Monday, July 9, 2012

A Week in Denali NP

We have returned to the world of Verizon connections and an RV park with WIFI, electric, laundry and hot showers.   The week in the park was great.  It rained some but over all I believe that we had more than our share of sunny skies and several days of nice warm, un-Alaska, type temperatures. (Not warm like the lower 48 has been trying to escape from but 70-75 and sunny is warm for Alaska.)

We stayed the first night in the Riley Campground near the entrance of the park. We did important things like made sure we had clean clothes, fresh water in our tanks and an empty black tank before heading up to the Savage River Campground about 15 miles into the park.  By arriving early at Riley was had time to visit the parks dog kennels. Unlike the racing sled dogs that you see out at Susan Butcher's family's kennel back in Fairbanks these dogs are breed and raised for pulling freight.  There summer job is to entertain tourists to the park three times a day.  Because of all the people coming to see them and wanting to get up close and personal, these dogs are also raised for their temperaments.  Between the breeding for temperaments and the fact that we arrived for the last demonstration of the day, you could "hear" the dogs yawn with excitement.  "Here come the buses."  "Yeah, here they come." "Do I actually have to wake up for this part?"

The dogs live in their kennels summer and winter. The Ranger told us that they are used to patrol the park in the winter when the roads are all closed and unploughed and to transport supplies and researchers into the park as needed for different projects.  They connect dogs to a sled depending upon what is being hauled. On average the figure each dog to pull around 150 pounds of transport. The dogs that got chosen to pull for the demonstration did demonstrate more enthusiasm but they seemed able to turn it on and off.  Excited while pulling but ready to sit and rest  until needed. It made sense if they were to make it through a long haul.   The ranger said that when they were working it wasn't unusual for them to run several hours with breaks every hour to rest. 

One of the buildings housed examples of different sled designs such as those made for racing, those made for hauling and those made for covering particular types of ice and snow.

The next photo shows the boots worn by the mail carriers....cut in half.  With all those layers built in even my feet my stay warm.

After an exciting afternoon with the dogs, Nan said she would keep me company as I drove the rig back into the commercial strip outside the park in search of a pizza.  I was teasing that given the isolation of the park and the tourist I wondered what the prices might be.  I laughed and said that since Nan had found the $28. Bison pizza in Waterton that maybe these would be $50. pizzas.   No, we each found a delicious pizza for a reasonable touristy price.....but I did find the $50. pizza on the menu. It only came in the large size and was made with crab legs and other stuff.   I didn't bother reading much past the crabs.....If you have enoguh hungry friends with a craving for crab it might be worth it....once.

Here is Nan studying her you can see we were also quenching our thirst. "Honest, it was only water in that bottle, officer!"

From Riley we drove up to the Savage River Campground. It was nice but the campground is designed so that all the larger Class C and Class A rigs are on one loop and the littler guys are on another.  Good thing we all like to walk.   The walk down to the river from the campground was very nice, though because it is a National Park all the puppers had to stay in the campground and get worn out walking loops around the camp roads.

The next day we all climbed in Liz's rig and drove the few miles down to the Savage River hiking trail.   The paper says flat and easy but several of us agreed it was more  designed for moderate mountain goat climbing.    Very rocky and uneven walking and I was sorry to have left my walking stick behind.  I believed the flat part too completely.

The next two pictures are especially for Lucas and Kate.  I kept seeing these stretches of white water and thinking....I know someone who would like to put a wet suit on and try that once.

We declined to take the side loop up to the ridge.  Our mountain goat feet were already tired by that time.

After two nights in the Savage River Area we headed on to the Teklanika Rver Campground where we stayed the next four nights.  On Thursday six of us headed out to the shuttle buses to climb on on for the trip to the Kantishna.  Liz and daughter and granddaughter had scheduled themselves on the first but out and Nan and I got picked up about 45 minutes later.  It was an eleven hour ride for most of us and we came back with "bus butt."....but the vistas were worth it and the interior roads are such that I was very happy to have a professional driver making those hair pin curves. They have the buses on pretty tight schedules particularly farther into the park where the road is only one lane, so that they are not expected to be meeting each other on the more delicate and narrow passes but with the stopping for wildlife sightings and picture opportunities the drivers really have to be on their toes and know their stuff.   We compared notes later and decided that not all the drivers were equal.

Th day of our trip the skies were partly cloudy and would provide little glimpses of mountain every once in a while.  The statistics in the Visitor Center about half way out the tour should that in a about a ten year period, the sky had actually been clear around the mountain an average of one day in July.  Partly cloudy about 9 days..... the rest fog and complete cloud coverage.  Good thing that there are some many other beautiful mountains to look at.

There is an old cabin that is now used for "Artists in Residence."  The artist chosen can use the cabin for free in exchange for donating some of their works back to the park.   I liked the quilted/fabric pieced picture of the braided river and the mountains that are actually just about what the artist would have seen every day from the small porch.

Pond surrounded by Cotton Grass.....

Wonder Lake.....

And on the drive back down.... the top of "The High One."

We saw bears and caribou and moose and Dall sheep and......

On Friday Liz and the girls got back on the bus and rode halfway back as far as the Eielson Visitor Center to hike one of the Alpine Trails (see Liz's blog for details....)  I decided that I could walk just as far heading up the river without having to sit on a bus another four hours.  I met up with a nice couple now from NC and we hiked together for about three miles and then I figured that I better head back because I had not arranged for a dog sitter and if I didn't turn back I wouldn't want or be able to walk back but would hike up to the road and catch one of the buses.  I thought the river was prettier than the green buses.

Fresh moose prints along the river among the wildflowers....

Fresh water prints in the sand among the rocks......

And the river went on and on......running down from the mountains and the glaciers.....

We are heading on to Talkeetna tomorrow.  I think that different folks are planning to head out on different adventures.


  1. Magnificent photos Tina. Loved all the nature ones but that quilt was really something. Neat to catch footprints next to the wildflowers.

  2. u mentioned the white water,,,, what I'd like to be doing is panning in that river and those streams. bet i could get a day's wages! ;) at least!