Denali Dispatch

It is our pleasure to present Dispatches, a journal of the goings on at Camp Denali & North Face Lodge.

Written by members of our staff, Dispatches is an opportunity to peek into the special sightings notebook, brush up on Denali National Park issues, read about our ongoing projects in sustainability, and maybe get a whiff of what’s cooking in the kitchens. Dispatches will carry on through the winter, when we hope to share stories of snowy ski adventures, deep cold, and the events of a small Alaskan community.



The Season of Light

December 16, 2015

I live in a place that often evokes many questions. Why do you live here? What do you do in the winter? Isn’t it dark?!!! And COLD!??!? When I hear these questions I completely understand the rationale behind them. I might have asked them myself before I moved here, but the reality of what I have found is far from what I expected. In a place know for darkness, my friends and community could not instill more light into my days.

Every year Alaska and Denali experience the waxing and waning of the seasons. In four short months Denali hosts over a half million visitors, over a billion migratory birds and an unknown number of blooming flowers. As fall faded this year many of the birds and people who called Denali home in the summer had already moved south for the winter. As snow began to blanket our landscape, hiking was replaced by skiing, and running shoes were set-aside as dog sled runners took their place. Our northern lives slowed to a pace more befitting the still winter landscape.

As December is here in earnest now, holiday music fills most homes and wreaths adorn the cabins tucked into our landscape. So begins that time of year when, around the world, people come together to celebrate family, friends, and community. At the entrance of Denali the same holiday bustle can be found, but like the voles scampering about in their snowy tunnels underfoot, one might have to look carefully to notice the flurry of activity and preparations.

One first notices the influx of packages at the post office, both coming and going. In a state where indoor plumbing and running water are often optional, Amazon Prime with its free shipping has an appeal that is hard to ignore. Friends depart on trips ‘outside’, a term referring to any place other than the state of Alaska. These trips often carry people to warmer place and familiar faces. Weeks can go by without seeing a particular friend and neighbor. No matter how many weeks elapse in their absence one thing is true; they come back. They come back with stories of families visited but also of how much they missed their Denali home while they were away.

This year Chanukah has already come to an end. I celebrated the Festival of Lights, not because I am Jewish, but because in the North we celebrate light in all forms. On Sunday I stood in a room full of friends, very few of whom were Jewish. Attempts were made to pronounce the Chanukah blessings correctly. Few succeeded. “Asher kidishanu b’mitzvotav” does not roll easily off of the tongue for everyone. In the end, almost nothing was recited accurately or in the proper cadence. Some words were abandoned entirely- sorry “v’tzivanu”- but our recitation was done with vigor and with an appreciation for those people with whom Chanukah and the Jewish faith resonates.

As Christmas approaches I know that these same friends will come together to celebrate a different holiday. We will watch ‘A Christmas Story’, drink eggnog, and stay in pajamas for way longer than is traditionally acceptable. We will think about our family members far away but hold close the community that surrounds us. I live in a cold and dark place. I live far away from movie theatres and shopping centers. My life is not always logistically the simple, but this holiday season I am trying to stop and appreciate the simple things in every day, like Chanukah candles, community and light. 

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