The Wrangell  Mountains Center

Well, I did it. I turned 53 this week. In honor of my birthday, I want to share with you one of my favorite things in the world, and that is the Wrangell Mountains Center.

In the summer of 2001, I traveled down the 60 mile dirt road that leads to McCarthy, Alaska. (You can read about that adventure here.)  I was going to take a writing workshop at the Wrangell Mountains Center (WMC). Little did I know that this week long adventure of writing in the woods would forever alter the course of my life.


As a small aside, 2001 is also the year I started making quilts. Coincidence or not? I personally think something cosmic was going on.

The Old Hardware Store is where the WMC magic happens.

Every morning, we gathered early for cowboy coffee and a free write. We hiked through dyras, around glacial silt, and on ice.

We stayed up too late laughing hysterically about our individual adventures as women at the beginning of the 21st century. The week concluded with a mesmerizing final reading—who knew we were that good? We sure didn’t.

During the course of that week, I made several life time friends—Lila Vogt, Nancy Cook, and Patt Garrett, who would eventually become my McCarthy neighbor. When it was over, I could not bring myself to leave. I waundered aimlessly with my empty wine box in hand.

I could see the WMC board gathering in the classroom of the Hardware Store to discuss the future of the Wrangell Mountain Center, and I willed myself, wished myself into that room. Some day, I am going to be on the inside of this organization I thought. Someday I am going to be one of the magic makers—giving others amazing experiences of community in the wild.

Every summer, I would trade baby sitting—stock piling the you-owe-me hours into a chart filled with other moms watching my kids for this one special week. It became my re-charge. This community, this landscape, these people were becoming central to my existence.

In 2004, I joined the WMC advisory board, and in 2006 I joined the full board. At my first board meeting, it was suggested that I take over the Development Committee—what is that I wondered? I really had no idea. I would soon find out.

The WMC Development Committe helps cultivate the board and work with the Executive Director to develop donor relations, raise money through events, grants, and asks, and create quality communications through newsletters and social media. Really, that is just sort of the beginning of the list.

Over the years, I learned all kinds of things. Through trial and error, I worked with our Executive Director to establish a Spring Fundraiser and send out annual timely newsletters and membership letters. I also helped develop new programing. The craziest thing I did was run a capitol campaign. What’s that? Google it and find out. That is what I did. We raised  lots of money to purchase an adjacent property (now called Porphyry Place ) which would expand our campus.

The WMC connects people with wildlands through art, science, and education. Here is a list of some of the programs we run every summer.

We host four to six artists and writers every year as part of the Meg Hunt Artist in Residency Program. We are currently accepting applications. You can find out more here.

We hold weekly science and arts programs for children.

We grow our own vegetables to feed all of our program participants. YUM.

Every other year, we host an International Summer School in Glaciology where the best glaciology students from around the world convene to learn about the science of glaciers. We host and/or house multiple scientific reasearch teams from swallow research to glacial geology.



We have an annual Kids Family Music Camp where parents and children gather together to learn the art of making music together. I love this week. The street outside my cabin is filled with bikes, and violins, parents, and chidren and the air is filled with music.

For decades, my friend Nancy Cook has been bringing world class writiers—Frank Soos, Scott Russell Saunders, Gretchen Legler, and Kathleen Dean Moore to teach students about writing. This is the program that brought me to Wrangells.

We partner with Evergreen College to teach a two month long college program that has the college students living on glaciers and doing original off-the grid-reasearch. Did I mention that most of these programs are solar powered? We are off-the-grid.

We frequently offer sewing and quilt making workshops hosted by yours truly. I have written about these workshops many times

We offer a Summer Arts and Lecture Series where artists, writers, and scientists give presentations to the community at large.

We hold two major community fundraising events—a half marathon and Tall Tales.

There is also yoga and community childcare and music.

How much do you think it costs to do all that goodness? Well, if it were all tallied up in dollars I would say LOTS and LOTS. But in real numbers we do all of this for under $150,000 dollars. WHAT? How is that possible?

We do it with hundreds and hundreds, and maybe even hundreds of more, volunteer hours every year. Thank you dear WMC Volunteers. We are also very grateful for the Rasmuson Foundation, The Anchorage Community Foundation, and the Alaska State Council on the Arts who all give us financial support in a variety of ways. And of course the financail donations from our community help us keep our doors open. Thank you all.

Still, every year, we wonder how we are going to pay for everything. Every year, we just manage to balance our books.

This year, we are doing things a little differently. Our entire board is actively asking for community support. We’d like to create an environment where the WMC has money in the bank for major renovations, program expansions, and improved staff wages.

 So for my birthday I did a Facebook Fundraiser, and as you can see I need some help to reach my final goal.

Will you give love to this incredible non-profit? You can donate on my Facebook page or directly on the WMC website.Thank you all for donating and for reading about the Wrangell Mountains Center. Much love to you all as I begin my 54th trip around the sun.

This entry was published on January 18, 2019 at 3:25 PM. It’s filed under Just Plain Stories, News And Events and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

8 thoughts on “The Wrangell  Mountains Center

  1. pmgarrett2 on said:

    exhausted, but will try to print for Beana for tonight when kids leave. my eyes my eyes


  2. ramblingranger on said:

    Wonderful post and amazing pictures, Maria. I especially love the shot of Monte at Tall Tales!

  3. You have left me breathless after reading this. I salute you for your commitment and energy. And I am amazed that you still find time to make your beautiful quilts

  4. Nancy Cook on said:

    Love you my darling Maria! Truly. Thanks. What a great way to end a Wednesday! Happy belated birthday to you! xxx xxx xxx And to think, I was sending along little photos of paper quilts through the ethersphere. So glad I found this. Sorry I’m a lame-o at social media. xxx

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