Ptarmigan Tracks

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

Online Version 2014

Looking Back...Sixty Years Ago in Denali

Sixty years ago this May, my parents, Liz and Bill Berry, made their first trip to Alaska and Camp Denali. Though the event may be recorded in one of my parents’ journals of “critter” sightings (they both diligently noted dates, times, and locations on every moving thing they spotted), I cannot recollect any first impressions they may have told me of their first climb up the hill to Camp Denali. I do know that Camp would be the window through which they viewed Alaska and its wildlife over the remainder of their lives. For them, Camp Denali and all that it represented was the perfect conduit to introduce people to Alaska's natural beauty.

Camp Denali was my folks’ ticket to Alaska. Liz was one of Camp’s first staff members and Bill was the accompanying wildlife artist and part-time water boy. Their real mission on this first trip to Alaska, however, was to see for themselves the Last Frontier and the animals that inhabited it. Their shared love of the natural world had taken them over much of the deserts and Great Plains of the American West— observing, sketching, journaling, and attempting to make a living sharing those discoveries with the world through illustrations and cards, drawings and paintings.

Camp offered a way to see Alaska and its wildlife first hand. What they weren't prepared for was just how strong the pull was. They never left. Liz continued to work and visit for many summers. As for Bill, the most prominent part of his artistic career was during his remaining 25 summers, sketching and noting his observations of Denali’s wildlife— and, of course, gleaning dinners and conversations from Camp whenever he needed some human interaction between his forays.

I like to think they must have loved the wide-open skies and unhampered vistas afforded from Cranberry Ridge when they first arrived. It’s hard to imagine not heading up there as soon as you've taken in Nugget Pond and gotten your wind back from the walk up. In fact, this is often what I think of as I stand there. What were their first thoughts at that wonderful spot? Perhaps much like my own. Wow. I made it. I'm home now.

- Mark Berry

Back to Online Version 2014