An Outhouse?!

Posted By: Teresa Floberg     All Posts by Teresa Floberg  

October 19, 2016

Throughout the years of operating Camp Denali and North Face Lodge, we’ve spent many a phone call talking to people about our lodges. Camp Denali, specifically, is regarded as a must-do, truly authentic, Alaskan experience. We are the first to admit it is not for everyone, but it can be a perfect fit for many travelers, even if it doesn’t seem so at first glance. What is one of the most common hesitations people have about Camp Denali? Outhouses!

We know what you are thinking: A midnight nature call, dark, stumbling along a trail, and then, OH NO! A BEAR! Forget it, no way, I need an indoor bathroom.

The above scene is not an unfamiliar fear of guests interested in joining us in the heart of Denali, but who do not feel comfortable with an outhouse. Allow us to set the record straight with a few key points about Camp Denali’s outhouses:

  1. Distance: Each cabin and outhouse configuration is slightly different. Distances from a cabin to an outhouse vary from 10-60 steps on a maintained trail. If you have mobility concerns or frequent nighttime nature calls, just let us know a closer outhouse is an important requirement for you.
  2. Large animals: It is very rare for a bear to wander onto our property. Although it has happened every now and again, it is not an event we expect. Chances of a large animal being on the trail to your outhouse is slim at best. Grizzlies in Denali are not like bears in other places; they have not been habituated to humans so prefer to steer clear of human activity.
  3. Darkness: The majority of summer in Alaska experiences daylight well into the nighttime hours. In June and July, we have average daylight of 20 hours/day. Once August rolls around, the sun begins to set for a few hours each night. For those times of the summer, there will be a flashlight in your cabin.
  4. Privacy: Each cabin has its own private outhouse. The main bathhouse is a shared facility with hot showers and flush toilets located next to the dining room, but your outhouse is yours and yours alone during your stay.
  5. View: Most of our outhouses do have a view of Denali. Those that do not are tucked away more privately, offering a different advantage. Regardless, the walk to your outhouse brings you outside during some of the best times for mountain viewings or northern lights displays.
  6. Cleanliness: We clean our outhouses regularly. We advertise them as well-maintained and pristine, and we make a point to follow through on our promises! Guests are typically pleasantly surprised at the minimal odor and overall cleanliness of their outhouse.
  7. Chamber pots: We are happy to provide your cabin with a chamber pot during your stay to save frequent trips out of doors.
  8. Sustainability: Think about all the water you are saving. Every time a toilet is flushed, several gallons of water are used. Denali is an arctic desert, and our water is sourced from the hillside right behind the property. Outhouses are a great way to contribute to water conservation.

Don’t believe us? Guests have the same things to say after they join us for a stay at Camp Denali. Below are guest comments taken from TripAdvisor reviews:

- Although our room had no running water or electricity and we had to use an outhouse, this was an awesome experience.

- If you can view outhouses, gas lamps and wood stoves as part of an adventure and not an inconvenience, this place is for you.

- The tiny cabins and outhouses were spotless.

- I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about the outhouse but by the time I was leaving (3 days later), it was no big deal. It wasn't just any old outhouse. It was cute with a regular toilet seat, very clean, and had a window with a view of Denali.

- “Four Seasons Experience & an Outhouse!”

- Surprising how quickly you get used to the outhouse!

- Fun factoid - even the outhouses have a great view of the mountain (yeah, I had to verify it).

- I know they also have a lodge but quite honestly, given that the price is the same, I would strongly recommend the cabins instead unless someone simply cannot stand to use an otherwise pristine outhouse with a million dollar view.

- They say that they maintain their outhouses and they do.

- Just go here. There is no place else to stay with this view. I am not a fan of the outhouse, but it came with and amazing view and a great overall experience.

- Ok, there's an outhouse. Ok, the showers are in a different building. But who cares if you have such spectacular views of Denali? Will we return? Very likely.

- Do not let the idea of outhouses scare you, this destination should not be missed.

Now that you have our detailed overview of Camp Denali’s outhouses, including visuals, we hope you will consider it an adventure worth having.

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The Legacy of Ginny Wood and Celia Hunter

Posted By: Hannah Wagenaar     All Posts by Hannah Wagenaar  

March 24, 2016

Few people would contest the statement that Ginny Wood, born Ginny Hill, and Celia Hunter were two of Alaska’s pioneer conservationists, each with a heart that was drawn towards exploration. Their friendship started as they worked side by side as WASP pilots during WWII; shuttling planes around the United States for the war effort. For them, the freedom that came with flight “...was sheer magic!” Early in their friendship their mutual sense of adventure enticed them to attempt sailing from Seattle to Anchorage, and then later carried them to Europe, cycling through the war-torn landscapes of western Europe.

Following the war, the Alaska Territory caught their interest, and provided a blank canvas for exploration. Ginny and Celia first touched down in Alaska on New Years Day, 1947. They had flown two, single-engine Stinsons between Seattle and Fairbanks.  Due to temperatures that frequently dipped to -50F, the 30-hour trip had taken 27 days to complete- not to mention only one of the two planes had a functioning heater!

In the years that followed, Ginny would marry Morton “Woody” Wood and the adventuring duo would gain a third. Intrigued by the hut system of lodging popular in Europe, the trio began to dream of creating similar style of accommodation in Alaska. Their vision took form in 1951 when Celia staked 67 acres of land on the northwestern boundary of then Mt. McKinley National Park. The following summer of 1952 Camp Denali welcomed its first guests. Ginny, Woody and Celia designed Camp Denali for “...those who want a genuine Alaskan experience; for those who are willing to forgo modern conveniences, to live for awhile in the midst of primeval grandeur.”

Over the years Camp Denali would become an island of private land surrounded by an expanded, and recently renamed, Denali National Park. Over the 24 years that Ginny and Celia operated Camp, they relished sharing the beauty and wonder of Denali National Park. They sought to combine exploration of Denali’s vast landscape with an understanding of its history, science, and people.

In 1975, Ginny and Celia passed ownership of Camp Denali to the Cole Family; who still own and operate it today. As for these two amazing women, they never stopped exploring. They spent the next years trying to educate others and instill in them a passion for wild places. Ginny continued to lead backpacking and rafting trips into Alaska’s remote Brooks Range until the age of 70.

Throughout their lives Ginny and Celia would remain friends and allies in Alaska conservation. In 1960, they helped to found the Alaska Conservation Society, the first state-wide conservation organization, and both worked towards the formation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. They jointly supported and helped pass the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act; a piece of legislation that preserved 100 million acres of Alaskan wilderness. In 1991, both Ginny and Celia received the Sierra Club’s highest honor, the John Muir Award. Later, in 2001, they received the Alaska Conservation Foundation’s first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award.

With first Celia’s and then Ginny’s passings, in 2001 and 2013, we lost two amazing women who not only helped shape Alaska, but also aided in protecting the land that had so greatly shaped their own lives. Each year nearly two million of visitors make their way north to explore the wilds of Alaska. It is thanks to the conservation efforts of innumerable people, such as Ginny and Celia, that Alaska can still offer the promise of vast wilderness, and wildlife one is hard-pressed to find elsewhere. It is our hope that the lives and legacies of Ginny and Celia will continue to inspire others, and show the importance of preserving the wild places that call to all of us. Perhaps Ginny said it best: “ ...[the] values of such an area are those one cannot put a price tag on any more than one can on a sunset, a piece of poetry, a symphony, or a friendship…"


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A Summer of Love

Posted By: Hannah Wagenaar     All Posts by Hannah Wagenaar  

February 08, 2016

Each year Camp Denali and North Face Lodge’s staff make their way to Denali National Park to embark upon a summer of work and play. Roughly 50 staff members come together and form a community based on mutual respect for, and enjoyment of, remote and beautiful places. Alpenglow is on the skyline and birds are belting out their mating tunes. With a setting like this, what else could follow but love?


It would be too idealistic, even for us, to assume that all loves found in Denali are life-long. Challenges abound. For our staff, who live in a small community, privacy is at a minimum as roommates come standard. If a relationship turns south, you are guaranteed to run into your lost love interest, again, and again. With hurtles like these it may be easy to give up on love all together, but love is a hearty beast. It waxes and wanes and grows in all manner of places and intensities. Some might even compare previous staff relationships to our wildlife within the park. Two words.  Seasonal. Monogamy. On a naturalist note our state bird, the willow ptarmigan, also practices this style of love! However you color our love, be it cyclical or eternal, this season certainly saw its fair share of love and commitment for our staff. 2015. The summer of love.


Marianne, one of our naturalist guides, and Sky, chef extraordinaire, were the first of our staff to be claimed by love in 2015. In the spirit of honesty they were an item long before Denali came into the picture, but what better way to plan a wedding than to head to a remote place where there is no internet, and phone calls are made using calling cards? Now that is commitment! The epitome of calm, Marianne and Sky were married this fall in Maine. Marianne wore her hiking boots while Sky smiled from ear to ear.


Next to be carried away by love was Jan, one of our year-round staff members, and Austin, who works for Denali National Park. If you are starting to draw comparisons to the Capulets and Montagues, stop right there! Though these two were separated by distance during the summer, in the end love was triumphant! Austin proposed amongst a patch of fireweed that overlooked Denali in what could only be called a photographer's dream. In the end, love could not be denied nor would it be postponed. Jan and Austin eloped in the fall and were married amongst the first snowfall of the season.


As the summer wore on and colors changed, congratulations and well wishes were in the air. Love is infectious after all. To round out our summer of love Chris and Hannah were the last to bow before its call. As the best things are stereotypically saved for last, Chris waited as long as possible to act upon the ring that was in his pocket. On the very last day of the season, as we waved goodbye to our final guests, Chris took Hannah on a walk. He popped ‘the question’ while they looked out upon the Nenana River. Smiles abounded.


 Over the years, each season love has returned with vigor to Denalii, as if it never left. While we do not hire staff based on relationship status, Camp Denali and North Face Lodge have seen their fair share of budding loves and lasting commitments over their 60 plus years of operation. Wedding bouquets have been gathered from ridge-tops and fireweed has graced the top of wedding cakes. We have seen engagements where the only ring given was a strand of grass looped around a fourth finger. Vows have been exchanged surrounded by friends that, throughout the course of the summer, became family.  During my time working in Denali I have come to realize what a truly magical place Alaska is. Love will find a way even in a place where the running joke is "The goods are odd but the odds are good!" With a saying like that, I am certainly happy that this year the odds were in my favor.

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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.