Blog Posts by Lee Drury

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Summer Statistics

Posted By: Lee Drury     All Posts by Lee Drury  

March 02, 2015

While there are certainly colder nights and more snow in New England than in the Park, winter still reigns, even as more light returns each day.  Year-round staff busily work at setting up all the details for the summer.  Simon and Jenna flew in to the lodges to see that all was well. Interviews for new staff are nearly wrapped up, and now the tough decisions begin about who to hire.  Emails fly back and forth between returning staff expressing enthusiasm in contemplation of another season of work.  In the office, reservations flood in, and cabins and rooms fill up for the season to come.
Each year as the summer season approaches, year-round staff compare numbers of guests in the previous season to those booked for the season to come.  Last year?  Two thousand, four hundred twenty-one guests.  That makes for a lot of people ferried from the Park entrance to the end of the road, a lot of world-class meals served, and a lot of questions asked.  How do you do this?  Do you stock supplies over the winter?  How does the food get here?
The simple answers?  A knowing smile, no, and the same way the people get here.  Truck, Cessna, or, as shown in the 2013 photo from early May, late snowmelt necessitated flights from Talkeetna, over the Alaska Range, and then snow machine to cover the four miles from Kantishna.  With supplies.  Enough to last until the road opened to traffic.
In another part of the office, Jenna reviews the previous season’s inventory as she ponders prospective orders for the season.  Inventory lists show what a successful season looks like, and the revelation is mind-boggling.  In 2014, we soaked through 12,000 tea bags.  $3,960.  As I sit here with my single cup of Earl Grey, I can’t quite get my arms around that number.  Marginally easier to visualize are the 1,170 pounds of coffee beans, brewed into my addiction of choice at a whopping cost of $11,466.  Then there are those 5,000 (five thousand) pounds of flour for daily bread and yummy cookies.  That’s one hundred 50-pound bags of flour hefted in and out of the Warehouse.  Hmmm.  No wonder our bakers are so fit.  And the eggs:  5,400 eggs.  Per month.  Twenty-eight thousand (28,000!) total eggs consumed.
But the statistic that amuses the most and prompts hoots of laughter is toilet paper.  TP.  Outhouses and bathrooms require lots of paper, apparently 1,680 rolls of it.  The details continue:  each of those 1,680 rolls contains 2,000 inches of paper which divides out to 280,000 feet.  Taking that another step, you end up with fifty-three miles of toilet paper.  Picture a TP trail going eight times up and down the Wickersham Wall.  Or covering the trail out and back to McGonagall Pass with enough length left over to make up for the amount that washes down the McKinley River.
Now that is a statistic.
Exuberantly everyone prepares to pitch in with the work, the lugging and hauling, stowing and shelving, dusting and scrubbing.  Thoughts spring forward to the guests’ smiles at the first whiff of morning coffee, their joy at finding a basket of Focaccia on the table, and the satisfaction of seeing that little white roll hanging on the wall.

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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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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.