Ptarmigan Tracks

The Newsletter of Camp Denali,
North Face Lodge & Parkside Guest House

Online Version 2017

Looking Back...60 Years Ago

The following excerpts from the 1957 Tundra Telegram depict an eventful summer at Camp Denali. Our founders dispensed with all but “do-it-yourself” accommodations in order to prepare for the August 3rd opening of the Denali Highway. From then on we were full every night. Our old Ford truck gasped its last trying to haul in enough gas in drums to meet the demand of the new-type motor tourist. Newly road-connected, the Park’s visitation doubled from 5200 to 10,700. Changes at Camp included new “American Plan” frame cabins on the bluff; the old “housekeeping” wall tents were drug down to Lower Camp. A 3000-ft run of pipe from No Name Creek replaced yoke-hauled water from Nugget Pond.

True to Camp’s five-summer tradition, the summer staff serendipitously took shape: We completed all the projects we had planned plus a few others. But not with only three pairs of hands! All summer long we accumulated volunteer workers who arrived unrecruited. Some stayed a few weeks, others all summer.

Friend and former Park Superintendent, Grant Pearson, built a cabin and moved in for the summer on his 5-acre homestead above Lake Creek. This acreage would later change hands and in 1973 become the site of the original North Face Lodge.

Kantishna old timer, Johnny Busia died on August 22: Hundreds had signed his guest book, sipped his beer, and enjoyed his warm hospitality. He was a good friend and neighbor, and we will miss him. Johnny hadn’t been to Fairbanks for thirteen years or to the Park station for four. He would not have understood the world that will come to the Kantishna with the new road. With his death an era comes to an end, for a little bit of Alaska dies with each old timer.

Meanwhile, the Muldrow glacier took the limelight away from Mt. McKinley this summer. To observe and photograph this phenomenon we made numerous overnight expeditions up the lateral moraine of the Muldrow to Anderson’s Pass. Where once you looked down onto the glacier from the ridge along Glacier Creek, you now looked a hundred feet up into the air at the bizarre seracs [that] are over-running and pushing up under the green tundra. At places high up on the ice one could observe a mesa of grass and willow that had been lifted up by the force of the moving ice.

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