For the most part, this job is amazing. I get paid to drive back and forth along an Alaskan highway during the summer. Fireweed, Lupine and delphinium are still blooming along the road and the short grass attract moose of all ages.
The customers I pick up from the train station and shuttle around town are friendly and excited to be here. The majority of them are courteous and helpful but a few it would seem are destined to complain about everything. Welcome the customer service industry.
The first thing you’ll notice when you arrive at Denali National Park is how confusing everything is named. I am constantly trying to guide tourists to their perspective hotels. There is a Denali Cabins and the Cabins at Denali, (two different hotels). The Denali Backcountry lodge is different from the Grand Denali Lodge, but people refer to both as “The Lodge”. The McKinley Village was renamed Denali Park Village, but didn’t bother to tell anybody. Brochures and hotel signs don’t always correlate and the McKinley Chalet Resort has brown letters on a brown sign, set back from the front of the road and impossible to read. Not to mention the fact that The Chalet is owned by The Princess Hotel (and nobody knows this) and their shuttle service operates for both accommodations, but only says “Princess” on the side of the bus. You would spend all day waiting for your “Chalet” bus that never comes. Wait…what??? So the intricacies of the Denali hotel system are… a damn mess.
Life is starting to settle into a routine though. I drive the same route all day and meet new people constantly. We talk about the weather and good hikes in the area. They comment on the thick buildup of bugs on my windshield and without thinking I say, “Yeah, that’s really been bugging me.”
I did finally get a hike in yesterday. I walked the 9.5 mile Triple Lakes trail which skirted around mountains and up and down through the alpine forest. The hike was rejuvenating. As I meandered along the trail and gazed in awe at the beautiful vistas, I was reminded at how last winter I spent so much time in the gym. I would run on the treadmill and watch TV or look around at people and dream of being somewhere else. I would try and picture myself on a hiking trail somewhere far away with only my thought to keep me company. Then I snap back to the present and realize, “Hey! I’m doing that right now!” I smile and keep on walking.
I love the stark contrasts I encounter in my lifestyle. Everything I do in this life seems to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. During my hike yesterday I sat down for a moment to rest and absorb the vibe of my surroundings. I looked down at my shoes and noticed the red tinge still there from previous hikes. Last year I wore these same shoes on a hike in the Grand Canyon. 100 degrees outside and the sun relentlessly bearing down, choking me with the heat. Everywhere was red and tan colored sandstone cliffs that towered into the sky. The earth was dry and hot and the red dust from the trail stained everything. Now I’m looking at lush, green forest of spruce trees and wildflowers. The sky is grey and the air is cool but I’m feeling the same as I did then. Very content.