I was on my own for most of the day so I took the opportunity to explore the "front country" a little. I drove out to Savage Creek and stopped at mile 9 where you can see Denali on a clear day. The clouds parted for a few minutes and I did get a view of the mountain 80 miles away.
I hiked to Horseshoe lake and was treated to a scene of a moose and her calf frolicking in the water. There was also an older calf (yearling?) playing nearby in the water. I walked down to the end of the trail and saw a wonderful beaver dam. On the way back I almost ran into the older moose who at this time had left the pond and was having breakfast.
I went back to camp and loaded Sadie in the Jeep and drove out to the Old Denali Highway to explore a little. The Old Denali Highway connects Paxton to Cantwell and is about 135 miles of dirt road. I only drove about 25 miles out, but the road was very good (similar to the Taylor Highway) and the vistas awesome. I pulled off the road in several places and walked several different of the ATV trails. Most lead to a primitive campsite or overlook.
No visit to Denali is complete without a visit to the sled dog kennels. I had been to the sled dog kennels years ago, but thought with all of the new facilities in the park that there might be something new. I also wanted to see how these dogs would be different from the sled dogs I saw in Fairbanks which were racing dogs. I walked to the visitor center from the campsite and then took the bus to the kennels. The walk to the visitor center was a little over a mile and very pleasant.
The dog kennels haven't changed all that much. The dogs have nicer dog houses and several are available for petting. The dogs are very sociable and love to see people. The ranger demonstrated how the dogs are harnessed up and pull the sled. The dogs are worked all winter long hauling provisions out the cabins in the park. They also assist in other tasks, the most recent was moving building supplies to a new trail head.The generally don't work in the summer because it is too warm for them. They really like the cold and stay in the outdoor kennels all winter. They are a little larger than the racing dogs, but other than that their temperament seems to be the same.
This evenings ranger talk was on moose. She also talked a little about living in the cold climate and how to dress for -40 degree weather. She talked about most people have a threshold of -30 and don't go out if it is colder than that. Its a very dry cold, so it doesn't seem like -30. The other interesting fact is that most housing does not have running water, it freezes in the winter. She also indicated winter was the nicest time in the park and they have visitors that come and snowshoe and cross country ski. Contrary to popular belief they do have 4-5 hours of day light in the winter because they are farther south.
This is my last day in Denali. I wish I could stay longer, and I am sure I will return someday for a much longer visit. I'll be heading for Anchorage tomorrow to catch a flight to California to join my family in celebrating my mother's 90th birthday. The rest of the group will stay in Denali for a few more days and will catch up with me when I return to Anchorage.