By Dave Price
This morning I woke up in my "Hotel Room" in Chena Hot Springs, Alaska. It was 20 degrees - IN THE ROOM. The thermostat wasn't broken. It's supposed to be that way. The room is made of tons of ice....and that's about it. Twenty degrees is good, considering it's near zero outside. I worked at the Chena Hot Springs Resort (watch "The Early Show" Monday for details on my work) in exchange for some cash and a place to stay overnight while I waited for my flight from Fairbanks to Bellingham, Wash.
From personal experience over the years, I've learned that the cold can do one of two things: It can suck out all your energy or invigorate you. For the most part, cold has the latter effect on the great people who choose to call Alaska's interior their home. They do much more than deal with the frigid climate - they embrace it, they celebrate it and try and spread their enthusiasm to those of us who are just visiting. Hiking, sledding, swimming, sitting on a porch and enjoying the view? Sure! Do it all! Damn the thermometer! I learned the spirit of Alaska - the last frontier - isn't just a clever slogan slapped on a sticker....it's a mindset here.
In this tiny community, 60 miles outside of downtown Fairbanks (populated only by the 70 people who work at the hotel and their guests) -- amazing things are happening. There are hydroponically-grown fresh tomatoes, basil, asparagus and other vegetables flourishing in the dead of winter. Their heat is created geothermally -- and they recycle almost everything on their property. Bernie Karl is the proprietor of this "resort" - which is truly on the leading edge of developing and using alternative energy even in the most remote areas. Some call him eccentric, but others call him visionary. But everyone can agree he is entertaining and welcoming. His motto: We got a hug from the earth, and we should try to give it back. Well Bernie, I feel like I got the hug....thanks. I hope to take what I've learned from you and apply it to my own community when I get home. See you soon.