Monday, August 16, 2010

Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge

The past three summers I have worked for Alaska State Parks at the Willow Creek Campground. I was the fee attendant. This summer, the parks did not get funding for my job. I volunteered anyway for a couple friday nights during King season just to be sure the Parks got their parking fees paid. Then they closed the river to fishing for Kings because not enough were making it upstream to spawn.

A week or so after that happened, the head Ranger in my area asked if I was interested in working at the visitor information desk at the Mt McKinley Lodge which is in Denali State Park. He asked me this at the beginning of the season and I declined as I working for the census. I also wasn't sure I wanted to be around that many tourists. But, I drove up one day to have a look at the place and found it delightful. So I took the job.
McKinley Princess Lodge from the overlook.
It has actually been more fun than I expected. Tourists from all over the world visiting Alaska and having a great time. I smile every time one of them excitedly tells me how they went to Susan Butcher's kennel, or they met Libby Riddles or Lance Mackey, or Aily Zirkle got on the train with them. They are having such good times, despite the rainy summer.

Denali from the lodge deck.
A tourist howls with the wolf statues.
While working here I've been living in my Scamp at the Veterans War Memorial 14 miles up the road next to Byers Lake. One morning I got up to go to work and the Mountain was out!
I love getting all different views of Denali.

One of the great parts of my job is that I get to give a mushing demonstration every evening. I make it known that I am a recreational musher, but I know enough about the races to answer just about any question that comes up. I also get to teach my way of thinking about the sport and how misinformed are the animal rights people. The best part is I get to bring one of my Siberian Huskies.  I've brought Rosie  and Spirit. Both have been overwhelmed by the number of people who want to pet them and take their picture.  Rosie liked it for a while, but by the second day made it known she wasn't happy. She stays home now. Spirit is having a pretty good time of it. He talks a lot and people like that. I make sure he gets some down time behind the desk with me or out in the car. This is a great job!
Rosie next to my desk under the black bear hide.
Spirit at the overlook--Denali in the background.

Denali from the overlook. That's the Chulitna River lower right.


  1. Wow What a dream come true for you! and Spirit looks the same! He is so handsome. The mountain is beautiful! What is a Scamp? an RV I hope. Anyway I know you are thriving...keep sending the amazing pictures

  2. PS love the website!

  3. Great blog, Donna. Sounds like a great job too. When we were there in 1995 or 96, Dewey Halverson and his 5-time Iditarod lead dog, Lumpy, gave the evening program. We chatted with him after the program since he mentioned that he grew up in MN (turns out he went to school with my uncle's nephew). The next day we went to see his other dogs and ended up adopting our first sled dog, Ashley. We later adopted Lumpy too and he lived to the ripe old age of 17!
    Enjoy the rest of the summer!
    Pat in MN

  4. Great post Donna and you sure have a super location. Glad we got to see you there too. Even better was your suggestion about staying at Byer Lake which we loved. Kayaking and hiking Byer Lake was one of our very favorite things so far. Thanks for helping our Alaskan vacation be so much fun.

  5. Sounds like you're having a summer to be envied, Donna. Poor Rosie, sounds like SHE was kind of over-whelmed with all the people. Spirit, well, I can just hear him "lapping it all up", and talking back as good as he gets! Give him a big hug for me, please! We DID get to Skagway this year, just on our way back from there now. In Watson Lake 'til Thurs. morning. Got my bag of "Alaskan Fireweed and Yukon Fireweed, will get the Northern BC Fireweed on Thurs. on the way home.

  6. Coming for the East you are sure a luck girl. Congradulation on your new job, it sounds wonderful, exiting and lots of fun specially since you can take a dog with you! I love the photo's, at least I can live Alaska through your photo's...Thanks from Delaware.