Camp Denali and North Face Lodge are family-owned and operated lodges, located on homesteaded inholdings in the heart of Denali National Park and Preserve. Wallace (Wally) and Jerryne Cole, owners for more than 30 years, have handed over the torch to their son-in-law, Simon Hamm and their daughter, Jenna, as the lodges' third caretakers. Following in a long tradition of owner-operators, on any given day of summers past, you would see Wally with his sleeves rolled up and on his back, fixing something underneath a bus, or Jerryne with her backpack on and binoculars at the ready, filling in for one of the naturalist guides out sick with a cold. This was in addition to being hosts to a group of guests and paying bills in the wee hours of a long mid-summer night. Nowadays you will see Simon and Jenna Hamm in these roles, just as 60 years ago these characters would have been Ginny, Woody and Celia.
We are grounded by Camp Denali's history and tradition. Ginny Wood, co-founder of Camp Denali, said that in building Camp Denali the land "told us what we should be." The founders agreed that they should not intrude on nature any more that they had to create a place for visitors that "didn't care about luxury accommodations, but wanted to be close to the land." After two transitions in family ownership, we uphold what we learned from our founders: stay small, maintain a minimal footprint on the land, and provide comfortable hospitality that allows visitors to experience the wild nature of Denali National Park.
Although the rustic quality of some of Camp Denali's infrastructure remains unchanged from those early years and a simpler time, our business practices have decidedly entered the contemporary world. 59 years ago, our founders would have scoffed at the notion of needing to write down what their "mission" was. Today we have a 30-page handbook and policy manual for our employees, require satellite internet to run our business, and, in case we forget what guides our decision-making, we are providing active learning experiences and fostering stewardship of the natural world through a tradition of excellence, community and place.
At the core of our guest experience is a chance to live close to the land and, in exploring Denali's wilderness, to learn about its ecology and history. More than facts and figures about Denali, we hope our guests return home with new ways of seeing and understanding nature in their own backyards, be they wild places, urban parks, or the margins of suburbia. In addition, we hope that our continual improvements to the environmental sustainability of our operation will provide an opportunity for our guests, staff and other small business owners in Alaska to learn about viable alternatives to the status quo.
For us, providing excellent hospitality is not about attending to every luxury or amenity; instead we strive to ensure our guests' comfort, to meet their needs, and surpass their expectations. At Camp Denali and North Face Lodge you are welcomed as personal houseguests into our community of 46 staff. Our summertime staff live, work and recreate together. Because our ability to provide warm hospitality depends on our ability to get along and work effectively, we value the health and happiness of our staff just as much as that of our guests.