Ptarmigan Tracks

The Newsletter of Camp Denali and Parkside Guest House

Online Version 2020

Looking Back

2000 - 20 Years Ago
Construction of Pika Hut, an octagonal timberframe cabin on property belonging to the Cole family atop Camp Ridge, began this summer- a labor of “many hands” and a small amount of helicopter assistance.

Bear shenanigans this summer included those of a black bear that had acquired a taste for human food elsewhere in the valley. This “turkey bear” nearly derailed the Camp staff end-of-season Thanksgiving feast with a pantry raid conducted in the wee morning hours, during which the bruin consumed “ and a half turkeys washed down with four dozen eggs!”

1990 - 30 Years Ago
The early crew of 22 staff flew in on May 7th to complete construction of North Face Lodge staff room dormers and two guest cabins, Eureka and Last Chance. Camp Denali’s Pelton wheel hydroelectric generator ran for the entire summer, only the second time in eight years of use.

On May 17th, Camp staff came to the aid of a French and Norwegian climbing party, one of whom had fallen through the rotting lake ice while attempting to ski across Wonder Lake. The remainder of the summer saw staff in canoes on days off “fishing” in 80 feet of water for climbing gear and skis!

1980 - 40 Years Ago
The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) established 19 new national parks and refuges, doubling the land area of the national park system nationwide. Denali National Park was tripled in size to better protect the park’s wildlife, while maintaining indigenous subsistence rights and landowner access.

Installation began on Camp’s first renewable energy power generation system, a Pelton wheel hydroelectric generator run by high pressure water diverted from nearby No Name Creek.

The last housekeeping tent frames, Avalanche and Permafrost, were hauled uphill to become staff cabins, and new, log guest cabins were built to replace them. (The Avalanche tent frame became staff cabin Arnica, which was torn down this summer, 2020.)

1970 - 50 Years Ago
Lured by the high price of mercury, local miner Arley Taylor in the late 1960s re-staked claims at Slippery Creek, a 1930s-era mine near the very base of Denali. Ever since its establishment in 1917, the park’s enabling legislation contained a provision for mineral prospecting and extraction. Camp Denali founders were spurred to action in the fall of 1969, and again in the summer of 1970, when Slippery Creek prospectors illegally bulldozed a 25-mile route from Wonder Lake for a permanent haul road for antimony and mercury ore.

Stunned by the precariousness of the park’s land protections, our founders wrote, “only Congress, which established McKinley Park, can rescind the mining clauses. And only you, the concerned public, can bring this to their attention and urge action.” Indeed, the advocacy of our founders and others helped bring about the 1976 Mining in the Parks Act, which suspended any new mineral entry in six national parks, including Denali.

1960 - 60 Years Ago
A shift to 3-and 4-night minimum stays and week-long interpretive programs began this year, including Wilderness Workshops, Tundra Treks, and Shutter Safaris. “When we decided to cut our station wagon trips from three a week to two [...], we were warned by travel agents that this would cut down our ‘potential’ as most tourists didn’t have time for that long a visit at any one spot in Alaska. But we took the gamble. We weren’t seeking ‘tourists’ anyway. We wanted vacationists looking for an experience in depth.”


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