“Ashlee, wake up. Ash. Wake up. Ashlee, please wake up. There’s a spider in my bed.”
That right there was my wakeup call this morning, at the early hour of 3:30 a.m. I’m not sure if Baylee was dreaming, sleep walking, or wide-awake and meant it, but I’m almost positive I grabbed her by her scrawny neck and threw her back down into the bed.
Today was our down day, our day of rest. None of us slept well – the cabins we’re staying at are sort of, how do I put this…creepy. First of all, nearly EVERYONE we’ve met in Alaska has been so cordial and helpful – except for the people who run this place we’re staying. We’re unsure whether the mean person at the front desk is a boy or a girl, but either way, they’re rude, short-tempered, and act like we’re bothering them each time we ask a question or need something. Secondly, Mom read on the reviews online that someone had barged into one of the cabins during the middle of the night. Well, our door doesn’t lock very well and around midnight, we heard a small child make a noise. It dawned on us a few seconds later that we were not, in fact, at a hotel and that as far apart as the cabins are from each other, we shouldn’t be hearing our neighbors, especially at that hour. Mom looked out and there was a foreign man holding an umbrella, in the fog, with a small child by his side. He wasn’t speaking in English, and seemed to be chanting. Needless to say, we pushed the sofa, the table, all the chairs, everyone’s suitcase, the sink and the trashcan up against the door incase he decided to burst into what we call our “dormitory.”
We had planned to go white water rafting, but then we arrived in Alaska, figured out it’s like, -25 degrees outside in mid-July, and changed our minds. Plus, who wants to wear used wet suits? We didn’t get up until probably 9:00 and much to my dismay, we took our time getting dressed and eating breakfast- I was starting to get cabin fever. It rained steady through the night and has pretty much been constant all day…starting to remind me of Georgia.
We first took a drive down Stampede Road to take a trip down memory lane. When we drove Alaska 12 years ago, we stayed at this charming place called the EarthSong Lodge, a grouping of cabins and a dog-sledding kennel. It ended up being one of our favorite parts of the trip and we wanted to see what it looked like, this many years later. Things had changed quite a bit, but we found our old cabin – it was so tiny. Hard to believe we crammed a 12-year-old, a 5-year-old, and two parents in the tiny one-room cabin back in 2001. The owners were so nice, and we had actually seen an article on them a few years after we stayed there in Redbook Magazine in an article about how they met online and now lived in the middle-of-nowhere Alaska running a lodge. The abandoned van that Christopher McCandless (“Into the Wild”) stayed and ultimately died in is off of Stampede Road, but it’s an all-day hike to see the bus, so we YouTubed someone else reaching the bus and settled for that.
Since we packed light because we’re moving around so much, we took a detour to do some laundry – three loads to be exact, which cost us a whopping $36.00 – how people afford to live up here really blows my mind. Really. At the laundromat, we met a nice couple from Missouri who was driving around the county in their 35-foot RV. They knew everything about everything. When Mom told her that I was 24 and had just gotten engaged, she promptly told us that her daughter got married at 23 and got divorced a few years later. I went and sat in the car because popping a few Excedrin can’t fix every headache.
After lunch back at the cabin, we took a trip to the Denali Park Visitor’s Center to brush up on our knowledge on the park, since it’s not like we won’t learn absolutely every fact about it on our 13-hour tour tomorrow. My favorite part of the Visitor’s Center was the Starbucks next door.
Dinner was by far the most eventful part of our day – we made reservations at the McKinley Chalet Musical Theater. Think Medieval Times: Alaska Edition. With silverware. All food was served family style – luckily our “family” included a table full of people from Israel who took off their shirts at the dinner table, opened a can of Pringles during dinner, and left before the show was even over. We were served ribs, salmon, corn, beans, the best biscuits, a salad and H E A V E N L Y blackberry cobbler as the dessert.
We figured out that our waitress, the lead character in the musical, knew a girl from Macon – just so turns out that we know that girl’s brother really well – Tom and I went to high school with him. Such a small world. We boarded the wrong bus after dinner and went 10,000 miles out of the way to the wrong resort, but luckily the driver had an awesome sense of humor and drove us all the way back to our cabin in Healy with a little persuasion from a hefty tip.