Denali Dispatch

Denali Dispatch is a journal of the goings on at Camp Denali.


Written by members of our staff, this journal is an opportunity to peek into life in Denali: notable events, wildlife sightings, conservation issues, recipes from our kitchen, and insights into the guest experience at Camp Denali. Dispatches will carry on through the winter, when we hope to share stories of snowy ski adventures, deep cold, and the events of a small Alaskan community.

Living Our Mission, Part 2 of 3: Community

December 28, 2018

by Lilly Schneider

It’s not enough to say I love the people at Camp Denali & North Face Lodge because they are wonderful. Truly, they are a remarkable bunch: adventuresome, generous, playful, hard-working, sincere and almost suspiciously chipper. A shared curiosity about the world and our own possibilities for moving through it--the same curiosity that has pulled people to Alaska its whole settled history--brought us all here. We live in close proximity, work in close proximity, and do pretty much everything together. We are friends. We are the kind of family you may not have heard of before.

Camp Denali has an uncanny knack for hiring terribly interesting and loving people. But there’s an instant bond, or at least an instant opportunity for bonding, between every person, staff or guest, who has gone to the trouble and had the good fortune to find their way to Camp Denali, which comes from this simple fact: we’re out here together in the wilderness. And that means we rely on each other for everything.

By my reckoning, just by, say, waking up in your cabin and eating breakfast, you are interacting with the work of dozens upon dozens of staff, past and present. Staff members built your cabin, and others have maintained it. Someone lovingly sewed the quilt on your bed, and someone else washed it. Someone cleared the trail to your front door. The light in the staff room stays on because someone wired it to, and the operations crew (who are probably hogging the maple syrup) ensure that it stays on. You fill your plate with food ordered, transported, organized, prepared, served, and maybe even grown by the same people who are sitting around the table with you, wondering where the maple syrup is. And when you scrape your orange rinds and toast crumbs into the kitchen bin for biodegradable scraps, you’re sending it off to be composted by a coworker, and handing your plate to another coworker to be washed.

We rely on each other, too, in celebrating the delights of life in the subarctic: canoeing, berry-picking, tundra-lounging, playing music. There’s a lot to learn from each other; how to bake bread, how to knit socks, how to swear in Italian, how to identify the mating call of the ptarmigan, how to read the clouds to guess if the day will be hot enough for swimming. Sweaters, hiking gear, books, and mugs tend to migrate between staff dwellings, as do the staff themselves. The alpenglow on the Alaska Range just looks better when you’re watching it with a porchful of friends, the same kind of friends who will wake you up in September to witness the Northern Lights. We are bound by our shared joy in these experiences, and in the work we do to give guests from all over the world the chance to experience rare opportunities for growth, gratitude and wonder.

Camp Denali’s first employees were guests who decided they didn’t want to leave and asked to stay all summer. Denali National Park is a place of rare and abundant beauty, but still, I don’t think any of those early adventurers would have wanted to stick around if they hadn’t also found themselves in excellent company. Camp Denali & North Face Lodge is not really just a place you go to work. It is a community, one that endures even when the Park is covered in snow--and then the spring comes, and we return again to welcome each other home to the wilderness.

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