Everyone knows that milestone birthdays beget more and more, er, inquisitive medical screenings, but who knew that the same goes for wilderness lodges? On our 60th the facilities were poked, prodded and made to turn and cough by everyone from OSHA to the fire marshal to the drinking water folks! Fortunately we emerged with a good bill of health and, hopefully, a reprieve until the next major birthday!
Not that we allowed those goings on to take up all of our project attention─ in the meantime we kept busy renovating, repairing and building. Staff rooms, Annex rooms, bus seats and greenhouse cold frames all got makeovers, and our ‘64 International crew cab had new life breathed into it by Charlie Fowlkes and Chris Noel. Tim Reap returned to lead the construction of a new staff cabin, and Tom McCarran replaced the old North Face Lodge generators with two new, 36K units. In June Wally and Jerryne drove up the Alcan highway in a new-to-us Land Rover 110, which now makes each lake run with canoeists feel like an East African safari. And in the season’s final push, we jacked up Camp’s log lodge and staged it 15’ north of where it has sat for 56 years. Next spring we will move it back south onto new underpinnings.
This year was the final full season for two longtime staff members. Brian McCormick began at the lodges in 1995. During his tenure he worked as a naturalist guide, driver, host, and bus trainer. Days not with guests saw him wielding pulaskis, crowbars, pickaxes and loppers to improve our local trails. Brian tied the knot with Megan Meyer on August 10th in Kentucky. Thanks to master seamstress Carley Dunn, the newlyweds received a beautiful quilt with contributions from many of their Camp Denali and North Face Lodge friends.
Anne Beaulaurier began in 2002 as a naturalist guide, joining the year-round staff as our Program Coordinator. During her 10 years in Denali she was the backbone of our winter office and wore many hats in the summers including bus driver, naturalist guide, host, and supervisor. We wish her the best of luck in her collaboration with neighbor, Donna Gates, at Tonglen Lake Resort.
“What is it like here in the winter?” ask many summer visitors to Camp Denali and North Face Lodge. I was able to find out for myself this past March when Simon and Jenna sprang us from our winter office at the park entrance for a week at our lodges in the heart of the park. With Simon and friend, Dan MacGregor, as our pilots, we flew over the park road, which in places was completely obliterated by wind-drifted snow.
Upon arrival, I discovered a familiar landscape transformed by snow and ice, offering new perspectives and possibilities. Summertime routes, like the trail up Camp Ridge, proved a challenge as we slogged on snowshoes in thigh-deep crystalline snow. Swimming and fishing destinations at Moose Creek and Wonder Lake were frozen, eminently ski-able expanses. Anne, Jan, and Martha spent three days skiing to McGonagall Pass, overlooking the Muldrow Glacier at 5,600 feet. There was plenty of sledding, snow-fort building, reading by the fire, and enjoying the splendid silence and solitude of winter. At the end of each day, just as in summer, we gathered for communal meals and shared our day’s adventures.
By the time the week was over, I didn't want to leave. I learned that the cabins stand proudly in the midst of a cold and harsh winter, that the Mountain still evokes marvel, and that wildlife as small as a ptarmigan and as big as a moose roam at ease in the winter landscape. No matter the season, Denali is a magical place.
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.