I grew up in central California, and from early childhood enjoyed the Sierra Nevada mountains with my family. In my early twenties I hiked the John Muir trail, spending six weeks in the roadless backcountry. On that trip, I learned to feel at home in wide-open spaces. Moving to Alaska was simply the next phase in that education for wilderness. Arriving at the entrance to the park just as the Parks Highway was opening, I witnessed the birth of the shuttle system and the decline of private vehicle access. At that time, about 50 people lived near the entrance of the park in winter. In the years since I arrived at Denali, the growth of tourism, spurred by improved road access and hotel development, has brought both benefits and challenges to the park and its environs, and made the work of DCC as important now as it ever was. As the Denali region changed over those years, my life did too. I went from local employee, working for over 20 summers at Camp Denali, to community nurse in Anchorage. I went from bush resident for over 20 winters on the Tonzona River, surrounded by those wide-open spaces I’d craved since the Muir trail, to a city life. DCC keeps me grounded in both my past joys and hopes for the future.
I grew up in Puerto Rico and the Jersey shore, biennially traveling west on Routes 40 and 66 to visit relatives in Illinois and Kentucky and my sister in New Mexico. After college in NJ, I worked summers at Bryce Canyon NP, Dinosaur NM, a couple of years in Uncle Sam’s Army, and more summers at Bryce and Petrified Forest. Collegiate focus on geomorphology and botany fit in with park settings. In 1975 I started a long-term relationship with Mt. McKinley NP/Denali NPP, working seasonally in interpretation, maintenance, and resource management, landing a permanent job in 1987, which led to retiring as the park’s compliance officer in 2016. My wife Heidi and I have two boys in their twenties, all living in Anchorage, while spending special time on the Stampede Road and at our cabin on the Sushana River. In the attempt to help keep Denali living as a vignette of primitive America, I have tried through the years to keep the park road and the road experience from being only a stock exposure to the wildlife and wilderness of this crown jewel.
I have lived in the Denali area with my family, which includes a team of sled dogs, for over 20 years. I graduated from Colorado State University in Biology and soon afterwards headed to the Canadian far north, where I worked in tourism and wildlife for 7 years, before coming to Alaska. I live in Denali to experience the wilderness surroundings firsthand and explore my naturalist interests on a daily basis. I am involved with DCC because of concerns with the continuing struggle over proper uses of our natural heritage of wild places which I feel are continually threatened with development and exploited for economic opportunity at the expense of preservation. I am presently the chief naturalist and head instructor at the Denali Education Center and enjoyed many years working at Camp Denali, in the heart of Denali National Park.
I came to Denali straight from college as an SCA volunteer, planning to spend one summer in Alaska. Twenty-five years later I finally did leave, moving to Eugene, Oregon where I presently live. But in between I spent most of my time at Denali and its surrounding communities, living on Stampede, near McKinley Village, and in Talkeetna. Denali still captivates me today as much as it did when I first arrived, and I am glad to still have a role to play in protecting the park’s wildlife and wilderness.
I arrived in Denali in the middle of a May snowstorm in 1978. I thought I was coming for a four month job, but it became home for these many years. My husband and I are now snowbirds, but our connection to the area remains strong and we consider this home. I have worked in the park in one capacity or another for 43 years. In that time I have seen dramatic changes and have admired the work DCC has done to protect the park and the surrounding area.