After our morning flight-seeing tour over Denali National Park and
Denali-the-mountain this morning, we still had a full afternoon and
evening of activities in and near the park. Tomorrow we'll be heading
farther into the park to the Teklanika River Campground so we wanted to
pack as many things into today as we reasonably could.
After the flight another van driver took us south a few miles to the RV
place where we parked our truck. We continued south another few miles to
I took some photos while in transit and from the shopping area of the
ridge I hiked yesterday toward Mt. Healy:
The jagged ridge in the background is what I hiked
yesterday. The Nenana River is in the foreground.
This is another angle on the ridge. I hiked
from the left to the first arrow.
The summit of Mt. Healy is the R. arrow.
We got lunch at a the Black Bear Coffee House and quickly browsed in some of
the other stores.
Black Bear appears to
be a popular place to get numerous flavors of coffee and other
beverages, soups, sandwiches, boxed lunches (good for tours), breakfast
items, and baked goods. We liked our lunch
selections. We might go back another time for their "$5 after 5 PM"
specials like quesadillas and black bean "bearitos."
Jim enters the coffee shop.
I’m looking for a jacket, sweatshirt, or long-sleeved shirt with a
handsome, discreet Denali park logo. I’ve found some I like in
several shops inside and outside of the park but haven’t chosen one yet. Since I didn't get one
today I’ll have to wait until we get back from the Tek campground. While
we're there we can't drive anywhere.
Here are photos from
a few other businesses in Nenana Canyon AKA "Glitter Gulch:"
A classy fabric shop with beautiful quilt fabrics
and other items
Above and below: the are several businesses
that provide active outdoor
adventure services, such as glacier landings, rafting,
After lunch Jim did a load of laundry at the Riley Creek Mercantile
building while I took Cody for a walk. Even at ten Cody has lots of energy and wants
to go for a hike but I can take him only on campground and park roads,
Then we drove to the main Denali visitor center to watch the excellent
“Heartbeats of Denali,” which is
shown every half hour (for free). We were surprised by the large size of
the crowd at the 3 PM showing.
We loved the film and would like to buy the DVD at the Alaska Geographic
bookstore so we can watch it after we leave Alaska.
We highly recommend any potential visitor to Denali National Park either
watch this film at the visitor center, preferably before taking a bus
tour in the park, or get the DVD before going to Alaska.
On the way out of the visitor center Jim asked for a bus schedule so
we’ll know when buses are coming back from the back country while we’re
at Tek and can use our bus tickets. Today ended the “full season” at the
park. Tomorrow begins the “extended” or “shoulder” season, so there’s a
new, more limited bus schedule beginning tomorrow.
VERY POPULAR SLED DOG DEMONSTRATIONS
Then we headed for the free sled dog demonstration line at the bus stop
outside the visitor center.
We barely had time to get in line for the 4 PM demonstration. No one is
supposed to drive two or three miles on the park road to the kennel area
behind park HQ where the sled dogs live. You gotta take a bus, and these
tours/demos are very popular with park visitors all season long.
The sign says Sitken the sled dog is two years old
This is a great place for dog lovers of all ages to
Directions say to board buses at the visitor center 40 minutes before
each of the three demos each day (10 AM, 2 PM, and 4 PM). They mean it. We were far
enough back in line at 3:20 to board the third of four buses.
Handicapped visitors boarded first.
Everyone got out to the area in time to wander among the dog houses and kennels, pet
the dogs, watch the pups (I saw only three), and find a spot to sit or stand in the
All the adult dogs have houses or kennels of their
own and get plenty of exercise.
We've seen park staff running with them on the park
road in the evenings.
Two of the pups in this kennel were playing when we
first arrived. A second one was asleep nearby.
Above and below: After the demonstration,
these two pups were
entwined on the roof of their house, sort of
When the ranger talk began there were twice as many
people in and near the stands as this.
During the ranger presentation we learned about the long history of sled dogs at the park,
the variety of work the dogs do in the wilderness in the winter, their training,
During the summer
months the dogs spend their time working as ambassadors, helping rangers
share stories with visitors of mushing in the wilderness.
Once the snow falls,
the park kennels assist with a wide variety of park projects in the
wilderness area. These projects take advantage of the non-motorized
travel and freight-hauling capabilities provided by sled dogs,
maintaining the spirit and letter of wilderness regulations.
The interpretive panel on the left in the photo above describes several
important projects the dogs have assisted with in recent years, such as
hauling all the supplies for a suspension bridge over Riley Creek.
The panel on the right above explains how pups are trained during their
first year and what qualities make good lead dogs for the teams --
not so different, actually, from what makes a good human team leader.
During the ranger talk
staff members hooked up five eager dogs to a sled on wheels and a
musher drove them around a small track so we could see how excited they
are to work. That was fun to watch.
Above and below: The dogs were so excited to
get hooked up to the sled
that each had a handler to control them.
Only five dogs were used for this demonstration. A
larger dog team
is used when carrying supplies to the backcountry
The ranger continued
talking as the five dogs laid behind him for another ten minutes:
The two middle dogs
Three of the dogs were either
bored or neurotic as they dug into the gravel with their paws and/or
buried the treats they were given with their nose in the gravel. That
was fun to watch, too.
The two lead dogs appeared to be the most bored just lying there.
We had some more time after the talk to walk through the kennel again
and see a sled exhibit before boarding one of the buses to go back to
the visitor center.
Note the crossed paws.
Historical sled dog exhibits near the kennels
We passed a ceramic dog named "Buck" on the way to
the buses; visitors are
subtly encouraged to put some money in his open
mouth to help support the kennels.
On the way back to the campground we stopped at the Wilderness Outdoor Center
to get another bus schedule (which is a little different than the one we
got at the visitor center) and to ask questions. We still aren’t clear
about the "camper" buses Jim can use with his bike. The answers we get
from park staff don’t always match.
Jim and I tried to relax after supper but we've been pretty hyped up
since we've been at the park.
We talked about when to go out to Tek tomorrow.
Check-in is supposed to be 11 AM at the campgrounds but
we learned the hard way that people come in earlier and get the good
spots that have been vacated early. We’ll probably try to get out there
by 9 or 10. There is no campground host out there to tell us where to go if we
can’t find a spot large enough for our camper.
Sign on the porch of one of the shops in Nenana
Canyon; a second one
at a nearby store says, "Another
husband's waiting bench."
I read e-mail and news, worked on pictures, and updated trip notes. Jim
read more of the book, “Bedford Boys.” We started getting some things ready to go
this evening, including hooking up the truck.
We're excited about
the next phase of our visit in Denali National Park!
Next entry: moving to the Teklanika River Campground, including
photos of park scenery between miles 15 and 29 of the park road
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil