Published: July 20th 2012July 19th 2012
DAY 21: WEDNESDAY, JULY 18: It was a col, drizzly morning here in Fairbanks as we loaded up and moved on down the road again. At 10:30 am we said goodbye, but we were filled with much anticipation of what awaits in Denali only 125 miles away. We were sad to go, but not sad like when we left Haines. We are just not city folks. The drive took us through Nenana, AK, population 553. This little town is home to a very ceremonious event every year, The Nenana Ice Classic, an event that awards money to the lucky winners who guess the exact minute the ice will break up on the Tanana River. We were excited because this too, was something we had seen on TV. As we drove on we hit mile 78.4 and weather permitting my milepost book tells me I'll get my first glimpse of Mt. McKinley straight ahead. I am not sure if we saw it or not, there are so many mountains it is really hard to tell. I have heard it is snow covered, but they all had snow on them. There are some interesting things we learned about the mountain...it was first discovered
in 1796 and the Athabascan Indians had named it Denali, well, sometime later in the 1800's same other explorer renamed it Mt. McKinley after an Ohio governor. The people were in an uproar and protested, but it was not until 1980 that the government officially changed the name back to Mt. Denali. So in case you din't know it that is the mountians actual name today even though record books still call it McKinley. When we were only about 20 miles away Aaron stated, "You sure would think you could see this big mountain we are driving to." However, only 30-40% of people actually get to see the whole thing. We arrived, got all checked into Savage River Campground and all set up for the next two nights of camping. The park road into Denali is 92 miles long but you are only allowed to drive the first 15 miles, after that the only way in is by camp bus or another private tour. We are taking the 12 hour bus trip in on Saturday, based on the weather that looks the most promising. Well, our campground is located on mile 13 so we were happy to get in a
little way. There is another campground, Teklanika, at mile 29, that requires a special permit but it was full. By the time we were set up we built a fire and roasted hotdogs. I was so excited to get out the hobo pie makers and make peach pies for dessert and soon found out the hobo pie makers got left at home...so we improvised and used leftover hotdog buns and tinfoil..they actually turned out pretty good.
Total Miles: 171 miles
Plate Quest: another day forgotten
Wildlife Report: a big zero, kind of disappointing because here we are in Denali NP
Stupid Child Tricks: I told you a few blogs back that this nice couple from Michigan gave us a mosquito zapper...well, Aaron told Brett he would give him $10 if he touched his tongue to it. The first TWO times Brett jumped and yelped but we never saw or heard a zap so we thought he might be faking. The third time Aaron stood right next to him and KAPOW! There was a spark and a flash and I could hear it over the fire. I know it sounds like child abuse, but it was hilarious...by
the way we have it on video too.
Alaskan Trivia: What does Denali mean?
DAY 22: THURSDAY, JULY 19: Slept in and boy did it feel good. Aaron and I enjoyed our morning coffee while walking Abby...something we are going to miss when we get home. The weather is a bit cold, but clear, so after breakfast we headed a couple miles down the road to the Savage River hiking trail. Not a quarter mile from the campground Hanna saw a huge bull caribou in the brush on the side of the road. He was so content eating that he actually laid down. Aaron, as crazy as he is, got out and walked in the brush after him trying to get him to stand up and pose for pictures. We all tried to remind him that a caribou can run at speeds of 35 mph and he surely can't. Thankfully when the big guy stood up he just kept on ignoring Aaron and after some pictures we went on our way too. We hiked the 2 mile loop trail and all along the way we were entertained by artic ground squirrels. They are so cute and fun to
watch..we even got to see the "sentry" squirrel. He is the little lookout that stood on top of a branch yelling a warning call to his buddies.
Maggie was lucky enough to cross paths with a park ranger so she could get her junior ranger book signed. Brett and Maggie are working on getting ranger badges before we leave. A requirement is that you need to ask a ranger a question, Maggie's question...How cold is the water in the Savage River? We also learned that it rains somewhere in the park everyday. On our way out we saw a ptarmigan, the state bird of Alaska. Now they get to cross that off their badge requirements too.
We drove towards the park headquarters and ended up at the sled dog kennels. Funny how that worked out. Well, as you can imagine we spent over two hours there. The kennel was amazing, the dogs were amazing and the show they put on was amazing. What a difference from the kennel at Chena Hot Springs. The dogs here in Denali are actual working dogs. In the winter only 3 of the 92 miles of the park road are plowed so these
An evening stroll after dinner
Mind you it is nearly 10:00 pm in this photo.
dogs do all the drive work. Hauling mail, transporting visitors, etc. etc. and of course we all had our favorite dog, Brett loved Lava, Hanna loved, loved, loved Pyro, Maggie loved, loved, loved, loved Nuna, Aaron found a special place for Mixtus, who from the picture below reminded us all of a special dog we hold close in our hearts, and I loved the little rambunctious puppy, Annie. Thank god they are not for sale or there was a chance we would have had a whole sled dog team of our own coming back to Michigan. On our way back to the camper we saw a mama moose with twins. Back at the camper we built another awesome campfire and grilled the most amazing burgers, potatoes and the best creation of all, taco tents. Again, we are without those darn hobo pie makers so we had to be creative with the tinfoil. We took two pieces of bread, buttered them up and filled them with leftover taco meat, cheese and jalapeños. Again, Brett thought it was the best meal ever. It is amazing what you can do with tinfoil and a fire. I am starting to feel like this lady
Aaron getting some firewood
You are allowed to cut up anything that is down and dead for wood, and at $10 for a small bundle Aaron did just that.
whose blog I read. I hated her blog because all she talked about was what she and her boring husband had for dinner! Burgers and green beans, chicken and rice and on and on. Let me know if I start to go down that road. After dinner we took a walk down to the river, with bear spray in hand. Some trails are marked but most of the time in this park you just pave your own way. Thankfully this one was paved for us. Well our fire got rained out so it was inside for checkers and off to bed.
Total Mileage: not much today
Forget the plates for awhile!
Wildlife Report: 1 caribou, 3 moose, 1 ptarmigan, many artic ground squirrels
Funny: Aaron was happy because he found a sweatshirt at the merchantile...well at the campfire Hanna started teasing him because it read, "The mountains are calling, and I must go!". She just would not let up and actually if youthink about it, the saying is quite funny. Then Brett chimes in, "Daddy, did you know it said that before you bought it?". Aaron just hung his head and took the abuse all night,
and the next day too.
Alaskan Trivia: How cold do you think the Savage River water was?
I should probably answer the trivia questions I asked right?
1) and ulu is an Alaskan/Eskimo knife. 2) a pipeline pig is a huge machine that travels in the pipeline and cleans out the wax so the oil flows smoothly 3) a "you-glee-a" is actually called a bell on a moose, we had someone guess "dewlap" and we'll give you that, but technically on a moose it is a bell.
There are more photos below