Final Day Artist-in-Residence Denali


My final morning at Murie cabin, warm temperatures and building clouds signaled a new front approaching. The weather was no longer my concern, closing the ancient cabin leaving it better than I found it occupied my thoughts. Rules in the park, to discourage animal habituation, require all dishwater and liquid waste be disposed in the outhouse. A blue “slop” bucket in the cabin was emptied daily. I swept and tidied the privy on the hill.


The table at the south window is a favorite place to read and watch outside, shelves above hold ancient logs and dusty reference books crammed with useful information. I washed, wiped, bagged trash, and polished the cabin until it shown.


As crude and rustic the cabin appears, clever accessories some hand-made others resembling antiques festoon the walls, ceiling, and cupboards inside this humble abode. Park service maintenance personnel brought fresh water in 5 gallon containers every three days, most every need was met. Every day I discovered something clever or figured out how to use a unfamiliar tool or odd looking appliance. My last task was to close and lock the bear proof shutters that covered the windows. Hand-made of wood and spiked with nails, the rough shutters bolted shut tight across the glass to discourage bears from gaining access.


As I drove east along my favorite hiking route up Sable Pass the two adult grizzlies I had often watched along the distant hillside emerged from the brush in front of my truck and led a parade along the road. Buses, cars and trucks trailed at a safe distance behind the bears and I couldn’t help but think about what would have happened had I been walking instead of driving and no vehicles were near to provide safety. This is Denali, and this is what happens. This is the magic of this amazing national park, a wild place in nature, beauty unsurpassed with experiences untold. I said out loud; “Goodbye Murie cabin, farewell Denali, you will remain in my heart and part of my work forever.” And, I wiped away a tear.

Gail Niebrugge, Denali Artist-in-Residence

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  1. A touching finish to what has been a fascinating experience, and thank you for sharing it each day. Lucky next person to inhabit the cabin after you!

  2. Thank you for reading. It was a very important experience. I can’t wait to get started painting. Gail

  3. I was already feeling the tears building before reading your last sentence. Then they came. It has been so beautiful–reading your journal and looking at your pictures.

    Thank you Gail.

  4. Thank you Vicki, this was a rare and precious opportunity. Gail

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