We laugh in unison as the door to the Bunk Room swings open, revealing the roughly 8 x 10 foot room that is to be our quarters for the night. Four travelers – two couples – eight eyes scanning the two sets of bunk beds on either side of the room, delineating the walk-in-closet-sized space that remains between them.
I enter last but glide to the bunks on the left, skirting my partner to toss my black bomber jacket onto the top bed, provisionally claiming that territory as my own. I also secure a spot for my backpack under the only other furniture in the room, a low bench made of a bisected tree trunk with smaller branches for legs. Not much territory, but it is mine. The others also mark their spots, with a sweatshirt here, a backpack there. We left our suitcases in the car just to check in, but now understand the prescient wisdom of that choice. We will get by with bringing in just PJs and a change of socks.
There is no real tension as we collectively agree, implicitly, on our separate territories. We have shared small spaces this whole trip, having driven the hundreds of miles from Anchorage to Whittier and Seward and back, then North to Talkeetna in our tiny rental hatchback. Our Bunk Room at the Talkeetna Roadhouse is just a continuation of that intimacy of space. We smile at one another as our mutual division of the territory proceeds.
Later, the others walk to the Talkeetna River, but I opt for a draft beer at the Wildflower Café across the street. As that elixir reaches my lips in the graying light of evening I realize my good fortune. Life is good.
When my companions rejoin me, we remark on the odd juxtaposition of our tiny quarters in the vast expanse that is Alaska.
I sleep soundly, hugging my special anti-snore pillow to my chest, comforted by the soft rustlings of friends, and surrounded by hundreds of pictures and postcards from other travelers who have called this bunk room home for a night or two.
In the morning we have coffee and fresh baked pie before setting out to witness the wonders of Denali, hoping to see a bear or caribou or at least the wide open enormity of that wilderness.
Copyright © Thomas Ward 2017