Ptarmigan Tracks

Online Version 2010

Vol. XXXV, Fall/Winter 2010


Greetings from frosty Denali! 

With temperatures well below zero, this is the time of year when we enjoy slowing the pace down a bit, reflecting upon the year gone past, and getting in touch with all the wonderful folks who have visited our summer home on the tundra.  We had a busy summer season, one filled with many wildlife sightings, outstanding hikes, happy guests, and well, downright cool rainy weather.  It wasn't the sunniest summer on record, but no matter what mother nature dishes out, Denali still seems to amaze and reward those who make the effort to journey toward the end of the Park Road, settle in for a couple of days, and experience Denali from our point of view.

In addition to the coverage of ongoing issues in Denali and the events of the year, one of our favorite parts of the newsletter is the "Looking Back" section.  We hope you enjoy the glimpse of Denali and Camp Denali in the early years.


Wolves: Public Mandates at Odds

Alaska has long been known as a state with contentious issues surrounding wildlife management. A 1994 state law, commonly called the Intensive Management Law, dictates that wildlife on state lands must be managed for the highest sustainable yield for human consumption. In contrast, the National Park Service is mandated to preserve natural and healthy wildlife populations and to “...leave them in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” A conflict in management philosophy thus appears in areas of the state where federal park land abuts state land. Denali National Park and Preserve is surrounded by three state-managed Game Management Units. There are active predator control programs for bears and wolves in some of these units.

In 2000, buffer zones were established on state lands adjacent to Denali for the protection of wolves...

Click here to read the full story.

2010 Season Highlights

Road Rehabilitation Project

Last year we reported on the Denali National Park road widening project between miles 73 and 86. The project began in earnest this year, widening the road in certain sections. The creation of additional intervisible passing pullouts will provide more safe places for buses to pass one another. Park visitors this summer noticed large culverts staged on the sides of the road awaiting installation, as well as heavy equipment, flagging and road cuts where expansion was taking place.

Denali’s new Vehicle Management Plan, which determines the system used to provide visitor transportation into the Park, is set be released in 2012 when the current plan expires. An Enviromental Impact Statement and the Road Capacity Study will be considered. Find out more about road issues in Denali at the Denali National Park website.

Roundup of Projects at the Lodges

The 2010 project season started early after the discovery during a winter visit that the North Face Lodge spring had frozen solid.  This caused no small alarm, as it has always flowed freely all winter long, often producing frost crystals a foot long on the inside of the springhouse.

Click here to read the full story.

From the 2010 Special Sightings Notebook

5/22    Green-up starting on Camp Hill!
6/7      Two adult Northern Shrikes and nest with five nestlings visible from the road on the east side of Thorofare Pass.
6/10    Two inches of marble-sized hail strip new leaves from the tundra plants in a half mile swath near Reflection Pond.
7/6      Three-year-old Danika Hamm finds the first blue blueberries of the season.
7/13    Golf ball-sized fluffs of Least Sandpiper chicks at Ranger Pond.
7/20    Lynx observed above treeline on Ridge Walkabout Trail.
7/28    Fourteen wolves cavorting in the Grant Creek pack.
8/12    Coyote seen on Mt. Galen, headed west.
8/19    Three wolverines observed on Mt. Galen.
8/20    Sixty-five cow and calf caribou on the Plains of Murie.

2011 Special Emphasis Series

Stewardship and the National Park Idea
June 27-30 & July 1-3      

Shelton Johnson, Acclaimed Writer and Interpreter, Yosemite National Park

Shelton Johnson, a native of Detroit, Michigan, currently serves as an interpretive ranger in Yosemite National Park. Mr. Johnson served with the Peace Corps in Liberia and attended graduate school at the University of Michigan, where he won several writing awards, including a Hopwood Award in poetry. While working in Yosemite, Mr. Johnson stumbled upon archived photos of Buffalo Soldiers who had patrolled the park around the turn of the 20th century. Since 1998, he has been bringing the history of the Buffalo Soldiers to life at venues around the country. His recent book, Gloryland, is a novel based on the life of a Buffalo Soldier stationed in Yosemite National Park. Mr. Johnson is prominently featured in the Ken Burns documentary film The National Parks: America’s Best Idea

Click here to read more about Shelton Johnson and the rest of our 2011 Special Emphasis Series speakers.

Early Wildfires Squelched by June Rains

Although 2010 may be remembered for many a damp, cool hike on Denali’s tundra, other areas of the state were again faced with wildfires. On May 19th our sky was hazy with the first smoke of the season, the earliest in memory. May was a particularly dry month during which many fires sparked up, including some that overwintered beneath the snow in combustible peat moss. Many early season hikers observed distant wildfires on the Toklat River from the top of Camp Ridge. The severity of the fire season is an unwritten book, however, until the June rains come (or don’t), and come they did to Fairbanks, Denali, and southerly regions of Alaska. The volume of precipitation in Denali caused lake levels to rise, proving fatal for a loon chick on Wonder Lake as its nest was submerged. By contrast, northern areas remained relatively dry. Fires burned approximately 1.25 million acres statewide (an area the size of Delaware), causing staff members Ellen Horbett and John Kahle to cut short their multi-week canoe trip in Gates of the Arctic National Park.

Looking Back...

Fifty Years Ago at Camp Denali

Under the advice of Berle Mercer, a few Camp staff decided to try the feasibility of using pack horses to explore the park. Berle, Ginny, Woody, and Loy Mercer (along with five horses and two mules) pioneered a route from north of the Park Railroad Depot along the base of the Alaska Range to Camp Denali. The roughly one hundred mile route led them through June migrations of thousands of caribou and many river crossings. “Woody, who has waded so many glacier streams, chuckled with glee as our horses carried us dry footed…” wrote Ginny.

....And in a similar chord to current economic times, the number of visitors to Alaska overall was down that year, however, Camp Denali still saw many intrepid guests. The number of station wagon trips bringing visitors in and out of Camp was reduced from three to two per week, despite many travel agencies cautioning against it. Ginny wrote in defense of the decision, “We weren’t seeking ‘Tourists’ anyway. We wanted vacationists looking for an experience in-depth. And that, in the main, are the kind who found their way to Camp.”

Read more from the archives here.


This year the Denali Park community was saddened by the untimely deaths of two well-loved individuals. Missy Woodward was a Fairbanks pediatrician and friend of Camp Denali who visited regularly with her husband, painter Kesler Woodward. Missy was the first female graduate of Davidson College in 1973, who constantly amazed friends with her tenacity and kindness. Kes said of Camp Denali that “Missy relaxes here more than any place on earth.” Friends were stunned and saddened by her death on July 25th.

Phil Brease, Denali National Park and Preserve’s geologist since 1986, passed away on May 12th. Phil was an affable man who loved sharing his passion for geology. He was at the forefront of dinosaur track discoveries in the Park beginning in 2005 and came to Camp Denali and North Face Lodge many times to share his knowledge. His wit, occasionally odious puns, big mustache, and even bigger heart will live in our minds as hallmarks of the incredible resources this park has in its staff and ambassadors.

2010 Camp Denali and North Face Lodge Staff

MJ AFT ’06 -’10 (Denali National Park, AK); STACIE ANDERSON ’09, ’10 (Prescott, AZ); BOB AUSTIN, ’10 (Northampton, MA); ANNE BEAULAURIER ’02 -’10 (Denali National Park, AK); MARIA BERGER ’97 -’10 (Fairbanks, AK); HANNAH BERRY ’10 (Gustavus, AK); KC BOEHLY ’09 -’10 (Salt Lake City, UT); RYAN BROSSETTE ’08, ’10 (Tallahassee, FL); MATT CAHILL ’09, ’10 (Amherst, NH); LINDSAY CHRONISTER ’08 -’10 (Seattle, WA); WALLACE & JERRYNE COLE (Denali National Park, AK); 

Click here to see the full roster.

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!