Ptarmigan Tracks

Online Version 2015

Vol. XXXX, Winter 2015


Season’s Greetings!

The ground is blanketed with snow here in Denali National Park. We are already planning for the New Year and anticipating yet another summer at Camp Denali and North Face Lodge filled with adventure, camaraderie, and fond memories. Before we get too carried away in looking forward, we want to say “Thank You!” to all those part of our 2015 season.

Each year our Camp Denali and North Face Lodge community grows larger. If this is the first Ptarmigan Tracks you are receiving, we hope you enjoy hearing about our goings-on in Denali. For those of you who have been with us long enough to remember the transition from Tundra Telegrams, we look forward to many more years of your continued engagement.

Sincerely, Simon & Jenna Hamm


The Summer's Highs & Lows

This summer I learned a new parenting game: High-Low. Get your kids reflecting on the arc of their day, or a particular experience, by sharing their “highlights” and their “lowlights.” The game turns out to be a beneficial exercise, and not only for kids and parents: practice gratitude, celebrate success, and open the door to talk through anxieties and troubles.  When applied to our summer at Camp Denali and North Face Lodge, the practice has been useful, as we might have otherwise been tempted to focus only on our hardship.

Among the summer’s “highlights” were June’s unseasonably hot days.  Eight-year-olds Spencer and Danika lost count after their 45th dip in Nugget Pond.  Heat and drought meant remarkably few mosquitoes, but also the state’s second largest recorded wildfire season at five million acres burned. Wild berry crops were, in the favorite refrain of our Camp kids, “epic!” Staff member, Theo, single-handedly picked over 40 gallons of blueberries, his efforts reflected in our two-year jam supply.

Just like life, however, the summer did not only dole out sweetness and warm, sunny days.

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photo © Murray Cohen

2015 Recap

Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.”

Margaret Thatcher may have unwittingly explained the fulfillment that our whole crew deserves to carry with them from the 2015 season. Opening projects got underway quickly, thanks to a drivable park road in early May. Pre-season projects included remodeling guest rooms and repainting the porches at North Face Lodge, as well as bringing a new well and water softener online.

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photo © Dennis Stogsdill


From the Special Sightings Notebook

5/4     Wood Frogs already croaking at Nugget Pond the afternoon of our arrival to Camp Denali

5/13    A beaver in Reflection Pond! (it didn’t stay for the summer, unfortunately)

6/7      Greater White-fronted Goose goslings on Ranger Pond

6/11    75 bird species recorded by Stan Senner during birding week

6/20    An estimated 500-700 caribou cows and calves observed in the Pirate Hills

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photo © Paul Pinsky

What's in a Name?

I have referred to Denali as “Mt. McKinley” only once while living in Alaska – during my job interview with Simon and Jenna Hamm. When they corrected me mid-thought, I was not sure why I had been interrupted. I had been in Alaska for only three days, and had not yet witnessed Alaskans’ preference for the mountain’s original name.

Many natural landmarks in this country have been named for figures of the time. So what made years of persistent dedication to change Mt. McKinley’s name to its original roots worthwhile, or even valid? Perhaps it is the compelling meaning of the name, “Denali.” Native Alaskans named it literally for what it is: “The High One,” or “The Great One.”

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photo © Karen Willes

2016 Special Emphasis Series

Ken Burns has been making documentary films for more than 35 years.  Since the Academy Award nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, Ken has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made, including The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, filmed in part while staying at Camp Denali.

Ken’s films have been honored with dozens of major awards, including thirteen Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards and two Oscar nominations; and in September of 2008, at the News & Documentary Emmy Awards, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences honored Ken with a Lifetime Achievement Award.


Ken’s evening presentation will be in celebration of the 2016 Centennial of the National Park System.

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photo © Cable Risdon

Conservation Round-Up

Park managers here in Denali are currently working on a Trails Plan, soliciting input on how best to manage formal and informal trails. Overdue for attention is the murky issue of “social” trails, paths that often began as wildlife trails now frequented by hikers. Traditionally managed as a trail-less wilderness, Denali’s managers must adjust to a new reality. Stay tuned to this and other planning efforts in Denali:

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photo © Patti Neer

Looking Back...The Coles' Purchase of Camp Denali

This fall marked a significant milestone in Camp Denali history. Forty years ago September, Wally and Jerri Cole purchased Camp Denali from two of its founders, Ginny Wood and Celia Hunter. A down payment of two of Wally’s handmade, wood-and-babiche rocking chairs sealed the deal. Wally and Jerri Cole would make Camp Denali, and starting in 1987, North Face Lodge, their life work for 35 years.

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Camp Denali & North Face Lodge Staff

THEO AMBROS ’90-’93, ’13, ’15 Hartland, VT

MARK ARDAGNA ’14, ’15 South Lake Tahoe, CA

KC BOEHLY ’09-’10, ’13-’15 Seattle, WA

DUKE BRADY ’12, ’14, ’15 Olympia, WA

MARIANNE CATALDO ’14, ’15 Islesboro, ME

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photo © Meri Stoutenburg

The Newsletter of
Camp Denali,
North Face Lodge,
& Parkside Guest House

December 2015

Edited by Teresa Floberg

P.O. Box 67
Denali National Park, AK 99755
(907) 683-2290

The collective knowledge, talent, and warm hospitality of our staff are what make our guest experience so memorable.


Personnel Manager

Facilities Manager

Executive Chef

Naturalist Guides

General staff positions are also available for the 2015 season.

Registered Nurses and EMTs are encouraged to apply for any of our positions.

If you know of someone who would be a good fit in our community, encourage him or her to view the employment pages of our website.

In Loving Memory

Our summer season ended with deep sadness when staff member KC Boehly died in a backcountry drowning accident on August 27.  KC was a cook at Camp Denali and North Face Lodge for five summers and studied business at the University of Washington in the off-season.  A calm, confident presence in the kitchen, KC also delivered wicked wit with affection.  One friend observed, “No one’s eyes twinkled like KC’s.”  She was a ringleader in our intimate community, finding any reason to celebrate and play hostess extraordinaire.  It is hard to remember her with anything but her megawatt smile.  KC was beloved by all, welcoming everyone into her company.

What is the difference between Camp Denali and North Face Lodge?

Read our FAQ page to find out more!