Fuzzy black ears poked out from behind a snowbank as we drove up to A Taste of Alaska Lodge near Fairbanks, followed by a wiggling, licking welcome from ‘Dawson,’ an adolescent sled dog puppy with a penchant for greeting newcomers. My son, tired from an early-morning flight from Anchorage and a busy afternoon of exploring Alaska’s biggest Interior city, allowed a slow grin to appear.
“This is a good place,” he said, rubbing Dawson’s ears and gazing across the snowy meadow, illuminated only by a flickering of stars and shadowy light from the log structure.
Located about 20 minutes north of Fairbanks along Chena Hot Springs Road, A Taste of Alaska offers visiting families a unique perspective of unhurried Alaska life, with enough old time charm to impress adults and plenty of simple pleasures for the youngsters. Owned and operated first as a small homestead/farm, then as a lodge and guest property, the buildings have been open to visitors since 1992, now in the capable hands of young lodge owner Kory Eberhardt.
Eberhardt was away during our visit, on his honeymoon in fact, so his mother Debbie, recently retired from the lodge business at A Taste of Alaska, was our hostess. No-nonsense and all about her guests’ comfort, Debbie was a breath of fresh air for us Alaskans, authentic, funny, and willing to hike up a chair and talk about life in the Last Frontier.
As is common up north, A Taste of Alaska thrives on a family-style line of service, meaning meals are taken in a shared atmosphere, and boundaries between guests are few. Everyone wants to know everyone else’s business, and for families, conversation nurtures well over a cup of hot chocolate or an evening beer from the local brewery. The lodge is known for its gourmet, hearty meals, particularly Debbie’s homemade breads, jams, cinnamon rolls, and a raspberry vinagrette that had me drinking leftovers from the salad bowl. Breakfast is included in pricing, and dinner arrangements can be made for those who’d rather stay and savor the view during the evening hours.
Accommodations are equally delightful, with enough kitch to amuse a vintage-sucker like myself, and featuring unique implements from the lodge’s early homesteading days to keep kids asking “What’s this for?” Homemade quilts, antique stoves, pelts, and posters adorn every available wall and floor space, and the lodge dining room is full of books and photographs. Six private rooms and two family suites are available in the main lodge, all with private baths and sweeping views of the meadow, mountains, and towns, below.
A cottage and log cabin are also available, with one and two bedrooms, respectively. It was at the log cabin that my inner homesteader took hold, and I found myself standing on the front porch one morning, pondering the flow of wildlife traffic, sunrises, and sunsets this little home has seen over the years. Built under the talented hands of Debbie’s husband, Dave, the cabin was the Eberhardt family home for many years before kids moved out and the main lodge became center stage, and the cabin’s cozy, snug interior must have many a story to tell. Perfect for families, the log house also has a hot tub, books, games, and toys to enjoy under northern lights or midnight sun, depending upon the season.
Activities are simple, too, with opportunities to Nordic ski the property and nearby birch forest trails, snowshowing (the lodge will let you borrow some, but kids may need their own, rentals available at REI in Anchorage, or Beaver Sports in Fairbanks), and even a spin in a dog sled. Paws for Adventure keeps their dog yard in the forest below the lodge, and even if you don’t ride along, kids will thrill at the sound of 20+ sled dogs yowling and yipping a wintery night away.
Our favorite part, however, was simply walking the narrow, tree-lined trail between our cabin and the main lodge. Dawson capered along ahead of us, absolutely convinced we’d never make it without his leadership, our son chased along his heels, laughing and falling down and getting back up again. AK Dad and I followed slowly behind, our breath curling in the frosty air, our eyes slowly adjusting to the sillhoueted trees, the wind whispering a quiet “Welcome to our home.”
Hospitality is more than clean sheets and good food.
So, so much more.