States visited: 49!

visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800

Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Denali National Park

As we were leaving the campground, the car in front stopped suddenly.  We had just missed a wolverine crossing the road seconds earlier.  Despite quickly grabbing the binoculars, we weren’t successful in seeing it; we had to be content with knowing we’d come close!  The weather had really closed in and the view of Mount McKinley as we left was none existent although the skies opened up as we drove.  We counted ourselves lucky.

Arriving just after lunch, we bypassed the campground in favor of immediately exploring the Park.  The pictures will demonstrate that Dave S continues to entertain us with 'what does Dave NOT have in his vehicle?'.......quite an interesting tighty-whitey hat!  We started out in the Visitor Center learning about the resources on offer and collecting Junior Ranger books.  The Center had two levels with some wonderful interactive exhibits.  The Park movie was impressive and inspiring.

In the rain, we caught the Park shuttle out to the sled dog center, petted some of the dogs, admired the cute, adorable 3-week-old puppies, and watched a Ranger demonstration complete with dog sled pull. They collected the dogs by allowing them only to walk on their hind legs in order that they couldn't drag their handlers away!  It seemed a little harsh, but we were assured the huskies were perfectly safe.  They were clearly thrilled to be chosen, those who were left behind continued barking excitedly for quite some time.

From the Park newspaper, Alpenglow: Sled dogs have played an essential role in the life and culture of Alaska for thousands of years.  In Denali-the only national park in America with a working sled dog kennel-they continue to perform essential wintertime duties.  Denali has nearly two million acres of legally designated Wilderness where no mechanized forms of transport are allowed – no snow machines, no cars, no airplanes landing, no motors.  Our job is to preserve and protect the intrinsic qualities of wilderness that make it increasingly rare in our modern world.  When the park has a choice between flying a load into a remote location or using the dog teams, we’ll use the park dogs when feasible.

From “A Silent Appreciation” on the Kennels Blog, Kristin Knight Pace, a Kennels Park Ranger wrote in February of 2011, “….this far into winter, I am more of a dog.  And so I smile to myself, and I smile silently, and I smile constantly.  And in front of me the dogs run into the sunrise, tongues lolling to one side, eyes shining, mouths open, their happiness radiating warmer than the sunlight.”  It was very clear when chatting with all the rangers and volunteers that they absolutely love their jobs working with these dogs. 

Afterwards, during the question session, Ranger Cinnamon responded that these dogs are adopted by vetted families……….guess what Jake wanted to know as soon as we returned to the bus?!  He also mentioned that he would love that particular ranger job.  We all had fun taking a turn on the sled though the dogs were stationary of course!

We had chosen to camp within the confines of the Park although there were no hook-ups, it kept us close to all of the activities, and we wanted to limit the amount of time spent in the RV as well as maximizing the amount of time we spent enjoying the beauty, wonder, and wildlife.  Riley Creek was just past the entrance; we stayed in Loop A.  We managed to locate sites that backed up to each other but still with plenty of wooded areas – it was a lovely campground.

Having secured our spots, we left!  There was no time to waste and much to see.  Denali only allows private cars to drive to the 15 mile marker on the road through the Park to minimize invasive traffic.  There were quite a few roadworks taking place which made the road bumpy, encouraging the girls to demonstrate their moves as if on a rollercoaster!

A moose and its calf walked across the road as we drove slowly along, an awesome sight.  

The Savage River two-mile loop trail began at mile marker 15, so we parked, cooked and ate a quick dinner (another advantage of this RV – have house/vehicle, will travel), and headed out on the loop.  What promised to be a fairly even, easy to moderate hike turned out to be an extremely muddy, wet experience.  We hadn’t anticipated quite as much rain; by the end, we were completely saturated!

Chelsea came home in our RV rather than transfer her back through the rain. 

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