Roadtrippin’: At the Clearwater Mountain Lodge, hospitality is a family affair

 The Clearwater Mountain Lodge on the Denali Highway. (KTUU)
The Clearwater Mountain Lodge on the Denali Highway. (KTUU) (KTUU)
Published: Jun. 19, 2019 at 10:39 PM AKDT
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Things are relatively quiet at Mile Post 82 on the Denali Hwy., but don’t let that fool you: The

, named for the nearby mountain range and in honor of the owner’s late husband, has a lot going on.

“There's just a lot that's kind of cool that you don't see around more modern facilities,” said Colleen Kelley, owner of the lodge.

If you take a stroll around the main part of the property, you’ll see what Kelley means.

“The meat cache,” she pointed out as an example. “There's a little front door. And there used to be a ladder, but people would always climb it, so they took it down.”

From replicas to the real thing, the lodge features guest houses fully furnished for overnight stays, as well as an historic Denali Hwy. cabin, trapper cabin and old meat house still in original form. Kelley made it her mission to revamp the property after - in the midst of taking over the lodge in 2016 - her husband Bob passed away following a heart attack from which he never recovered.

“I think sharing the history is so important,” Kelley said. “It’s a piece of Alaska that not everyone gets to see.”

There’s also a main lodge where Kelley, along with the lodge staff which includes various family members, whips up dinners and desserts most days of the week, making everyone feel like a special guest and right at home, too.

“We have everything you'd have at home,” Kelley said, “but we're in the middle of this beautiful country.”

Various quirks, such as the small Sluice Box bar with its visitor tokens from around the world, highlight the property, and the lodge claims incredible views, inside and out - ones Kelley appreciates and her husband Bob loved so dearly.

“We’re trying to do our best to honor the mountain, honor him,” Kelley said.