Lodge Life

The thing about running a lodge in Alaska is that every little detail is essential. The lodge-based team is required to remember the arrivals and departures of the day, special requests, who are are going bear-viewing or deep-sea fishing, which guests have special diets or want to go sea kayaking. They must organize and remember the menus of the day, which employees are off, what lodge chores need to happen. Seemingly, a thousand details are orchestrated and always in motion, from music playing softly in the background to flowers on the table.

As an eagle swoops overhead, Carly, who is about to start the daily yoga class, tries to clear her mind and just think about her breathing, her movements at the moment, the people who are right in front of her.

Kirsten is making her way along the great wooden boardwalk that bridges the lodge and the cooking school.  In her tote-bag, she is carrying a new cookbook to add to the school collection, a few culinary items she’s carried down from Anchorage, her black Moleskine notebook she carries everywhere, and packets to give to students for today’s class. On the schedule: make a summer dish from the garden and a wild salad from foraged greens, topped with crab from the Bering Sea. But, Kirsten is not quite as “in the moment” as Carly is. On her mind, as she walks along to the school, is the sizzling sake-yuzu dumplings she wants to make later in the day for appetizer hour.

At both Tutka Bay Lodge and to the north of Anchorage, at Winterlake Lodge, front house managers are overseeing final touches to the morning guest tables; herbs are picked from the garden to press gently into butter, orange juice is squeezed, napkins are folded just so. These and other small luxuries of lodge life are practiced throughout the day, the small grace notes to the rhythm of our lives.

Kirsten and Mandy will fly later in the week to Winterlake, where the lodge flora and fauna (and the menus) are entirely different than its seaside sister. In summer, the landscape at Winterlake is splashed with rich, vibrant greens and the thick ribbons of steel-blue riverbeds that braid across the valley. And, in the winter, deep white snow glitters against pink and blue skies, showing off a low-lying winter sun.  The lodge is surrounded by spruce and birch forests and a million-acre mountain range that feels like a private park.  All things here are about the dense forest of trees, the sled dogs, the bears, and the sheer wildness of the land.

So, how do we, this adventurous and hard-working band of women, along with our equally formidable male counterparts, a third-generation precocious boy, as well as twenty sled dogs, manage to run two far-flung lodges, one busy café, and a cooking school? It’s a piece of cake. Literally.

Our favorite cakes that get us through any situation:

Our solution for stress or worry: pick any one of the above cakes, find the recipe in this book, gather, scoop, stir, pour, and bake. Then, sit down at a table with a lovely view, with your lovely cake, and glide a fork through a healthy slice. Take in a deep breath and realize that nothing is quite as busy or bad as it may seem.

Join us through these stories as we share our lives with you, as we describe why we have chosen to live here, why we live the way we live in this often harsh and still-wild place, close to nature, away from many of the things of the modern world.