Katmai: Brooks Lodge

We ended most nights at Brooks Lodge. The sun would set at 10:00pm and we would treat ourselves to a beer at the lodge bar. They had a warm fireplace, cool drinks, and we could often meet and talk with the people that worked there.

We have started noticing a trend. There is a different level of attention that you get when you come to the National Parks to enjoy and spend time in them, and not just check them off of your list. For example:

Mike the Bus Driver – Mike drove us back from the Valley of 10,000 Smokes. So, basically, he saved our lives by providing the rice krispies. He came into Brooks Lodge while we were grabbing beers one night and we got to talking. We had seen him in the Valley on our hike in. He was about 4.5 miles in, camped next to the River Lethe.  At first he wasn’t really that excited to talk to us, but then he realized we were the guys who had hiked out into 10,000 Smokes. So many people come to Katmai, take a picture of a bear, ride the bus to the Valley, take a picture and then take their floatplane out. He realized we weren’t those people, so we started trading camping secrets. He imbued us with the knowledge of a new dish. Ramen, baked beans, garlic, and chili flakes. He also recommended taking a lemon because it always adds good flavor and clued us in to Bob’s Red Mill for breakfast. We gave him our PB&J tortilla upgrade and taught him the magic of tortilla bowls as a way to have no mess cleaning. Mutual respect was achieved.

Jen the Bartender – Jen took care of us whenever we came in for a drink. She was from Oregon and was spending her first season at Brook’s Lodge. She gave us some suggestions for Washington and Oregon and took down notes on our special oatmeal recipe. Her job was entertaining, because it not only included serving beers, but also including watching out for momma bear to see when she was coming too close to the lodge. She would shoo the bear away, or call in reinforcements for “bear hazing.” Hazing basically includes making loud noises, breaking sticks and yelling at the bear to let it know that it is not welcome around the buildings.

Vanessa the Baker – I can’t actually remember if Vanessa was the cook, but one of the nights that we were hanging out in the lodge, she brought in brownies that Trevor dubbed as ,“fat free, gluten free, vegan brownies.” This means that they are so delicious you don’t care how many pounds of butter and sugar was added. She had worked at the lodge for several seasons.

Cassie the Ranger – We first met the group when Vanessa and Cassie were chatting on a slow evening at the lodge. The mentioned something about Twilight, or Arrested Development, or fantasy literature, and my ears instantly perked up. Cassie was in her first season as a ranger at Katmai and was also the German interpreter for the park.

The people that work in the parks are deserving of thanks. They are doing the jobs that make our adventuring and communing with nature possible. Whether they drive a bus, serve a beer, give an interpretive talk, or cook your food, they are making your experience valuable. Don’t just thank them, take the time to get to know them and show interest in their lives. They are living and working in the park for a reason, ask them why and they will often give you insider advice about visiting the place, and maybe even a beer if you are nice.

On our way out, we felt obligated to give our friends something as a thank you. Meridian Line provided us with some awesome shirts that say “Be Dareful Out There!” They feature a bear and are pretty sweet. Being that we are in the park that is known for having bears, it is only fitting that we give them to the employees that work there. We gave our shirts to Vanessa and Jen and know that they will wear them in style. Thank you to everyone in Katmai that took care of us and told us the cool spots to visit!