"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Notes from the Denali Highway: Location, Location, Location

Five hours later after turning onto the Denali highway, we arrive at Tangle Lakes Inn and check in.   Five hours, 21 miles.   That’s the way to travel.

The view from the lodge.

Tangle Lakes Inn dining room.

Leilani and our arsenal.

A clever way to protect birds and the seeds they're after.   The bird goes in the round hole at left, gathers what it wants in the dry safety of the glass jar.

That's a white-crowned sparrow inside.

Waiting for me to leave so it can go back in the jar.

Lodge manager Violet says the guys are out in the field, but had been at the lodge earlier.  As she checks us in, she says all the cabins are named after animals and birds, and mentions the name of our cabin.   I glance at Leilani, who is busy continuing the chat with Violet, then look at the floor.

My shaking shoulders give me away.   Violet thwacks me on brim of my visor and says, “Shush!”

“It did not escape our attention,” Doug says to Leilani a couple days later, “that you girls are in the Beaver cabin.”

This is not a beaver.    It is a muskrat.   With a second muskrat.

Olympia.   The brewery in Tumwater, WA, closed in 2003 but the memories remain.

The cabin is actually a duplex.   A basic room, queen bed and single, bathroom, all neat and today.   Leilani has brought her electric tea kettle and sets up our tea station.   All the better for quick exits in the early mornings.

The rate?   A healthy $185 a night.

Why so high?    Location, location, location!   The only infrastructure for the lodges out here is the two-lane gravel road out front, which is irregularly maintained and closed altogether from October to May.    All other infrastructure must be provided by the lodges themselves.   They generate their own electricity, drill water wells, provide for septic disposal.   Telephone?    Not really.   Few are in cell service areas.  

Mail?   Supplies?   I should have asked.   I did see the driver of a cruise/land tour coach arrive with two large bags of tomatoes, though.   I suspect the lodge owners have to go after their own supplies.

Alder flycatcher, another lifer for me.

After two nights, we are obliged by prior reservations to move to multi-room unit.   The exterior is white with green trim, giving it a cottage appearance.   As soon as we enter the center hallway, I say, “This is an ATCO!”

I then proceed to tell Leilani much more than she ever wanted to learn about the ubiquitous Atco units, my expertise coming from having spent a great deal of time in them on construction jobs.   They are transportable modular units that come is various sizes and configurations.   They make quick set ups for temporary work camps that include sleeping, wash cars, office, kitchen, mess halls, etc.

A barge loaded with ATCO units and other supplies and bound for a construction job in the Aleutian Islands.

Typical set-up of ATCO units into a temporary construction camp.

Roughly 10x44, a sleeping unit with have four rooms, with an oil furnace cubby in the middle.  Two units are laid facing each other and a four, six, or eight-foot wide hallway built down the center.

Once the Trans Alaska Pipeline was completed in the late 1970s, these units were sold off and they are now scattered across Alaska.

They are usually quite humble, and this one is no exception.   It does, however, have a cubby with a toilet and sink, which makes it far superior to any ATCO I’ve ever been in.    The shower is across the hall.

Rate for this?   Yeah, $135 a night.  

The first thing we scope out is an outlet for charging camera batteries.   Not until I required use of the bathroom did I find an outlet—little more than a foot off the floor under the sink.   You had to sit down to see it.

Another lifer--a northern waterthrush.

Tundra swans.  


  1. Love the little birdhouse with the jar-feeder attached. What a GREAT idea! It also keeps birdseed from getting scattered about down below. $185 a night .. YIKES! Smiles, Patti & Cap

  2. An enjoyable post to saunter down and relax reading.

    What is a lifer : The term lifer refers to a bird species when it is first seen and positively identified by an individual birder. Lifer is a designation for a species that individual birder has never seen previously, not a returning migrant, new sighting for the year, or other repeat sighting.

    Now we know. Smiles .. Cap and Patti