I will begin this post with just a touch of complaining, and then that will desist. I usually love flying. However, the last two connecting flights to get here were probably some of the worst moments of my life thus far. First of all, I was assigned a seat in the very first row in the economy section. For anyone who flies, you understand that means plenty of leg room, but the armrests don't move and are wider than the other seats. It was awfully tight. I'm now sporting two identical arm-rest-shaped-bruises on either hip. Horrendously painful. There was an average sized man sitting next to me who also had this problem, so imagine how I felt. Then: on the last connection from Seattl to Anchorage, I was seated next to two screaming toddlers. Bless their parents' hearts, they were trying to do everything they could think of to comfort them, but those two boys had had enough of airplanes. I tried helping out as well, and I actually got the older boy (about 2 years old) to calm down enough to fall asleep for 2 hours. That was pretty blissful. Note to self: little boys love crunchy pretzels, iPods, cellphones with touch screens, and all of the contents of a purse.
After arriving in Anchorage, I was blessed enough to stay with a family that supports the ACMNP student minsters by housing them and feeding them. That was truly glorious after being so tired, hungry, and exhausted on the plane. Anchorage is a beautiful city that has the exact perfect blend of mountains on one side, and ocean on the other. My friend Allison lives exactly between the two, so when she drove me to the bus stop in the morning, I got to see all of it. On an exceptionally clear day, you can see all the way to Mount McKinley. Moose wander freely through and around the town. This sounds like it might add to the picturesque quality, but I assure you it does NOT. There have been more moose related deaths in the past year than there have been automobile accidents in Anchorage. Where bears are usually skittish and will run away, Moose WILL charge and try to kill you. Allison has one that likes rip the bark off her trees in her front yard, so she always has to be extremely cautious when leaving the house in the morning.
The bus ride from Anchorage to Denali took about 5.5 hours, and it was all that can be expected from a bus ride. As we drove more and more north, however, the views because really spectacular. The mountains right now are all still snow capped and magnificently mysterious, with tons of gray-ish fog circling about their staggering peaks. A lot of it was really breathtaking.
Then, I arrived in the park. My front office manager, Brian, told me today that some people save their money for their entire lives so they can come explore Alaska. After being here for a couple days, I can totally understand why. I feel extraordinarily blessed to be able to live here for almost 5 full months, work, meet these awesome people, and see this rugged, natural, awesome beauty. Denali is a HUGE park, easily the largest I have ever worked in. The property that I am situated on right now is caled the McKinley Chalet Resort, and there are several other properties around this area that are also owned and operated by Aramark. This property alone has over 500 employees, with more arriving all the time. Right now, I am in the rec room, which has computers and a work out facility, ping pong tables, tvs, etc. This area, with the dorm rooms, rec center, employee dining hall, laundry facility, shower houses, HR office, maintenance shed, etc, is called the "lower pad" because it is literally down the hill from the front desk (where I will be working), the other guest cabins and hotels, as well as the restaurants, bus tour operations, and the like.
Now, let's discuss this "hill." First of all, I'm lying when I call it a "hill." It is NOT a hill. That sucker is a baby mountain, and anyone who tries to tell you that they can hike it in under 20 minutes is LYING TO YOU. I have to walk up and down that monster at least twice a day to get to work. It is steep. It makes your heart and lungs hurt in a way you did not realize they were capable of hurting. But tarry on I must. I figure, after a week of dedication to "Bertha," as I have decided to dub her, I will be so skinny no one at home will even recognize me. BRING IT ON. I am excited to lose some excess weight and really get in shape. There is no better place to do this than here.
Today we took a walking tour of the park and saw most of the properties, then we did some computer training. We will have more training this week, and the park officially opens on Sunday. We expect to be completely booked all summer long, and I'm glad, because I enjoy being busy.
That's enough for today. I'm hungry, so I'm heading to the EDR (employee dining room) to get my munch on. As a minor sidenote, the food here is better than all of the other national parks I've ever been to. I'm very thankful for that, because park food usually sucks. Also, everyone I've met so far is friendly, welcoming, and helpful. I really love it here, and I sense an oncoming struggle to try to get me to ever love a place as much as I love Alaska. If I die tomorrow, I will die a tired, happy person.
The best way to reach me is an actual phone call, but please keep in mind that Alaska is 4 hours behind Ohio time. Leave a voicemail if I don't pick up, which I probably won't, because I'm out loving the world and could care less about carrying around my cell phone.
Love you all! I will post more again at a later time.