When you think of an isolated place on the edge of the world, perhaps the small town of Talkeetna, Alaska comes to mind. Nestled where two giant rivers meet and overlooking the stunning Alaska Range, the place has beautiful seclusion and is oozing with solitude.
Talkeetna has long drawn outliers, people looking to seriously get away from it all. It's a tight-knit community of locals. Some come for a visit for a few days, others come for the rest of their lives. Right now, there is a group of people who have been sheltered-in-place here in Talkeetna for more than six weeks now.
All of this started while Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge was open for it's limited annual March opening. Lodge staff would normally be heading into a between-seasons period where they'd be busy now getting ready for summer (that had been scheduled for May 8 and has now been postponed).
"It kind of feels like you’re on the deserted set of Northern Exposure," says Fernando Salvador, Vice President and General Manager of Pursuit Alaska Collection, referring to the popular 1990's television show about the eccentric residents of an Alaska village that was reportedly based on the town of Talkeetna. "It's been very quiet the last couple of weeks but we're starting to see a little more movement as the town wakes up from it’s winter's nap and as the weather continues to get nicer."
There is a small group of people self-isolating in the staff housing at Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, where Fernando and his colleagues are doing their best to keep up the Alaskan spirit. He says they're striving to "use their time effectively and wisely" and to keep themselves busy with fitness, reading, learning and taking care of their overall well-being.
This has included some regular 'family dinners'. Every Wednesday, the group of people in staff housing (which has included up to 12 people) gathered for a meal in the lodge, supported by Fernando and Chef Wes Choy. Wes prepared the meals from the kitchen at the Lodge's Foraker Dining Room and the group was treated to a delicious meal. Strong social distancing protocols have been in place—including each person arriving in a spaced-out 'line' and extensive space between diners. It's been a great chance to bring the team together in a safe way during a time when people can feel alone and in a remote place like Talkeetna.
"I really think it's been valuable for us all to gather and share a meal," Fernando says. "Some people started doing theme nights and arriving dressed up in Hawaiian shirts or Western attire to make it more fun."
The seasons are always dramatic up here in Central Alaska. Winters are long and cold and summers very, very sweet. Fernando says daylight is extending until the late evening already. And even though the town is still essentially shut down (except for essential services and some take-out), local residents are out riding their bikes and going for walks on the local trails to welcome the warmth and sunlight.
"Spring is well on it's way," he says. "The rivers are starting to break up and the lakes are opening up. It feel normal, nature-wise."
In a place so immersed in the natural world, it's only normal that this kind of seasonal rhythm should help the team, like all residents of Talkeetna, find some steady inspiration.
The team is counting on this sense of place and natural rhythm to keep them inspired as they are getting ready, behind the scenes, for the day when they'll be able to greet guests again the majestic lobby of the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge.
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