Solo Chick Alaska Adventure

I'm making one of my dreams come true by doing a solo chick adventure to Alaska. I’ll chronicle my trip here.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Awesome Wilderness Experience @ Denali Wilderness Lodge

Can you imagine being somewhere practically untouched by man? A place with no roads in or out – over 30 miles from the nearest area that a car can reach? That can only be reached by bush plane? Surrounded by mountains, trees, tundra and sky, with a river and lake accenting the area? And a family and staff waiting to make you as happy as possible? I just finished two days in Alaskan heaven!

I came to Alaska for the outdoors. Every experience has been exhilarating. But my two days at the Denali Wilderness Lodge is in a class by itself. On Tuesday morning, Sean Crotty, the owner, loaded my bags and I into his plane. I’d never been in one so small and was a little nervous about what it would be like. No need to worry! I felt great taking off, flying fairly low over gorgeous scenery and then around some mountains to this enchanted place. He let me sit next to him and I wore headphones with a mic so we could communicate. Sean flew planes in the Air Force for 15 years, including being shot at in war zones while bringing our troops supplies, so I knew he’d get me there safely.

Flying over some of Alaska’s most beautiful wilderness was an experience I’ll never forget. I felt like a kid in a toy plane! ☺ There were trees and mountains everywhere I looked. And some moose! And there I was sitting in the cockpit watching it all from above! We landed on the airstrip just next to the lodge and were greeted by Sean’s lovely wife Lucy. I was deep in the heart of the wilderness!

This place is so special! There are cabins and also some rooms in 2 lodges. Each has a unique theme in its décor. I had fun getting the grand tour. Lucy and Sean bought the place this year but each room is furnished with antiques and furniture from the original lodge. One lodge is designed after a brothel and has a piano and lovely old sofa in the common area. It’s adorable. I was in the Sheep cabin. It was recessed into the woods a little so I was really alone. Since daylight lasts so late, I never had to walk back in the dark. I’d worried about their plumbing but the bathrooms were modern and I had a heater that I could control.

Denali Wilderness Lodge is run with love. Many of the people working there are friends/relatives of Sean and Lucy who came up for the summer to help them succeed. Their 3 kids help out too. Aunt Mo seemed to work all the time, with a happy smile and energy to spare. She’d come all the way from upstate NY to be part of the staff. Everyone was out to please. They couldn’t do enough for us. Lucy just kept looking for how she could make someone’s stay better. Guests became part of the family.

Lucy says they bought the lodge because she and Sean had a dream when they first got involved – to open a place in the wilderness and make people happy from the experience. She works almost all the time but wouldn’t trade it for anything. They put everything they had into this lodge – sold their home and burned old working bridges. They’re determined to succeed! The response from the guests indicates they will. A honeymooning couple from NYC said they couldn’t imagine a better place to be. I met a couple who’ll get married there in August. Everyone there seemed as delighted as I was.

And the food is fantabulous! Everything was homemade and yummy. They even had dishes for vegetarians. The desserts at each meal added many calories that I didn't need but didn’t regret. Breakfast was a treat with freshly baked treats and interesting egg dishes. They even had baklava one night! Kudos to those who pitch in to prepare meals! And every late afternoon there are wonderful hot hors d’oeuvres and drinks served by staff members in the cozy sitting room in the main lodge.

I did a long hike into the mountains on both days. Andy took me out when I arrived. Originally from Texas, he joked that the Crotty’s inherited him with the place as he’s worked there for 7 years. Since the lodge is only open from the beginning of June till early September due to the long winter, Andy works on a ranch in Texas with horses when it’s closed. We had such a good time hiking. Andy’s very knowledgeable about the history of the place and also is a naturalist for the lodge so he knows all about the plants and wildlife. We hiked for over 2 hours to above the tree line. At one point, Andy said if I step off the trail –not very far, I’d probably step where no one has stepped before. It felt wonderful.

Andy’s best friend Matt and their girlfriends also work at the lodge and are all lovely people. Matt and I went hiking on day 2. When we got above the tree line, we sat and chatted awhile as we enjoyed the panorama. These hikes are rustic. No well-maintained trails like at parks. The trails are just vaguely visible and we pushed through brush most of the time. We also had to go through water. Andy and Matt hike over the mountains without any trails. The air was so fresh that my sinuses rejoiced! And while I don’t usually celebrate water, I was conscious of how good it was to drink.

My mind and soul have been cleansed and rejuvenated from being at the Denali Wilderness Lodge. When I flew out on Thursday, I was sad to leave my now extended family. I once again enjoyed a ride back with Sean in his plane and hope to return one day!


Post a Comment

<< Home