Birch Pond Lodge

Join the griz and roam a kinder, gentler last frontier

    Photo: Illustration by Jorge Colombo

ALASKAN BILL ROYCE BOUGHT this secluded 100-acre slice of spruce and birch forest 75 miles north of his home in Anchorage to use as a weekend getaway. But then Royce got eco-religion and decided to build a sustainable lodge. So he enlisted his son, Daryl, to help him dig foundations and post holes (by hand, so as not to disturb the wildlife with bulldozers) for two one-bedroom cabins.
Some of the guests at Birch Pond Lodge, which formally opened in 2000, opt to stay in the original cabin, a comfortable old two-story lodge with overstuffed sofas and an Alaskiana library, where family-style stews are served. The old lodge isn't completely eco-friendly yet, but Royce is planning to convert it to passive energy next summer by installing solar panels. The more private, one-bedroom Beaver Lodge and Loon Cabin, however, were constructed from Alaskan spruce trees that had fallen prey to bark beetles. Beaver Lodge also has a composting toilet, and both cabins will eventually be fully solar-powered.
In spring and summer, visitors to Birch Pond can canoe or kayak its spring-fed lake, hike along alpine ridges in the Talkeetna Mountains, or commune under the stars (making sure to avoid insomniac grizzlies). In winter, there are miles of virgin snow (22,000-acre Nancy Lakes State Park is right next door) for cross-country skiing and frozen lakes for ice skating. Many Alaskans might be tempted to rip up the abundant white stuff on a snowmobile, but Royce forbids recreational "sledding" on his property. "You can't appreciate nature if you're blowing by it at 60 miles per hour on a snow machine," he says. Plus, there's nothing like the rev of an exhaust-spewing engine to tarnish the Zen glow of the cabin's roaring fire and its exquisite view of Denali and the whirling Northern Lights. Contact: Birch Pond Lodge, 907-495-3000, www.birchpondlodge.com. Cost: $220 per person per day (single or double); includes lodging, three meals daily, guided nature hikes, and canoe and kayak tours.

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