Ptarmigan Tracks

The Newsletter of Camp Denali and Parkside Guest House

Online Version 2020

Reflecting on an Unprecedented Summer

Last spring, with COVID-19 increasingly upending the world as we knew it, Camp Denali made the difficult decision to sit out what would have been our 69th operating season. We shared our deliberations at the time in an essay titled “From the Cockpit”- a title inspired in part by the WWII piloting experiences of Camp Denali’s founders. Reflecting further on the global turmoil faced by that generation, it seems downright remarkable that this has been Camp Denali’s first disruption in seven decades.

In lieu of business-as-usual, 2020 was a season in which the goalposts became “Do the best you can with what you’ve got.” As always, Camp’s most precious resource was a deeply committed, if much reduced, staff. How reduced? Well, we had to go all the way back to 1976 to find a staff photo that had as few faces as the 2020 staff photo (see back page). Nevertheless, the days passed in a flurry of camaraderie and hard work, and by September we found we had quite a lot to show for a “non-season.”

Chief among 2020’s accomplishments was the furtherance of our solar energy conversion. Having installed 18 tracking solar arrays in 2019, we dedicated much of our efforts this summer to expanding our power building and installing all-new batteries, inverters, charge controllers, wiring, and a new backup generator. Only a few more connections remain to be made this spring, and Camp Denali, we are pleased to announce, will develop virtually all of its electricity from the sun.

Elsewhere, we remodeled staff cabins, chain-sawed firewood, dug up buried utilities, and generally focused on the many things that would constitute major disturbances in any other season. And when the workday was over, we turned to diversions that would similarly be too disruptive in a normal summer: paddleboards and kayaks strewn on the lawn, volleyball net strung across the upper yard, and musical instruments laid out on the dining room tables. At times we felt like one another’s life raft companions, and we could not have wanted for finer.

In a very material way, the solar project, other maintenance and upgrades, and even the decision to retain staff, reflect our commitment to getting back to what truly makes Camp Denali a fulfilling enterprise, namely, sharing it with others. While the world is still a long way from normalcy, we’re encouraged by advances in tools and knowledge to combat the pandemic, and by the will to do so. After the past year there is greater need than ever for the balm of parks and wilderness and human interaction – things which, despite Camp Denali’s decades of celebrating, we appreciate even more keenly after a year off.

Back to Online Version 2020