1960 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.”
1970 saw the completion of the Ridge Walkabout Trail down from the ridge behind Camp Denali. The switchbacks, cairns, and tree clearing was the culmination of a three year project built almost exclusively by "women and children." Mining was also a major issue at the west end of the Park in 1970. Still legal in the park until the 1980s, one operation cut a track from Wonder Lake to the foothills of the Alaska Range in search of mercury and antimony. This mucky swath was visible for many years to come.
1980 The biggest event of the year was the passage of the long-anticipated Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). This act set aside 102 million acres in Alaska destined for conservation systems, including 56.6 million acres for Wilderness designation. ANILCA expanded Mt. McKinley National Park threefold, and changed the name to Denali National Park and Preserve, the native Athabascan name for the area. Camp Denali thus became an in-holding in the heart of Denali National Park. The week of Labor Day at Camp brought on early winter, with close to 12 inches of snow and the temperature reaching a chilly 11 degrees F. Staff hauled water up from Moose Creek after the water line froze, and "everyone roughed it" a little more than normal without showers for a time.
1990 was a year of many wildfires in Alaska, and several days of June and July were too smoky to view the mountain. In fires of another sort, property rights issues in the Kantishna valley flared up when a landowner announced plans to build an RV Park/Campground near the Kantishna Roadhouse. This never came to pass, luckily, as the legality of the business proved to be on unstable footing. Separate but related issues involved the legitimacy of leasing mining rights in the waters of Moose Creek, the small, arctic grayling-filled stream between Camp Denali and North Face Lodge. In good news for conservation that year, the Park Service did receive $6 million from Congress to buy some of the mining claims within Denali National Park, helping to protect some of those lands from future development.
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.