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 life in Denali: wildlife sightings, Denali National Park issues, recipes from our kitchens, and insights into the guest experience at Camp Denali & North Face Lodge. 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.



Spring Opening

June 11, 2018

In Alaska, as anywhere, there are certain things you expect and plan for each season. Winter brings wool-lined boots, fur hats, dark skies and time for snow sports. Summer ushers in “manic” days with 24 hours of sunlight and the busy tourism season.  As we were reminded this year, when the two collide, things get interesting.

Alaska’s Interior didn’t break any snowfall records this past winter, but it came close. It was clear that winter would tarry for a while as the white landscape refused to melt away and reveal its wildflowers and tundra ponds. What we encountered after flying into Kantishna with our small opening crew on May 6th was not a lingering winter, but actual winter.

In the theater the phrase is, “The show must go on.” It would follow that in the world of tourism we say, “The season must start.” And so we began.

Cabins were still buried in drifts and the driveway was covered in snow so deep that snowmobiles barely managed to break a trail. Instead of an easy walk down the short path between cabin and outhouse, it was a day of backbreaking labor as the shoveled snow piles reached chest high. Plant starts were brought in by snowshoe on sleds over the three miles from the airstrip. The phones wouldn’t work until the satellite dish was discovered buried halfway up in snow. The silver lining proved to be a perfect winter trail on Wonder Lake for evening skis.

A second round of planes loaded up to resupply the crew one week in. Top on the list of requested items was ibuprofen. A week’s shoveling will make even lying down hurt, and we hadn’t left a stock of the pain reliever when the lodges were packed up last fall. The less important items loaded onto the Cessna were food, personal items, a banjo, more plants, coffee, and the coffee maker. Our friends at Kantishna Air Taxi ferried several such resupplies throughout May as we waited for the Park Road to open.

The best-laid plans do not factor in the whims of weather. Life on the tundra will teach you important lessons – be ready for anything, even to fail. Thankfully we did not fail; we stayed nimble and reprioritized basic site management (i.e. snow removal), tabling the building projects we had added to the docket midwinter. No opening season is the same, and six decades in the business has taught this company a lot. The season must start, and so it did. Our first guests have come and gone, encountering more snowy slopes than is typical, but ready to explore all the same.

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