations

Okay- so I wanted to take a second and talk a little bit about the "Municipality" of Anchorage for those of you curious about this city. I will do this in the form of a list (mostly of things that I've observed).

  • Moose have no qualms about wandering throughout the city.
  • The temperatures in the summer (and so I've heard about the winter) are rather mild, considering that most people think that it's always freezing.
  • The population of Anchorage is roughly a third of the population of the entire state.
  • If you drive just 20 minutes out of town, you feel like you are a million miles from civilization.
  • The Chugach Mountains can be seen from pretty much everywhere in town (except on foggy days) and they lie to the east and south of the city.
  • There is an inlet (Cook Inlet) to the west of the city.
  • Anchorage suffered the worst earthquake in US history in 1964. 9.2 on the richter scale! There is a park approptiately named "Earthquake Park" in town that has been untouched so that people can see the extreme damage to the land.
  • Most people I have come across are from somewhere else. Most of the people I work with are coincidentally from Florida.
  • There are lots of Subway restaurants.
  • In April, I noticed that every single vehicle on the road was filthy to the point that you could not make out the model. This is because of the melting snow exposing all the dirt. If there was a clean car, you could be sure that it's a rental.
  • Most of the planes seen flying overhead are float planes, sea planes or fighter jets.
  • People are generally friendlier than anywhere else!
  • Minimum wage is $7.25, yet it is still incredibly expensive to live here!
  • Some people put up their Christmas lights in October.
  • There is a theater where you can sit at a table, order pizza and beer and watch a movie on the big screen.

These are just a few obsevations. I can guarantee there will be more later!