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The Opening Crew

Posted By: Lee Drury     All Posts by Lee Drury  

May 21, 2013

On May 6th our opening crew arrived at our lodges in Kantishna. Staff member Lee Drury was part of the crew and describes the first week:

“We’re here!!

Yes, the Opening Crew, all 13 adults, plus Danika and Silas, are on site and working hard to prepare for the Camp Denali/North Face Lodge guest season to come.  We flew over the Alaska Range from Talkeetna in planes equipped with skis for landing on the snow-covered (about three feet of it) Kantishna Airstrip.  While the logistics are complicated, total transport required one bus, three airplanes, two snow machines (several round trips to North Face from the airstrip, about four miles), bucket-brigade-type lines for unloading food and necessary cargo, and lots of snow-shoveling. 

Once ferried to North Face Lodge from the airstrip, each person had a task, and we all set to it.  By nightfall we had heat, melted snow for washing dishes, and a shoveled path to the outhouse; by the following morning limited toilets and showers, and a delicious hot breakfast.

Here at week’s end, it’s clear that work has progressed.  Camp buildings and paths are shoveled out, there’s a clear—well, muddy—track plowed from Potlatch to North Face, seedlings bask in the sun, our own sprouts grace salads.  A new generator is installed; the new staff cabin boasts completed interior work, the frame for the lodge foundation has been cut, new towel racks are installed in cabins, one quilt is done and work on new curtains has started. 

While it is certain that we’re here to work, we’re also having fun.  Jerri Cole still holds the distance record for sliding down Camp hill, and staff members have been seen snowshoeing—and even crawling—on rapidly melting snow cover.  Sunscreen tubes and bottles (from 33 SPF to 70) hold down the desk in the living room.  Early morning forays on skis to Wonder Lake and after-dinner walks round out our days. 

Now, at the end of the first week of Opening, the road crew chews through an 18-foot drift over towards Eielson Visitor Center, and Kantishna’s airstrip is still snow-covered—if showing a trickle of water at the edges.  Work continues each day here, but whether worked or played, the hours bring happiness at again being together and putting everything in shape for the guests and the summer to come.”


Since last week, the lodge has been moved into place on its new foundation and floor, all rotten logs have been removed and fresh ones have been put in. Most of the finish work (walls, trim, desk, stairs) is done in the new staff cabin. The sewing team has completed one quilt and 3 cabins worth of new curtains. All made possible by our intrepid cook, Sara, who has cooked three delicious meals, fresh breads and delectable desserts for 14 days straight!

Check out the video of the lodge being moved:

Moving the Camp Denali Lodge from Camp Denali on Vimeo.

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Quilts: Greater than the Sum of their Parts

Posted By: Lee Drury     All Posts by Lee Drury  

June 03, 2012


One of the long-standing traditions at Camp Denali is the presence in each cabin of a hand-made quilt for each bed.  These quilts bring visual warmth to the cabin and literal warmth to guests, but time works normal wear and tear on quilts.  Once the quilt is beyond simple repair, it is designated a Staff Quilt and replaced with a new one.

This year eight quilts retired.  This meant that eight new quilts needed to appear on those guest beds.  Since the best time to build quilts is before the guest season starts, in early May, before the Park road opened to travel, two additional staff members, Alex and Lee, joined the early wave of “openers,” and flew out to Kantishna to assist with waking up the property for the season…and to make quilts.

With the designs chosen, and with Jenna assisting, we selected fabrics, reviewed skills and reminders necessary to the cutting of fabrics, width of seam allowance, pressing of seams, tying layers (backing, batting, top), where to tie the layers….  Lots of information.

Next?  Production.  For two-and-a-half weeks--and under Jenna’s initial direction, Alex and Lee cut, sewed, ripped out, re-sewed, matched seams, pieced together, safety-pinned layers, wrestled with turning the stitched layers, “ditch-stitched” the quilt, and chatted, laughed, shared stories, watched snow fall and sun shine.

As we sewed we named the quilts:  the queen-sized quilt for Last Chance became “Infinity” (it has no border); Nunatak’s double is “for Signs and for Seasons and for Days and Years” (spring flowers, autumn leaves); and the two twin-sized quilts for that cabin and of matching fabric are “Romulus” and “Remus.”  The four twin-sized quilts for Last Chance are C, S, N, and Y (the fabrics are the same, but the pattern keeps changing).

The final step is Jenna’s.  On the back of the quilt near one corner, she embroiders the first three letters of the cabin name, the initials of the three of us making the quilts, and the year in which they were made.  We hold the memory of the shared work, but the finished work holds each of us in memory, too.  

So the tally:  three people, eight quilts.  Three friendships cemented by working together, and then an additional eleven people to hold the quilts for the picture.  Another equals the photographer.  Plus all the housekeeping staff handling the quilts, the guests who’ll pull those quilts up around their shoulders against the Alaskan evenings.  

Far more, these quilts, than simply colorful fabric.

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Opening Day

Posted By: Lee Drury     All Posts by Lee Drury  

June 06, 2011

It's a clear morning here at Camp Denali, sun shines brilliantly, staff members bustle about carrying baskets of last-minute cleaning supplies, cooks produce mouth-watering aromas that waft on the crisp air, flowers bloom cheerfully from hanging baskets...and, out grazing in Nugget Pond--rippling the reflection of Mt. McKinley--are the first moose cow and calf of the season.  And on Opening Day!


Simon sent out a CB message calling attention to the presence of our feeding fauna, and those bustling staff members, the busy cooks, even our four staff children all gathered on the lawn, stopping, quieting, to observe.  

Everyone here agrees that we live in an extraordinary place, but on mornings like this with such surprising and pleasing moments just happening, suddenly there...well, the extraordinary becomes exhilarating.  

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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.