Denali in the Rough

Published: August 23rd 2010
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Three and a half months later, working as a ticket agent for the Alaska Railroad in Denali Park, and I am finally burned out.

Oddly enough, it is not from the tourists, as most people would think. It is from the monotony of completing redundant tasks day after day. An acquaintance of mine, while I was home in Fairbanks (or “The Banks” as some would call it), replied “Well, isn’t that what having a job is?” I looked him in his pre-med, white-picket fence, mortgage-wanting face and realized that our perception on life was very, very different. And I thanked God we were no longer dating, as admirable of his accomplishments as I was.

Jobs should not be monotonous. They should be dynamic, or at least give the individual the fulfillment of knowing that this IS where they should be. So, I get up at eight-thirty, or seven-thirty, depending on if it is shower day or not, to the walls of the back of my truck. My sleeping bags (I have three I nest in like a squirrel) are pulled back.

No matter where I sleep, hidden behind trees or bushes, or a large mound of construction dirt (which has become my sleeping spot of choice) I will always take a quick look around for people, anyone, who might see my awkward, sleepy, crawl from the back of my truck. The canopy door no longer stays open on its own, and therefore tends to smack me somewhere on my body as a parting gesture of goodwill for the day. My penchant for driving quickly through mud puddles has left a permanent film of dirt over the body of my truck, turning the dark green to a light brown, which tends to end up on various parts of my clothing as well.

And thus I emerge for the day, into sunny mornings of Healy Mountain and ridgeline on one side, and Sugarloaf on the other, with the Nennana River rushing its way down the middle.

The only marring view is what many call Glitter Gulch, or The Canyon, an area crouching just outside the park. From an environmental point of view, it is a mockery of Denali, resembling a strip in Las Vegas with its giant flashing signs, huge hotels, and even a Subway. 120 miles from the closest city and one finds…Subway?

From an economics point of view, the tourism business gives people access to the park on air conditioned buses, fancy meals, and helps to keep locals and non-locals living.

From a Melanie-point-of-view, I simply hate the crosswalks and stop lights, of which there are two. Completely useless if one actually stops to look to the left and the right before crossing. I grit my teeth in frustration when I see them standing at the stop light when they had had more than enough time to cross before anyone arrived. The pasty tourists ambles past, lost in the culture of Lower 48 rules. Cross here. Stop there. Wear this. Watch that. Jump now.

No matter how much I fight it, I never want a mortgage, I never want a fence.

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