Ptarmigan Tracks

The Newsletter of Camp Denali

Online Version 2022


"Things just got real Alaskan!"

Word came a year ago that the Denali Park Road, subsiding at its midpoint due to thawing permafrost, had failed beyond repair. Nothing would get in or out of Kantishna by road for at least three years, maybe longer. As this sank in, the operational challenges seemed many. Traits embodied by Camp Denali’s founders 70 years ago  ingenuity, self reliance, hard work would be put to the test all over again. The opportunities, it turned out, would reveal themselves more gradually, as our first roadless summer unfolded.

Alaska is a state in which some 87 percent of communities are not connected by road. As the newest member of that list, we did benefit from some existing resources including, significantly, a local air service. Our good partner Denali Air stepped up to provide that indispensable help. Throughout the summer, nearly everyone and everything that came or went did so on their trusty wings.

It’s been said that the real Alaska begins where the road ends. 70 years at the end of the park road may have given us a window on this, but being 45 miles beyond the end of the road gave it focus. As the season progressed, a distinct contrast emerged between the front country of the park, which seemed increasingly “front country”, with traffic, construction, and post-pandemic travel rebound, and our isolated haven of backcountry, which felt profoundly more “back country” in the utter absence of through-traffic.

We anticipate the eventual restoration of the road with mixed emotions. On the one hand, it will be welcome when we can once again deliver larger payloads with ease. And in the greater
sense, the heart of Denali is a national treasure expressly set aside for public enjoyment. But while we have it, we will make the most of this extraordinary opportunity that we’ve been dealt.

Things just got real Alaskan.

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© Murray Cohen

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2023 Special Emphasis Series

© Ralph Clevenger

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© Camp Denali Archives