Posted By: Jan
May 01, 2012
The ground sheds its layer of snow bit by bit as the mercury continues to climb, degree by ever precious degree. It was a long, dark, and cold winter here in Denali, quiet and beautiful in many ways. But we now look forward to the spring, unfolding around us daily. Jenna Hamm heard the first migratory Junco singing its trill April 13th, the same day I collected spring pussy willows for the first arrangements of the year. Sarah Bierschwale dropped everything to rush to the window and track a flock of snow geese flying up the Nenana River valley last week. The dynamic tundra around us is slowly filling with its summer cohorts.
In winter Denali’s Park road is left peacefully asleep, snow covered and traffic free. Beginning late March the Park Service’s road crew begins to plow away the snow and use steam to break up the overflow ice. By early May the road is clear enough for biking and hiking to around the Polychrome Bluffs area. Locals love to come to the park this exciting time of year, as bears and arctic ground squirrels begin to emerge from their long winter hibernations and the snow rapidly retreats. True that we’ve yet to see much greenery….piles of snow are still lingering and abundant. The spring pasque flowers, a crocus relative with furry leaves to further insulate the plant from the cold, can now be seen on south facing slopes. The name “pasque” likely derives from the Latin word for Easter, “pascha”.
In only a week our first staff will touch down at the lodges to begin opening them for the season. The skeleton crew will be flying in bush planes to Kantishna, as the park road will likely not be entirely snow free to drive. Our buses and remaining staff will arrive in later May, smiling and excited. Close to 90 percent of our staff this summer are returnees, so expect a lot of those same faces that greeted you in the past!
John Haines, Alaska’s former poet laureate who passed away last year, once noted of this time of year that the “cold world awakes”. It does indeed, with bird songs, warm winds, the pattering of raindrops, and a blush of a purple flower on a hillside. Anticipation for the summer ahead mounts, and my heart swells for to once again see the tiny tundra wildflowers of June as we begin to see the very first traces of summer here in Denali.
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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.