Monday we did end up driving up to Denali National Park. Turning on the Denali Park Road we immediately stopped to take our picture of the park sign along with all the other tourists. The main commercial area for Denali National Park is about a mile to the north of the park entrance road. Coming in as we did from the south it made the entrance to the park feel fairly rural compared to the more commercialized entrance one finds at the West Yellowstone entrance. People coming into the park from the north would first have to drive through the commercial center before arriving at the park entrance. These people would not see the entrance as being as rural as we saw it upon our approach. Either way, the entrance is fairly generic giving no hint at what great lands lay beyond the entrance.
As expected, the park visitor center area was very busy. The visitor center is well done with theater, art, information, and diorama areas. We particularly enjoyed the 20 minute film on the animals and seasons in the park. The dioramas were also well done with a small section devoted to a little bit of park history. After exploring the visitor center we headed outside and were treated to this cow moose and her two calves. We enjoyed the sight from a healthy distance.
(This picture was taken less than 50′ from the downstairs entrance of the visitor center.)
Since she was on one side of the trail and her calves were on the other side of the trail we turned around and found an alternative path.
At the southwest end of the gravel pullout we are camped along the Denali Highway, is a trail head for Wolf Point and the public lands beyond. The trailhead is actually an easement allowing people to cross over the native people’s private lands to gain access to the public state land beyond. Monday afternoon Hilary, Hannah and I hiked out the easement and up to the Wolf Point hill. This hill provides a great overlook of the valley west towards the town of Cantwell, South and East up into the public lands, and North back across the valley the easement travels through. The total hike turned out to be about 6 miles after we explored the top of the hill. One great surprise was ALL of the blueberry plants. There were blueberries EVERY where we looked. We ate a bunch of fresh blueberries and Hannah and Hilary picked just over a cup to make more fresh blueberry muffins with. It was a great hike made all the better by the wild blueberries. Even with the light rain we were glad we hiked out.
Looking off to the northwest from the top of Wolf Point. The bus is just out of the frame on the upper right hand side of the picture.
Check out the bear cub tracks we saw on the trail:
Tuesday we awoke to partly cloudy skies. With the long hike Monday afternoon Hilary wasn’t feeling good enough for any significant hiking. With the need for a down day for her I took the opportunity to hike back out to Wolf Point and beyond. It was a fantastic hike out along the Jack River and then up into some of the mountains. In all, the hike turned out to be almost 10 miles long. While I enjoyed my alone time, it would have been even better if Hilary had been able to make the hike with me. I guess that shows I still haven’t had too much time with her!
Looking off to the southeast from the top of a mountain I hiked up:
While I was gone Hilary and Breann worked on a puzzle and made some fresh blueberry muffins (a second batch since being here) while Hannah had her nose buried in a book most of the day. She has been really enjoying reading lately and has been cruising through her assigned reading. In fact, she finished two assigned reading book lists in the time she had been given to finish her first assigned reading list. With her completion of this last assigned list we have given her the next six weeks or so without an assigned reading list so she can read whatever she wants, as long as it has been approved for her to read.
Wednesday we awoke to more rain and dreary skies as expected. Even with the rain we decided to head back to Denali National Park and do some hiking as we had planned to do earlier in the week. Hannah, Hilary and I hiked the Horseshoe Lake Trail. This is a pleasant trail about 2 miles long along the shores of Horseshoe Lake. The trail also has a short section where it parallels along the Nenana River for a hundred feet or so. While there was plenty of evidence of Beavers living on the lake, but we didn’t see any. Their fallen trees and dams were all around the lake, but we never did spot their beaver lodge.
Hannah pointing out where we were:
After the Horseshoe Lake Trail hike we headed over to the park Headquarters where they have their sled dogs. The park makes it extremely easy to visit with the sled dogs including the opportunity to pet many of them. The dogs are socialized from the time they open their eyes after being born and are very friendly with all the tourists, including my dog lovers, Hannah and Hilary! (Breann opted out of our time in the park today due to the planned hike.) Part of the park’s outreach includes a sled dog experience where the dogs are hitched to a wheeled “sled” and then allowed to run around this gravel oval area. The dogs are then stopped and given treats while a park ranger talks about the dogs, what they are used for, and answers any questions from the audience. We participated in the 2 PM “showing” and had a hard time seeing much due to the large crowds and limited “front row” seating/standing room available. We were also a bit disappointed the actual sled pulling was not even a full lap. The best part for Hannah and Hilary was getting to interact directly with the dogs and seeing and hearing the dogs get excited when it was time to be hitched to the “sled”.
They were fun dogs!
Thursday we plan to drive up towards Fairbanks. We’ll look for a place to camp and then spend the next few days around Fairbanks.