- Associated Press - Monday, August 17, 2015

DENALI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE, Alaska (AP) - Hidden behind the row of businesses on the boardwalk just outside Denali National Park is a homespun operation that may be the best kept secret in the area.

It’s called the Denali Rainbow Village RV Park and Motel, and it is a very busy place.

Perhaps it has something to do with the two happy guys who welcome guests and give them the lay of the land. That would be Carl Rose and Charlie Sampson, reported the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

They provide maps of the area, offer tips on where to go and what to see, and all of it is done in a happy and helpful manner. They point out many of the businesses along the boardwalk with quips like this: “Glacier Scoops has good ice cream, but don’t get a waffle cone. They are highly addictive.” Cue the laughter. Every time.

They suggest Black Bear Coffee House for a good cup of coffee, and you can even order that “foamy coffee.” Yes, guests have gone directly there and ordered “foamy coffee.”



I even learned from them that, according to Trip Advisor, the best restaurant in Denali Park is the Gourmet Popcorn store. Truly. I checked online. It is closely followed by 229 Parks Restaurant and Tavern, which by the way, is an actual restaurant.

But their easygoing approach makes guests feel comfortable. It’s easy to see why those guests stop in just to chat and seem to become instant friends. This was made clear, in the time I was there, by the number of guests who came back to the office to report on their day and to thank them for their advice.

“That’s the fun for us,” said Sampson, after a guest proudly showed off his photos of bears and caribou from that day’s trip into Denali National Park. “The thrill of his face. How much more fun or reward could you get?”

Sampson is a retired elementary school teacher, and he has a lot of fun interacting with the visitors.

Although the RV Park is in an overall scenic spot in the canyon area, it is basically a gravel pad behind the boardwalk, and the RVs park closely side by side. They are hemmed in by the boardwalk on one side and the hillside on the other side. As far as Rose and Sampson are concerned, that shouldn’t matter. They suggest visitors park that vehicle, and then go out and see the sights.

The RV drivers don’t seem to mind either. It’s not unusual for the RV Park to host as many as 12 caravans of RVs during the season. A caravan is a large group of RVs traveling together. The RVs get lined up in the more than 60 spots available.

Rose greets them all and he has a little bit of experience making visitors feel comfortable. During the winter season, he works at Disney World and even helps to train college students who work there. It’s that Disney training, he said, that has helped him learn how to make people comfortable and more at ease with their trip here.

He likes to share trivia - like explaining the difference between a rabbit and a hare - and he has skills that took me totally by surprise. He’s the only person I now know who can sing “Happy Birthday” backwards. And I don’t mean by turning his back on you. All those special touches, no matter how goofy, are what make the day fun for him and for the guests, he said.

He even knows how to create those towel animals, often featured at luxury resorts. If he knows ahead of time that a guest has an anniversary or birthday, they may find a towel swan or elephant when they go to their motel room.

“It’s just that little stuff that makes a difference,” Rose said. “That’s the pixie dust. The Alaska magic.”

Rose and his wife, Suzanne, have worked here seasonally for about 10 years. Two of their seven children live in Fairbanks, so they really intended to visit for just one summer, 10 years ago. That turned into an annual journey. Now, Rose is a do-everything kind of employee here. If there’s no one to clean motel rooms, he does it. When there is a maintenance issue, he deals with it. The motel rooms are all upstairs of the businesses along the boardwalk.

“We call them ‘Denali’s Hidden Gems,’” Rose said.

Some are economy rooms, some are rooms with full kitchens and there’s even a suite with two bedrooms. Prices range from $160 plus tax for a room without a kitchen to $195 plus tax for a room with a kitchen or a suite for $305, plus tax. The park offers discounts for active military personnel and Good Sam Club members.

Each room features a framed photo of an Alaska outhouse. That’s another of Rose’s personal touches.

“See? It could always be worse,” he said, laughing.

In years past, the motel rooms were generally available anytime. This season, they are usually sold out. But it’s always good to check.

Every visitor gets a hand drawn map of the local area and suggestions for making the most efficient use of time.

Rose also always points out that there is life north and south of the Denali Park area. He hands each guest a special handout of suggested places to visit when they leave here. Then he sends his new friends on their way.

___

Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com

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