When asked if the idea for Lodge: An Indoorsy Tour of America’s National Parks (Gibbs Smith, Apr.) came from a love of camping, coauthor Max Humphrey laughs. “I’m an interior designer because I like being home, I like making homes my clients are proud of,” he says. “But I also love travel. This is a travel book for interior design obsessives.” Humphrey, who wrote the book with House Beautiful contributing editor Kathryn O’Shea-Evans, spoke with PW about the indoor side of the outdoor life.
What exactly is a National Park lodge?
Lodges are owned by the National Park services and run by hospitality groups, such as Aramark. They’re open to the public, but you can rent a room or have dinner just like at a normal hotel. They were built as destinations, luxury accommodations to draw people into the parks. The 10 I included in the book are historic buildings, all about 100 years old. They’re great examples of using local materials, which would have been more common then—using materials from around the immediate landscape, whether it’s using the river rock outside Lake McDonald Lodge in Glacier National Park to do the chimneys, or using fallen yellow cedar trees as the timber at Mt. Rainier’s Paradise Inn.
What got you interested in the lodges?
Like so many other people, I had to stop my usually frequent travel during the pandemic. Some people were doing Zillow surfing; I was doing travel doomscrolling, looking at options for accommodations and flights and restaurants for trips I couldn’t take. As a residential interior designer, I was interested in the parkitecture style, a term people are now using to describe an aesthetic they want in their homes. I realized that the available photography wasn’t as updated as you’d see even in Airbnb listings; they were just vacationers’ iPhone photos on Instagram. I thought: there’s got to be a better way to catalog these places and present them to the next generation of park-goers.
Logistically, these lodges are incredibly difficult to photograph [the book’s photos are by David Tsay and Rob Schanz]. They’re open year-round, and since the pandemic began, people are booking months if not years in advance. These are bucket list trips for people, so I wasn’t going to ask everyone in the lobby to move so I could fuss around with lights. We had to plan around off-peak times, leaving us at the mercy of the traffic and that day’s weather. We had to plan a year in advance to get our one hour to shoot a dining room.
Which lodge is the most underappreciated?
The Oasis in Death Valley was the biggest surprise. Usually when you think of national parks, you think of woods; instead, this park looks like an alien landscape. Most lodges are rustic, not exactly where you’d go for a spa experience, but the Oasis is more of a luxury accommodation, built to attract a Hollywood crowd. We heard great stories about guests like Clark Gable and Marlon Brando hiding away at the Oasis. It’s a different vibe.
Which is the most challenging to get to?
Historically, Lake McDonald Lodge at Glacier National Park. The front of the building faces the lake, and until the 1920s when the road was built, you could only get to it by boat, and only during the season. Now, you can fly to an airport within a few hours’ driving of most of the lodges. And those are exciting trips, whether you’re landing in Las Vegas to drive to the Grand Canyon, or to the Bay Area to go to the Ahwahnee in Yosemite.
Do you have a favorite lodge?
I don’t, but if you can only go to one, go to the Ahwahnee at Yosemite. Driving through the mountains to get there is an incredible trip. Half Dome Rock and the Yosemite Falls greet you on your way, and when you get there, it’s the dictionary definition of what you want a lodge to look like.