With tent camping you know what to expect. Booking a hotel online is a different story. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)

With tent camping you know what to expect. Booking a hotel online is a different story. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)

I Went to the Woods: Booking a bargain

The cheapest hotel in the line was on the end next to a bus stop with an advertisement proclaiming that syphilis was making a comeback and it was important to get tested.

The deadbolt on the door had been compromised and fixed with the expertise and skill of a toddler and a box full of Fisher-Price tools.

The bed was mostly made which provoked further scrutiny. Toenail clippings. But not just a few. There was a shocking amount of yellow-tinted nail slivers under the sheets, just below the pillows. Either the person sat on the pillows and clipped in stages, two people clipped together, or someone saved up and deposited them as a joke, political statement or as a final gesture before embarking on a new career.

I don’t like demanding new towels, new rooms, sending back food, etc. but even for $60 a night the expectation is a locking door and fewer toenails in the bed. Hopefully none.

The lady at the front desk was elderly and noticeably bothered by my report. She shook with an element of embarrassment and or frustration, apologized profusely then gave me a new room. There was DNA on the towels in the new room but the bed seemed clean.

I have a long list of great memories fishing within the city limits of Redding, California, but we all know that fishing or hunting is only part of the trip. Dumpy hotels are often part of the story.

My wife and I have booked a trip north to do some trout fishing in the interior this summer and even though that experience in Redding was nearly ten years ago, it still greatly informs my decision-making.

We plan to camp for most of the trip but do have a few days in Anchorage so I looked around for a bargain. There are so many resources for travelers now, but it’s hard to figure out exactly what the numbers mean. The distance from 4 to 2 varies greatly. One hotel earned a 3.4/5 on cleanliness. But I have met people who would give a hotel a 2/5 if the washcloths and hand towels aren’t folded into a swan and waiting on the bathroom counter. So I read the reviews.

“…unwashed tub and black hairs everywhere.”


It’s difficult to not sound like an entitled brat when you’re looking for a hotel that is up to your standards, but with prices where they are, why not have some standards? That said, it is just one night.

When traveling on a budget, money that goes to the hotel can’t be spent elsewhere. This is obvious, but when you really start to put a value on that extra cash it becomes more meaningful. I could book a hotel for $320 a night, or get a bargain hotel and spend the extra cash on flies which is more in line with the point of the trip.

Conference rooms just drive up the price because business folk can write it off, Wifi is so standard it shouldn’t be advertised and continental breakfasts are typically underwhelming. Proximity to good food is important because there is really no better way to start a day of fly fishing than with a good breakfast burrito. Unless it’s the guts of a burrito spilled out onto a foundation of home fries. Abby and I each ordered one of those at a cafe across from a hotel in Basalt, Colorado, on a trout trip and the memory of that breakfast stands out every bit as much as Redding’s Toenail Inn.

But for a more redeemable reason.

• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His book, “A Miserable Paradise: Life in Southeast Alaska,” is available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. “I Went to the Woods” appears twice per month in the Sports & Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire.

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