As I sit at the computer, my gaze keeps wandering to the dining room windows where the lake is stretching out smooth as glass, perfectly reflecting the surrounding mountains. All summer long we wait for the lake to grow quiet, so we can get some great pictures, and it never seems to grow completely calm, but as we have moved into October it seems to be a regular occurrence. A strange quiet seems to cover the landscape, fall is over, but winter hasn’t quite made an appearance. Our busy season has come to a close, leaving us with time to catch up with friends and family, or just sit and enjoy a cup of coffee. September 2nd marked our one year anniversary here at Caribou Lodge and with it came a lot of reflecting on the past year, the highs and lows of our first tourist season.
One of my favorite moments of the day with guests was when we all settled around the dinner table together……. Suddenly, people from different countries became family, laughing and passing food around the table. At times I would just sit back and watch, something about it was so different and special all at the same time. Every guest was different and each group had a different dynamic. Some loved to stay up late laughing and talking on the deck or playing cards, while others would sit quietly up on Blueberry hill enjoying the solitude. Sometimes we would do an evening hike up to Bear point and all sit and watch the sunsetting on the Alaska Range.
I loved these moments, since for me they were few and far between, most of my day being spent in the kitchen. This summer, my days started early and ended late, it seemed like there was never quite enough time to get everything done between cooking, cleaning, gardening, and laundry! As our season came to a close, all I could think about was how much I was looking forward to being able to sit and enjoy drinking my morning coffee as opposed to trying guzzle it down between cleaning, only to end up downing cold coffee.
Howie loved everything about the tourist season, from the time guests get settled in their cabins to the time they leave, he charms them. He is convinced they are all here for one purpose alone, to pet him and throw his ball. Somehow he ends up convincing them of that too, even the ones who claim they don’t like dogs. Truth be told, Howie was more popular than either Joe or I could ever dream of being. This is not an exaggeration, a family wrote in the guests book addressing it to Howie and his “helpers”. He would sit with his head resting on their knees as they sat on their deck or be laying on their deck in the morning to greet them when they woke up, he entertained them with his berry eating antics, and chased every ball or stick thrown for him, and even a few frisbees not intended for him at all. When the guests leave he mopes around, apparently only two “helpers” is insufficient.
For Joe, this first season held a true test of his knowledge of the Alaskan wilderness, answering all kinds of questions on plant and animal life while guiding hikes. For both of us, there its a constant learning curve of new plants, birds, and animal behavior, as well as a lot about other countries politics and cultures. After a summer of non-stop large meals, even Joe became sick of food and big meals, a huge deal for a food loving Italian. (Not too worry though, after a couple weeks of simple food, its back with a vengeance) While Joe enjoyed entertaining and making all kinds of new friends, now that things have quieted down he is embracing his real love ………“projects”, most of which include something with wood. (Chopping, stacking, or building things.)
As we look back over our first year and tourist season, we see a lot of opportunities to grow, to better serve our guests, but I think we all are breathing a collective sigh of relief and thinking “we did it!”. Now, we look forward to this next season with an air of excitement and confidence knowing that it will even be better than this year! (But first, for Joe and I, comes the long winter…stay tuned!)