Living The Dream – OR – A Day Operating an Alaskan Summer Camp
100 Days of Fishing, Kayaking, Camping, Water Taxis & More
Doesn’t sound so tough, does it? Enter a day in the life of Elijah, Miller’s Landing’s Operations Manager.
Your alarm goes off at 5AM. It might as well be noon, it hasn’t been dark at night for a month.
Hopefully you got a good night’s sleep because hitting “snooze” is not an option. If you’re late, every single trip of the day will be late also. Get up! Let the dog out for a few minutes and head down the road to open up the office. Hopefully the grounds crew are already there – As you pull up you see Jean and Brad already hard at work, these guys are so dependable.
You ready for this? Mornings at Miller’s Landing are no joke! You open the office and start brewing some coffee – by the gallon. Free coffee for over 35 years sets a precedent, you really can’t make it fast enough. Building a fire in the wood stove is second nature at this point, in moments eager anglers and kayakers are already crowding around with steaming cups of joe, excited for the day’s activities. By 5:30 the rest of the morning staff have arrived, the kayak guides, captains, and deckhands are already on the boats. Sometimes you have to give them a bit of a kick, but they’re pros and quickly get moving once they’re up.
You go through the check-in process with each new guest, making sure they’ve got their necessities: fishing licenses, lunches, and are dressed appropriately. Today is special and all three landing craft are departing at the same time – 6AM – you leave the office to the crew and head down to the beach to make sure everyone is boarding the correct boat. After taking headcounts, answering questions, confirming float plans and pick up times, somehow all three boats depart on right on time. Over 40 kayakers, fishermen, and sightseers disappear in the wake of the departing boats. It looks like the weather is gonna be beautiful, so everyone should be in for the trip of a lifetime.
While their adventure just started, your day has only just begun. Back into the office to start checking in guests for the 7AM Bridal Veil Falls kayak tour. They’re already arriving and need to know where to park, what to bring, and who their guide is. After that it’s the 7-11 Half Day Fishing Charter, 7:30AM water taxi to Thumb Cove, 8AM Caines Head, full & half day kayaking trip departures, and the 8AM Tonsina Paddle.
You get a bit of a break after the 8AM kayak tour departs, but you’ve got a bunch of emails to answer and phone calls to return. Lots of trip changes and last minute bookings have come in over night – how so much happens between the 11PM closing time and the 5AM opening time is baffling. You get as much as you can done before the 9:30 water taxi departs for the Orca Island paddle, with a group of excited kayakers.
Ahhh, now things slow down for just a bit. Nothing major until the 11:30 water taxi, or so you think. Your moment of respite is broken when three camo wearing fishermen from Minnesota walk in wanting to rent a Stabicraft for the day. They want the whole shebang, fishing poles, bait, tackle – usually we take reservations for these rentals and are more prepared for the check out process. Clearly these guys know their stuff, we go over some area limitations, sign some waivers, and turn them over to the outside crew to do the boat orientation.
The 11:30 water taxi is always a doozy. The state park service cabins in Resurrection Bay have a noon check out time, so there are always plenty of pick ups. Additionally we have 3 different kayaking trips in the bay that depart at that time, so the house is usually packed. Once the water taxi departs you’ve got a bit of down time to run home and make some lunch and pet the dog a bit, but your day isn’t over yet!
Soon it’s back to the office so you can help with the 1:30 water taxi, we’ve got a lot of stops on this run, but you’ve stayed on top of keeping the passenger manifest updated throughout the day and everybody is getting picked up and dropped off in the right place, at the right time. One more run at 3:30 and water taxis are done for the day!
Around 4PM tonight’s lodging and camping guests start to arrive. The grounds crew have done a great job of cleaning up any messes left over by last night’s guests and the campground is looking great. The housekeepers are just wrapping up the day’s laundry, so the cabins are ready to go.
Around 5:30 the fishing charters start coming in, and it looks like they had a banner day. Halibut, halibut, ling cod, halibut, oh man look at the size of those salmon! You can’t resist the urge – you throw on your Grundens and grab your knife roll from your car to go help fillet. This is one of the best parts of working here, cleaning fish with your closest friends and colleagues. Rain or shine, it’s always a cheerful atmosphere, especially on a day like today when everybody brought back a limit!
Two hours later you’re covered in scales and fish slime, but you hose off and clean your knives, because it’s supper time. But you can’t leave just yet. There’s a guest who can’t get their RV into their reserved site. You’re able to shuffle things around a bit and free up a larger site for them, and everybody is happy. On your way out the door you notice the kayak guides have a lot of boats to clean, fresh off the water taxi and could use a little help. You run over and lend a hand hosing the saltwater off of the gear and stowing the kayaks on the racks.
Is it time to eat yet? You finally get to town with Aspen from the Outside Crew for a burger and a beer, and unwind a little after a long, but productive day. Fishing is the topic, as usual, and everybody has a story to tell today. It was a good day at Miller’s Landing!
Wait! It’s not over yet. On your way home you pop back into the office one more time to make sure everything is running smoothly, and it’s a good thing you did. There’s a vessel in need of assistance south of Rugged Island, a 24’ Bayliner adrift without power. He’s asking for a tow to the harbor. You get ahold of Captain Tom and he agrees to spend the next 4 hours towing the boat in.
It’s almost closing time but someone has to stick around to help land the boat on the trailer when he gets back. Luckily, Jean from the grounds crew is willing to hang out and do it – even though you both have to work in a few short hours. What a guy!
You get a quick shower and spend some time with the dog, but hopefully you’re in bed by 11, because you have to get up and do it all over again tomorrow.
Don’t worry, you get a day off in September.
(Elijah has worked at Miller’s Landing for 500 years this summer! The above was written by him and edited by someone much better looking. Thanks Elijah!)