May 31, 2013
Summer has been slow to come to Denali, but it has finally arrived! This week we have been enjoying sunshine and warm temperatures. The birds are singing, the snow is melting, and yes, mosquitoes are even out. There is a flurry of life all around. It's hard to believe just last weekend we had a winter storm warning and received nearly a foot of snow overnight! For nearly two months we have been expecting spring to be around the corner, but when it comes to weather in Alaska: expect the unexpected.
This winter was a long and strange one. From the first substantial snowfall in September to the May blizzard, here’s a short recap of the past eight months:
With the late winter, our lodges have had to adapt to the unusual weather. The road leading into our lodges has seen a number of challenges. The park road crew encountered large 20-foot snow drifts, and, as the snow quickly melted: mud. We normally have several trips of both cargo and staff heading in and out of the lodges in May. This year, a number of those trips were delayed. For the first time in a number of years, the majority of our staff came by sprinter vans this week instead of the normal large bus (or “Happy Bus” as we like to call it, because our staff are happy to be returning!).
On June 3rd, when we receive our first guests, we'll be ready. Regardless of the weather, the road conditions, the challenges posed by mother nature: Denali still beckons. The mountains stand tall and snow capped. The wildlife are having babies and feasting on the fresh spring growth. The birds soaring above are setting up territories and nesting. So come prepared with a sense of adventure and don't be afraid to get a little wet or muddy. After all, it's part of the Alaska experience.
*On May 14th, the ice finally broke up on the Nenana Ice Classic, an Alaskan lottery where you bet on when the ice will break on the Tanana River, breaking the 97-year record for the latest breakup.
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:
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:
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April 22, 2013
In June of this year, nine mountaineers will attempt to become the first all-African-American expedition to climb Denali (a.k.a. Mount McKinley) in Alaska run by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). Camp Denali is partnering with NOLS during the expedition. Not only is this team unique in regards to the color of their skin, their goal goes way beyond summiting North America’s highest peak. Their ultimate objective is to inspire people of all colors, young and old, to get more engaged in the great outdoors.
The expedition is hoping to produce a documentary on the team’s journey to the top of North America’s loftiest, most iconic summit. The documentary will increase awareness of the importance of exploring natural environments and make clear that it’s time to invite all races, all ethnicities—all people—to inspirational outdoor playgrounds.
As our nation’s demographics change and our next generation—comprised mostly of people of color—take the reins, their comprehension of the benefits of outdoor recreation to their quality of life and to the stewardship of our wilderness is vital, making Expedition Denali an unprecedented opportunity not only make history, but build a legacy.
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.