1959 On January 3, the Alaska Statehood Act (signed in July, 1958 by President Eisenhower) officially named Alaska the 49th state. Russia sold Alaska in 1867 for $7,200,000, roughly 2 cents per acre, and it was admitted as a territory in 1912.
Unlike 2009, 1959 was a summer of cool and wet weather. Celia wrote, “If you weren’t at Camp during the middle two weeks of June, the first half of August, or the second week of September, you missed summer altogether.” Nevertheless, Ginny found time to do reconnaissance work for potential day hiking destinations in the park. As Celia explained it, one should “never trust her ‘short cuts’ home unless you are especially interested in mountain sheep.”
1959 was also Wally Cole’s first summer in Alaska. That year he worked as a bellhop at the park entrance hotel and began friendships with Camp Denali folks that “sparked his determination to return someday.”
1969 James Wickersham and his party first discovered gold in the Kantishna Hills in 1903. Shortly thereafter, hopeful miners stampeded to the area. The rush ended after a few years, but limited mining still took place into the 1980’s. In 1969, Celia describes how prospectors in the Moose Creek Valley were mostly deterred by permafrost or high waters. Their “public plunder for private profit,” as Celia titles it, left a rugged track ten miles upstream leading to Glen Creek. In 2009 the National Park Service, funded by federal stimulus money, hauled away tons of corroding mining equipment from the Glen Creek mining camp. Some less-toxic remnants of the mining days will remain for historical interest.
1979 Wally implemented a small hydroelectric plant, beginning a tradition of alternative energy at Camp Denali. Thirty years later, we utilize both hydro and solar power systems at Camp Denali.
One notable story from 1979 was the Cole family’s journey by plane and ski to visit Camp in February. Traversing the few miles from the airstrip to Camp Denali proved to be a slow challenge. As Jerryne recalled Jenna on skis, she wrote, “Did you ever succeed in getting a five year old to hurry?” The rest of the trip was successful, with temperatures between -20° and 10°F, and plenty of igloo building and sledding.
1989 remains a significant date in Alaska’s history. In March of that year the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef, spilling eleven million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound. The spill affected over 1,300 miles of coastline. In 2008, after almost twenty years of litigation, Exxon Mobil finally conceded to a court award of over $500 million plus interest on the origional five billion dollar judgement to those people whose livelihoods were affected by the disaster. The 1989 Ptarmigan Tracks reads, “The tanker’s hemorrhage and Exxon’s inability to respond have left Alaska feeling duped for having sold our collective soul to oil development.”
1999 So far, 2009 has been a year of limited auroral activity. Looking back to 1999, the sky was much different. Neal Brown, Aurora special emphasis leader since 1989, noted a dramatic band of dancing green lights that stretched from horizon to horizon on the eve of the last guests’ stay.
Illustrations by William D. Berry and Amanda P. Devine
P.O. Box 67
Denali National Park, AK 99755
The enthusiasm of our staff is often what makes the guest experience so memorable. If you know of someone who would be a good fit for our organization, encourage him or her to view the employment pages of our website, www.campdenali.com. General staff positions are available for the 2013 season, as well as the following professional seasonal positions:
**Registered Nurses are encouraged to apply for any of our positions.
Denali is what America was; it’s the old and new, the real and ideal, the wild earth working itself into us on days stormy and calm, brutal and beautiful, unforgiving and blessed. It’s where we came from, long before agriculture, television and designer coffee, before our goofball ideas of having dominion over all living things, before our modern, paradoxical definitions of progress and prosperity, and too much stuff; it’s the lean, mean, primal place buried in our bones no matter how much we might deny it, no matter how fancy our homes, how busy our routines, how cherished our myths. Denali resides in each of us as the deep quiet, the profound moment, the childhood lost and found again, the open space and rare chance to be observant, truly alive.