Wednesday, May 16, 2012

North to Alaska

Well, I made it. I'm in Healy, Alaska, located about 2 hours south of Fairbanks, and almost 5 hours north of Anchorage, on the edge of Denali National Park. It's been a long trip, but I made it.

I left Los Angeles (and my amazing and beautiful girlfriend, Lena) on the 24th of April, making the two-day solo drive back to Dodge City, KS where I got to see the family and a few friends, not to mention my 3-year-old nephew and 5-month-old niece! Then the parents drove me to Kansas City, where I hopped a plane and embarked on a 16-hour trip via airline(s) to Fairbanks. I met the cast of "The Music of Denali", my temporary family for the next half year. They're all great people, and all incredibly talented. We hopped on a tour bus and were carted down to Healy, where we started rehearsals the next day. We rehearsed for a little over a week (almost all of us learning multiple characters in the process), and just recently had our first day performing in front of two separate audiences: fellow employees who watch the show so they know how best to recommend it to guests.

My new home until September
I can honestly say I've never worked this hard in my life. I've now been here for 12 days, and tomorrow is my first legitimate full day off. We've worked hard to get things rolling for this first show, and while the hard work has definitely paid off, I've never been so exhausted.

Mountain outside my dormroom window. These beautiful
mountains surround the "Homestead", the employee dorms.
Taken at 1:30am, still sunny...
My phone doesn't work the way I was told it would up here. The curse of the smart phone: no 3G, no internet (it was unavailable until today), no data at all, meaning text messages are sketchy at best, and such lousy service (we are, after all, marooned out here in the middle of nowhere) that I have to go to the end of the hall, or outside into the cold to make a phone call to Lena in L.A.

The "small" mountain range separating Healy
from Denali National Park
Still haven't gotten paid. The first paycheck comes out this Friday, and I'm told it won't be a great one. We only make $8 an hour, but the monetary perks start rolling in once we start getting PAID audiences. Once we open, I will start pulling in some major money, which is the whole reason I came up here in the first place.

After reading all this, it would be understandable to assume I'm not happy here. I will say, it's been tough, especially regarding the phone and internet troubles -- isolation is the most underrated form of torture -- but it feels great to be working hard every day, and even though I'm spending most of my off time in a twin-sized bed in a dorm

room so tiny (approx. 10'x12') my roommate and I joke that it's more like a prison cell (we've nicknamed our room "Gitmo"), the claustrophobia dissipates the minute you step outside and take in the view.

There are mountains on almost every side of us in Healy, and the view only improves on the 30 min. drive to the Princess Lodges where we rehearse (and will eventually perform) the show. I've managed to squeeze off a few pictures en route to the theatre, and I can honestly say they do no justice to real thing. Every morning on the way to work, I say out loud: "Holy crap that's beautiful". It's amazing how beautiful the world can be when we just leave it alone and let it be.

Mt. Healy from behind the "Music of Denali" Theater
Once we officially open the show this upcoming Friday (May 18, 2012) we start a cast rotation that almost always promises each one of us a 5-day work week, leaving 2 days a week to explore the park and partake of a number of employee discounted activites. The property boasts a full-service spa and salon, hot tubs, white water rafting, flightseeing, and more, most of which is super cheap or free for "MoD" people. I plan on hopping on a bus soon and going deep into the park, in the hope of catching a glimpse of Denali, "The Great One", more commonly known as Mt. McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America, and one of the most dangerous in the world to climb, due to it's extreme vertical rises. It's so high it creates its own weather, and therefore its usually covered in clouds -- only 30% of Holland America/Princess guests actually get to see Denali each summer. I'm here ALL summer though, so my odds are slightly improved. Fingers crossed!

The view from Princess Lodges, Denali National Park
Once the internet connection improves, I'll be posting more pictures, hopefully on a regular basis. Coming soon are shots of Cameron and Clara from my short vacation in Dodge. We went to Boot Hill and I got some great shots of the kids! And of course, I'll be posting new shots of the amazing views that I hope to capture up here. I've already seen my first moose, Dall sheep, and caribou (aka reindeer) so those pictures will be coming as soon as I can get them off my phone and onto my computer.

Oh, one last interesting item: currently, we are gaining 6-7 minutes of daylight everyday. By late June, it will be daylight all day AND all night long. We are close right now -- this is truly The Land of the Midnight Sun, and it is not easy to adapt to. However, it makes for great pictures, as there is always ample lighting for a photo op. Towards August/September, the sun starts to spend less time out each day, and I can't wait to glimpse the Northern Lights and catch them on film! Here's hoping!

Much love to all! And feel free to write/email! Kind words from home go a long way up here!


  1. Great blog, Casey -- I look forward to following your summer!

  2. Hang in there buddy ! Once you are back to the Mainland - you are going to have great memories ( and a fatter checking account ) Give em your best - so proud of you ! (DAD)

  3. Have fun dude, these surreal experiences are the type that make the best memories!
    Post some of your photos on instagram.

  4. Thank you so much for allowing us to partake in your adventure through your blog! One of my Bucket List items is to see the Northern Lights! I am very excited for you and can't wait to read more about your Alaskan adventures!

  5. Can't wait to read more of your adventures and to see more photos! My dream is to visit happy you are living it<3