Denali Adventure Details

This detailed information is intended for participants only. 
Additional general information can be found on the
summary page.


DATES: July 9-23, 2019

You will need to arrive on the day before (Monday) and spend the night in Fairbanks. Be very careful about your flight arrival date because many flights arrive into Fairbanks just after midnight, so it is easy to make a mistake. I recommend that you depart any time on the 24th (Wednesday) unless you plan to extend your stay at your own expense.

COST:  $1550

You are responsible for your own transportation to Fairbanks. You must make an initial payment of at least 20% of the total trip cost in November, and after February 1, this is non-refundable. Cancellations prior to May 1 are eligible for 85% refund of amounts beyond the deposit. You may make partial payments any time, but the full balance must be paid in full by May 1, 2018, and no refunds will be provided after that date.

Your registration covers everything EXCEPT:

Travel costs to and from Fairbanks.
Lodging the night of July 8th.
Some food on travel days.
All food while in Fairbanks.
Optional half-day excursion to Coldfoot and Wiseman. (Approx. $490. Description of the trip HERE)

We strongly encourage participants to purchase trip insurance. If you don't already have a company you use for this, we suggest you contact Greg Schlachter at Expedition Broker.


While in Denali: Tent-cabins which sleep two to four people. Clean, double-sided, modern pit toilet. Potable running water (cold only) for cooking, brushing teeth, etc. No showers. No electricity. No cell service. No emails. No worries.

While at Twin Bears: The facilities at twin bears are similar to what many will remember from summer camp. The rustic cabins have bunk beds and will be shared with three or four people (there are plenty to go around in case anyone wants privacy). There is a roomy, modern kitchen and an additional meeting room. Both areas have electricity. Two rustic shower buildings with hot water, and separate pit toilets. This camp is just barely within cell phone service depending on which carrier you have. You can find out a little more on their website.

While in Fairbanks:  Private college dorms. These are not particularly modern, but clean and secure.  They will seem luxurious after the previous nine days.  Communal bathrooms on each floor.  Cell service and wifi.  Food and coffee within walking distance.  Communal washers and dryers.

Day-to-Day Details:

2017 Participants study a map on the first morning outside the Fairbanks Airport.

2017 Participants study a map on the first morning outside the Fairbanks Airport.

July 8 (Monday)

  • All participants arrive in Fairbanks.

  • A standard array of lodging options are available including hotels, hostels, AirB&B, etc. Many have shuttles to and from the airport, but taxis and Uber/Lyft are also easy to use from this airport.

July 9 (Tuesday)

  • 9:00 AM - Group meets for the first time near the baggage claim at the airport.

  • Load up luggage into our van and drive to Denali National Park (about 2 hours).

  • We will grab lunch at park entrance and also pick up light food for dinner.

  • 1:00 PM - Orientation meeting at the Murie Science and Learning Center (MSLC). At this meeting you'll be assigned the instrumentation you'll be writing for (we draw them out of a hat).

  • Before heading into the park, we will divide our luggage and leave all street clothes, computers, etc. in secure storage at the MSLC. It is smart to pack in such a way so as to make this fast and easy. Backcountry gear will be transferred to the MSLC van.

  • Drive out to the Alaska Geographic Field Camp at the Teklanika River (we call it Tek Camp). This takes a little over an hour.

  • In-camp orientation, and then some time for "nesting".

  • Take a short hike around the area.

  • Dinner (this will be a cold dinner of the food we all purchased earlier in the day).

  • Coda - We usually have evening talks in the Yurt or around the campfire.

2015 Participants on a day-hike in Denali.

2015 Participants on a day-hike in Denali.

July 10 (Wednesday) through July 13 (Saturday) - We will have four full days of exploration in the park. The itinerary will be chosen based on group interests, fitness level, weather, and who is accompanying us each day. On various days we will be joined by scientists, naturalists, and (we hope) another composer.  Our time in Denali is focused on having an immersive and inspiring experience which will inform the pieces everyone writes.  In keeping with our focus on wilderness, we will maintain an "unplugged" philosophy in Denali.  Of course, cameras and audio recorders are encouraged. The schedule for each day will be approximately:

  • Coffee, followed by breakfast.

  • Gear up for the day's outing.

  • Pack lunch and snacks.

  • Depart camp in MSLC van and spend all day on excursions deep in the park. During our outings, we'll take time for lunch and also have creative time for contemplation and inspiration.

  • Return to Tek Camp late in the afternoon.

  • Dinner

  • Coda

Some of the cabins along the lake at Twin Bears Camp.

Some of the cabins along the lake at Twin Bears Camp.

July 14 (Sunday)

  • Clean camp, pack, and depart.

  • Drive out to MSLC and have brunch with park administrators (hopefully Chief of Interpretation or Superintendent).

  • Retrieve luggage and switch back to FSAF van.

  • Drive to Fairbanks (about two hours). This will be the first time you have cell service since you entered the park.

  • Pick up anything we need in Fairbanks, and then continue on for about 40 minutes to Twin Bears Camp.

  • Start composing! We have a cook while we’re here at camp, so your job is just to be creative.

2018 participants working on their pieces in the mess hall at Twin Bears.

2018 participants working on their pieces in the mess hall at Twin Bears.

July 15 (Monday) through July 17 (Wednesday)

Three full days of composing time.  We have a quiet space in one building, and those who prefer to compose in a more social environment use the mess hall. Occasional diversions for those who need a break include short hikes, campfires, and cards.

These days are primarily for composing, though, so your time will mostly be unstructured, and we will forego some evening meetings.

July 18 (Thursday)

  • Clean cabins and pack to depart. Those who wish to go on a half-day flightseeing trip above the Arctic Circle will leave very early on this day, while the others will have a more leisurely departure.

  • Check into dorms at UAF.

  • Get printer up and running. Everyone will have the opportunity to print their pieces out this evening.

  • Assign rehearsal schedule for Friday.

  • Dinner out (our first restaurant meal in nine days).

2014 composer Marc Evans has his first rehearsal.

2014 composer Marc Evans has his first rehearsal.

July 19 (Friday)

  • All composers get their first rehearsal with Corvus. This takes most of the day.

  • We'll have dinner out together and probably attend some other FSAF concert event.

July 20 (Saturday) and July 21 (Sunday) - These are unstructured days during which Corvus rehearses pieces and the group of composers does some or all of the following:

  • Visit The Museum of the North to see John Luther Adams' iconic sound installation "The Place Where You Go To Listen".

  • Attend the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics.

  • Visit the Morris Thompson Cultural Center.

  • Make revisions to pieces.

  • Hang out with Corvus.

  • Go shopping and/or see Santa (in North Pole).

  • Generally relax after a very taxing 10 days of adventuring and composing. We'll all be basically joined at the hip by then.

  • Oh yeah... we will definitely be eating falafel. Just make a mental note of it.

July 22 (Monday)

  • Drive down to Denali National Park in the morning.

  • Buy souvenirs in the shops and have lunch in Glitter Gulch.

  • Attend final rehearsals with Corvus in the afternoon.

  • Evening premiere of all nine pieces in Denali Visitors Center.

  • Big celebration dinner afterwards.

  • Very late drive back to Fairbanks.

July 23 (Tuesday)

  • Free time or group activities during the day. Some packing, probably.

  • Final dinner out together.

  • Evening concert of all pieces in Fairbanks.

  • Depending on how tired everyone is, we sometimes have a little party/hang afterwards.

  • Some people may opt to depart in the wee hours after this. You only need to be at the airport about 45 minutes before your flight, and MOST flights leave Fairbanks a little after midnight. You don't need to do this, though, since you have the dorms for one more night.

July 24 (Wednesday)

  • People go to airport in groups. I'll shuttle you there as I'm able.

  • Tearful farewells.

Chief of Interpretation Nancy Holman welcomes audience to composers' concert at the Denali Visitors Center.

Chief of Interpretation Nancy Holman welcomes audience to composers' concert at the Denali Visitors Center.

Corvus performing in Davis Hall on the campus of the University Alaska Fairbanks.

Corvus performing in Davis Hall on the campus of the University Alaska Fairbanks.

Things You're Likely to Ask:


The field portion of the seminar takes place outdoors and activities will continue, rain or shine. Weather conditions are unpredictable in Denali and Yukon Charley. You must be prepared for a wide range of conditions. Temperatures can vary from below freezing to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Mosquitoes and other biting insects can be numerous anytime during the summer. Be prepared with adequate warm clothing, a hooded rain jacket, and rain pants. Dressing in layers is recommended. A video with instructions about clothing is provided here.  More detailed information about individual items will be included on a packing list I'll provide soon..

Intrepid 2017 participants practicing good river-crossing technique.

Intrepid 2017 participants practicing good river-crossing technique.

In spite of what the video says about various footwear, you need to bring heavy hiking boots that go above the ankle and are waterproof. Also bring a few sets of hiking socks. During the Fairbanks portion of the trip, street clothes are appropriate and you can consult temperature averages online.  I recommend hiking with gaiters as well.  Remember, there are no trails, so we hike through brush, muck, scree, and rivers.


Because the wilderness experience is at the heart of this seminar, we ask that participants not bring their computers or tablets to the field camp at Denali. In addition to the lack of electricity and space, we find that the mental process of “unplugging” is impeded by the presence of computing devices. While at Denali, we will be working (some for the first time) with imagination, pencil, and paper only. Each participant will be provided with a complimentary spiral-bound notebook of staff paper for their use. One exception is, of course, sound recorders. If you have a field recording device you’d like to use to capture the soundscapes of the wild for inspiration, that is certainly encouraged. Of course, cameras are a must!  If you've got good binoculars, bring them along, too!

2017 participants scramble to take pictures of one of our neighbors in the park.

2017 participants scramble to take pictures of one of our neighbors in the park.

After we travel to Twin Bears Camp, our focus will move to composing and notating, so those who wish to use computers will be able to do so using the power available there. All participants are responsible for their own portable computers, software, and any needed accessories. Please choose the least bulky option possible in selecting what to bring. I will bring five or six  small MIDI keyboards with me (Akai LPK25 in case you’re curious). I’ll also have one reference copy of current notation and orchestration books that you can all share.

This field seminar is designed to foster creativity in composers of all levels as they relate their art to their surroundings and experiences in the wild. It is NOT a composition class. We will inevitably learn a lot from one another as we exchange ideas and discuss approaches, but no one will presume to “instruct” anyone on compositional style or approach unless invited to do so. Please don’t come with any music already composed. The whole essence of this field course is to allow the experience to shape and influence your creative process. It will be everyone’s responsibility to know their own work habits well enough to plan a piece that can be completed, rehearsed, and performed effectively in the short time allotted. You won’t find out about your instrumentation until our first meeting.

The performances will be recorded with the best audio technology available to the organizers and all participants will receive a copy of the recording.  We have found from experience that it is unwise to try and include any audio playback under such conditions, so the works you will write must be acoustic.  We do use projection during one of the performances, and the images will be drawn from our experiences over the preceding week.


Here are a few things you don't need to bring because you'll be getting them in your complimentary swag bag or I'll have them along with me:

2014 participant Marc Evans was a big fan of the headnet.

2014 participant Marc Evans was a big fan of the headnet.

In the Swag Bag:

- Spiral-bound manuscript notebook.  Like THIS.
- Cheap mechanical pencils.
- Small personal-sized bottle of bug spray with high Deet content.  Mosquitoes in Alaska are epic.  It differs from year to year and everyone's personal tolerance is different, BUT... it pays to be prepared.
- Head net.  Fits over a hat.  When you need it, you REALLY need it.
- Eye mask.  Remember... it's light all the time.
- Ear plugs.  You're bunking with strangers.  They snore.  So do you.
- A few other things.  Probably a t-shirt.  Also maps.

Things we'll supply for you:

- Small MIDI keyboards for note input.
- Notation books and orchestration books.
- Pillows.
- Field guides for birds, flowers, etc.
- Binoculars.  We'll have a few of these, but if you love your own, bring them!
- Bear spray (you'll get plenty of instructions on safety in bear country, but we'll always have these along with us).

Things you just don't need:

- Sleeping pad.  The bunks at Denali have foam pads, and the beds at Twin Bears have normal mattresses.

Things you can rent:

  • If you want to rent a sleeping bag or trekking poles, you can do that. I’ll provide you with information about that in due course. Of course, you can bring your own if you’d like.


I'll have a Garmin InReach with me the whole time, and it will be updating our location every ten minutes to a website.  So your friends and family will be able to track us in real time.  You'll get a link to this website shortly before the trip, but they can always find it here on the the website ( 

Cameron Dale, Cody Westheimer, and Stephen Lias wash the dishes at Coal Creek in 2015.

Cameron Dale, Cody Westheimer, and Stephen Lias wash the dishes at Coal Creek in 2015.


Participants all pitch in to help our chefs with meal preparation and cleanup.  


As the time approaches, we'll provide you all with an easy packing list.  We've got plenty of time for that, though.


Yes! (Bearing in mind that you are choosing to come to a wild place with wild animals and steep mountains and have a creative adventure.) At all stages of this trip, you'll be accompanied by guides, leaders, scientists, and National Park employees whose job is to make sure you are safe. You'll be given some instruction on how to handle bear and moose encounters, and supplied with bear spray when appropriate. You wouldn't be interested if you didn't want an adventure, right? But we'll make sure this adventure isn't your last.

Let me know what other questions you have and I'll add them here!

The 2017 participants of Composing in the Wilderness on their last evening at Coal Creek.

The 2017 participants of Composing in the Wilderness on their last evening at Coal Creek.