In Alaska!!!!

When you last heard from me, I was in Seattle.  I arrived here one month ago, so I apologize for the slowness in getting a new post out.  Truthfully, I haven’t felt as if there was enough exciting going on!

If you’ve ever flown to Alaska from the Northwest US, you’ll know what I mean by this – what an incredible flight!  Up the coast of BC, the scenery the entire way blew me away – water, snow, ice, glaciers.  It was as if I had never flown before – I spent half the flight staring out the window.

And then suddenly – Anchorage.  As noted in an email some people received, landing was rough.  Lots of tears.  The realization of why I was here and how I got here hit like a wall of bricks.  Very charming, crying in an airport terminal.  Grabbing a taxi to downtown, I was immediately struck by a thought – wow this is an ugly city.  Especially a shock since I had just left gorgeous Seattle that morning!

One of my first adventures was the Anchorage Museum, just a few blocks from where I live.  This is an incredible museum!  Much bigger than expected, and very well done.  I was most impressed with a large exhibit done in cooperation with the Smithsonian on the native cultures of Alaska.  Amazing!

Traditional waterproof parka made from seal intestines. It's amazing how much it looks like a modern jacket!

The exhibit included a large amount of marvelous video interviews

A few days later I was treated to one of the most impressive sunsets I have seen in my life.  I was kicking myself for not having my camera with me.  I should always carry my camera, right?  Unfortunately I was out on a long walk, but had chosen to not bring it.  The next night’s sunset was beautiful too, but not quite up to standard – but I did have my camera.  Lesson learned.  ALWAYS.  HAVE.  CAMERA.

Beautiful yes - but not like the previous night's sunset!

Quickly discovering that Anchorage is difficult to explore without a car, I had to confine my explorations to walking distance.  Granted, that can be a large area for me, but still….

After 3 days to get settled and explore, I started work.  Holly (the other HR manager that started the same day as me) and I hit the ground running.  HR has been seriously understaffed this season, and is way behind.  A quick orientation, a little training.  AND…. They’re off!!!!  No time for real background training – just git ‘er dun!

So what’s my job?  I’m a Human Resources Manager for ARAMARK, which is a very large company with a core business in food service.  Specifically, I am the HR Manager for McKinley Village Lodge, which is one of two hotels we operate at Denali National Park.  The “Village” is a 188 room hotel 7 miles south of the park entrance, on the banks of the Nenana river.  We have about 130 employees, nearly everyone is seasonal.  During a full year, from mid-January to mid-April I’m based in Anchorage, hiring for the summer season, and helping the GM plan for the year.  Along with the GM and the Rooms Division Manager, I provide leadership for the hotel.  During the season, I also run the employee housing, as we have dorms for all the employees.

I’m focused on hiring for my property, but assist with the other 4 Alaska components (2 in Denali, one in Glacier Bay, and the Anchorage office).  My job will finish in late September, and then I have 3 months off.

Our Denali operation is full-service.  Besides the hotels, we offer things like guided hikes and river rafting.  We’re also the concessioner for the Park, so we provide in-park services such as bus tours.  Private vehicles are not allowed past mile 15 in the park, so visitors take bus tours with us, and use our shuttle vans to get dropped off for hiking.

This is us, if you want to check it out.

Only a week in Anchorage, and I was already going stir-crazy.  No car yet (still being shipped up).  What to do?  What to do?  Car rentals were only $25/day at that time.  SOLD!   Off to the coastal town of Seward.  125 miles of incredibly gorgeous driving.  Seward is on the Kenai (“Key-nigh”) Peninsula, so the entire drive is mountains, ocean, or both.  It sits in a beautiful fjord, just an incredible setting.  The town itself is not very pretty, but we’ll cut it some slack due to the setting.

No excuses however for the dining!  Most restaurants were closed for the off-season, so I at one of my 2 choices for dinner I ordered a soup and salad.  Tasted like soup from a can, and (I kid you not about this!) there was so much dressing on the caesar salad that it was like the lettuce was swimming in a stew.  DISGUSTING!

I spent a few hours at the Sealife Center, a public aquarium I had heard a lot about.  It was OK, but I’m not sure I’d ever again spend $20 to get in there…

I really enjoyed this aquarium until the "sea lion feeding" - suddenly I was at Sea World. The poor animal had to do tricks for food, which I have moral issues with.

I walked down the beach and watched the sunset over the fjord. Lovely.

In the morning I treated myself to a (COLD!) sunrise walk around the town and the harbor.  The heavy clouds occasionally broke just enough to treat me to some dramatic light.

Sunrise at the harbor

The drive really was stunning, and in retrospect, I regret not making more drives down in that area.  The snow has melted off, and is still beautiful, but the ice and snow add something special.

The beautiful Kenai Peninsula

The next couple of weeks were filled with work.  What a shock to go from working only about 17 hours/week for much of the past year to 50-ish hours suddenly!

Sometimes I have to laugh at the craziness of living in Anchorage

And when work gets crazy - "OH MY HEAD!"

This past week a few of us did a day trip up to the park.  Kathy (my boss) had a meeting there, and we also needed to do a walk-through of some of the employee rooms.  Oh – did I say “DAY trip?”  Denali is a 4.5 hour drive from Anchorage.  Yup – drive 4.5 hours there, work for 4 hours, drive 4.5 hours home.  To add to the adventure, Kathy didn’t notice until too late that we were running out of gas.  It’s 12 degrees, gas stations are 100 miles apart, and we’re out of gas.  THAT was fun!  Our day just got a lot longer…

 
 

Kathy filling up the tank after we got rescued. 12 degrees in April!

The road to Denali – a little (A LOT!) colder and snowier than on the coast! At least we ran out of gas at a spot with a great view.Kathy filling up the tank after we got rescued. 12 degrees in April!

Lynx Lodge - this is the old Denali Park hotel, and is now manager housing for my hotel. Starting in late April, my home for the next 5.5 months.

The hallway of Lynx Lodge. I'm a little worried about how LOUD it will be with all this hard wood!

I’m slowly starting to meet people.  Getting to know new people on my own is NOT my best skill, as all of you know!  But today I did go for a hike with my new friend Brooke.  We went for a short hike in the mountains on Turnagain Arm.  We had great views of the inlet, the mountains, and saw a herd of about 9 Dall Sheep.

Cameras, Dall sheep, mountains, ocean. Not a bad day!

View of the Kenai Peninsula

That’s all for now!  Three of us are going to Seward next weekend to take a boat tour – the grey whales have started to migrate through on their way to the arctic.  With luck I’ll have nice video and still of whales and glaciers.

I’ve also started using Yahoo Messenger.  I’d love to chat with anyone on there.  Look me up at photo.kevin@yahoo.com.  For anyone with a webcam, we can do video too.

(note that this is not an email address I use regularly – it’s just for chat).

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