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A Day in the Life at Alaska Wildland Adventures

This summer I'm in Cooper Landing, Alaska.  I work as the Lead Breakfast Cook for Alaska Wildland Adventures (AWA).  My day starts at 1:40 am, it's now starting to get darker in the middle of the night so I need a flashlight in my tent cabin.  They are similar to the tent cabins that I have seen pictures of in Yosemite employee housing.  Outside, it's not astronomical twilight yet, so I can see clearly enough to get to the bathhouse first to clean up a bit before heading to the main lodge and kitchen.  My work day starts at 2 am.

I am the only one up at this time.  Well, except for some of the late-nighters who sometimes I meet that are just going to bed.  I turn on the lights and check my numbers board.  AWA has fishing charters and tour groups with many different tour packages.  There are also some people that just stay overnight.  Usually I know well ahead of the chartered groups, but the overnight numbers sometime change between the time I'm done with the shift and the next morning.

Breakfast is buffet-style.  I always put out eggs, bacon, sausage and potatoes.  Then another entree...pancakes or french toast or quiche.  Then there's fruit, bread for toasting, bagels, I usually make some kind of muffin or coffee cake or cinnamon roll, a couple of different cold cereals, we put out some instant oatmeal packs too, juices, milk, coffee...  Lots of coffee, each of the fishing guides will take a pot or two in thermos out on their boat, not counting what's consumed at the lodge.

Most days there are two settings.  One at 4 am, for the fishing crew.  One at 8 am for all the other guests.  Sometimes, like today, there is a mid-breakfast at 6 or 7.  We're in the middle lull of the first and second runs of Sockeye salmon, which is the biggest draw here...so today there are more people at the later breakfast than the 4 amer. Just two at 6..they are going to be heading down to AWA's Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge after they're done with breakfast..first down to Seward, then take a 5.5 hour tour around Resurrection and Ailick Bays.

I listen to Books on CD while I prepare breakfast.  This one is one of Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon series...Winter Study, about Isle Royale.  I also play host and server once breakfast is set.  For the 4 am breakfast, the guides will offer a hand if needed.  Usually I just have them brew a pot of coffee when they fill their thermos...it's an average of 14 pots and each pot takes 5 minutes.  After breakfast, I'm also busser and dishwasher.  And then I'm back on my own again.  I usually grab a break after I clear the first breakfast...have a plate myself and maybe go over to the Liz for a bit.  Since I have a mid-breakfast I'll just take 30 minutes...sometimes I take an hour.

Our employee lounge is called the Lizard Lounge (Liz).  In here there is one computer and four additional ethernet cords hooked into the internet if you want to use your own laptop.  This is also the EDR.  This is the second place where I have had an employee dining plan where there is a kitchen that's stocked and breakfast and lunch are on-your-own and a meal is prepared for dinner by the kitchen staff.  That way you can get up and have breakfast when you want, or can be out on lunch and not have to be back at a set time.

I then go back to work and finish doing the dishes, any work I need for the 8, any prep work for the next day then putting out the buffet...play host and server...busser and dishwasher...tear down the buffet...clean the dining room.  Sometimes during prep I'm able to go to the storeroom and grab anything that needs to be stocked in the kitchen, sometimes I do that last.  But my work day ends sometime between 9:30 and 11 am.  Today it was 10.

I went over to Ice Palace...another employee hangout area with a DVD and VHS player, some couches.  It's also where the morning meetings take place.  There is a managers meeting at 8:30, then everyone else that is working that day meets at 9.  Except for me...one of the managers finds me if there is anything I need to know from the meeting.  I watched on of my own dvds...an episode of Streets of San Francisco.  I then went back to the Liz and checked in online.  With that few of connections, I don't like staying on for a long time at any one time...I just think it's kind of rude.

I grab some lunch.  Heating up some spaghetti, leftover from last night's dinner.

This afternoon, I'm taking a walk down the road.  Well, Sterling Highway, but it's a two-lane road.  From Cooper Creek, which is a half-mile to our west to Sunrise Inn, which is 5 miles to our east, there is a small walking/biking path off the side of the road.  If you're going anything more, the shoulder is not always very wide so you have to be careful of traffic.  Today I'm stopping at the post office first about 2 miles away), I found a couple of postcard swapping places on the internet and am also getting back into penpalling.

Then I'll cross the bridge and go to the library (another mile and a half).  I finished the Nevada Barr book, and sometimes I pick up a dvd or two, and one to read later in the day too.  Today I'm also bringing back the short story collection by Sherman Alexie, The Toughest Indian On Earth.  I pickup two dvds, on from Foyle's War tv series and a Hitchcock, The Wrong Man.  I also get a Dan Brown, Digital Fortress on CD and Fault Line, one of the Em Hansen mysteries series by Sarah Andrews.  Em Hansen is a forensic geologist out of Salt Lake.  And this one deals with a major earthquake that hits the area.  The area is still fresh in my mind from last winter's stay in Alta...I'll see if I can picture in my mind any area she is talking about.

After the library I walk over to Wildman's (back towards the bridge a bit more than a mile).  Wildman's is the convenience store, liquor store, ice cream shop, coffee shop...there's a campground here too.  I want to grab a little cash..just spent my last at the post office and there is an ATM here.  I also get a Strawberry Pineapple milkshake. and start walking back (2.5 miles) to AWA.  First I stop at the Cooper Landing Grocery store...it's not all that much bigger than Wildman's.  But they have some things in here that I want to grab, some writing paper for those letters and some of their soda is cheaper here than at Wildman's...and while I can get milk/coffee/juice/water at AWA, there usually is not any fizzy-type drinks.  As I'm leaving a shadow flies over me and I look up and watch one of the bald eagles in the area glide over me.

Once back "home" I take my book out on the deck and start to read.  There is a deck right on the shore of the Kenai River.  It was just rebuilt for this year.

About 4pm, I go back to the Liz and grab something to eat.  Prepared staff dinner is made at 6:30 pm. I have found it to be very delicious and I was pigging out at it.  I found it very difficult to get to sleep after, and 1:40am comes pretty quickly.  So I skip it now.  I make myself a plate of nachos and then head back to my tent cabin.  I set out my clothes for the morning.  Pick up the book again, and read till I'm drowsy...usually between 6 and 7 pm.

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Comment by Keith Larson on July 17, 2012 at 1:57pm

The second run of sockeye is in.  Starting 15 minutes earlier and getting first breakfast out at 3:45.

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