Saturday, April 23, 2011

Alaska Day 7 and 8 - Denali NP and Fairbanks

On Tuesday and Wednesday we took a mini vacation on our vacation.  We piled into the truck and headed North.  We actually got to see the sunrise as we were driving out of town.

Denali National Park was about 110 miles from where we are staying in Big Lake.  A very different 110 miles than what we have at home.  This is the major roadway that runs from Anchorage to Fairbanks, the only one that I could see on the map.

Surrounding the two lane road was nothing but trees, patches of snow varying to deep snow and few Tesoro gas stations (like 2 or 3), and just a few other cars.  That part of it was nice.  Since the scenery didn't change much, it did make it seem longer.  It made it all the more exciting to see this sign coming up:

Only problem was that there wasn't alot open at the park this time of year.  The Murie Science Center was open with a Ranger who showed us a short film about the park and then answered questions and even let each of us borrow a pair of snow shoes when John asked if the kids could try them on.  One big advantage to coming in the off season.  They are glad to see you, take time with you and you get to do things most people wouldn't!

This is what it looked like when we stopped to try out the snow shoes, we we the only ones out here, it was quiet except for the crunch of the snow and the laughter as we fell and tried to get back up.  It was harder than it looked, but great fun.

Sometimes even the lighter weight of us would break through the crust...

....and pushing yourself up wasn't going to work, that was half the fun though!

Or you could just take the easy way down...

Or the really fun way!

No matter which way you looked though the views we just stunning, the sky blue with wispy clouds, the white snow, green pines and the gray bark of the bare trees.

...we all enjoyed it!

Though sometimes it was tooo overwhelming, and we'd have to lie down to take it all in...

...or stop for a snack!  The time came for us to move on though.  The road through the park is almost 90 miles long, but you can only drive on 15 miles of it yourself and then they have bus tours that will take you the rest of the way.  Only they don't run this time of year.  So we went as far as we could and stopped again to get out and look around and visit the facilities.  The kids headed straight for the rock cliff.  I just turned my back and didn't want to look at them at that height.  I feel I'm constantly the naysayer about things.  Don't drive on that frozen lake what if the ice breaks?  Don't you think we might get stuck in that snow and ice and who can get us unstuck way out in the middle of nowhere?  If you climb that high you will fall and break your neck!  Well I've tried to not say these things this trip, it has mostly worked.  We did get stuck, but Scott helped us out, he lives in the middle of nowhere.  And the kids did not fall off the face of the cliff.  Here's the photos to prove it, I hope it doesn't scare all the other mom's out there
Can you see them?  Look closer at the second photo, maybe?  Well let me zoom in some...

 This is Ian and Kamryn...

Ryan went his own route up, I did yell loud enough to keep them from checking out the crevasse they found and from going any higher, I couldn't help myself.
This is what I was checking out while they were rock climbing. Savage River.

This little guy is an Alaskan Ground Squirrel

If you have boys and rocks and a river.....

On our way out we noticed the snow on the North side of the mountain, but not on the South, you can also see the railroad bridge that is part of the track going through the park.

It was a looooong drive to get to this sign, but we made it into town and checked into the hotel that John had stayed in when he came to Fairbanks years ago.  We had a short rest then headed out the a local restaurant called the Chowder House that has soup sandwiches and salads.  And high prices, well at least for us it seemed high, I guess the cost of shipping ingredients up here adds up.  At least the food was good.  Next we drove over to the North Pole.  No kidding, we went to North Pole, Alaska, though not to the real North Pole. 

We only had about 15 minutes before the Christmas store closed so we looked around quick, bought and mailed out a postcard to ourselves so it would  have a postmark from the North pole, and found an igloo nativity set.  We headed back to the hotel and planned to get up at 2am to drive out to see the Northern lights, but when John got up he found it was too cloudy to be able to see them, so we slept until time for breakfast at the Northernmost Denny's in the World.

The next morning we set off for the trip back with another stop at Denali.  The day before we had been stopped by a Collage student doing a survey in the park who suggested we stop and  see the sled dog kennels, so we took him up on his suggestion.  As we drove out we noticed the snow coming down.  It was exciting to see and quickly melted so it wasn't a problem to drive through.

We were again the only people stopping in the park it seemed like, so we had no problem getting a private tour and lots of time with the ranger who works with the dog sled team.  This is the only National Park with a dog sled team.  I guess Everglades got gypped on that one.  The dogs have been bred from dogs that have been here since the the start of the teams in the 1920's with some new dogs being brought in to keep the bloodlines from being inbred.  These dogs are also a little bigger than most of the competitive racing dogs since they are used to haul cargo in the park.  They pull the sleds filled with construction material and their food and camping materials, and can work well in down to -40 deg weather.  The dogs all stay outside all the time in all weather.  When they retire at the age of 10-12 they are adopted out to good homes.

All of the dogs were super friendly

this was actually the end of a yawn, but doesn't it give a different impression?

This was my favorite Cassin, her eyes were a beautiful light blue.
These are their houses, most of them stayed on top of their house, but some went inside

Look at the size of those paws!  This is my hand not Kamryn's and I have a good sized hand for a female.

This is the sled room, the Ranger (I never did ask or notice his name!) showed us all the different sleds, from the original type made of wood, to the modern ones they use, to an aluminum frame sprint racing sled.  He also said that he has his own sled dogs at home and racing kennels can have up to 80-100 dogs.  They have 32 dogs currently at the Park and run from 12-16 on a team at a time.
The dogs all looked so healthy and content!

The Ranger brought out one of the sleds so we could see the weight of them and how it feels to stand on them.  The dogs started barking and getting excited thinking they were going to get to go on a run.  He said they wanted to run even though it was warm out.  Warm?  It was cold!  But I guess that thick fur makes a difference.

This was one of Kamryn's favorite dogs, Tonzona is one of the lead dogs, and is named after one of the rivers in the Park.

Don't show this to Sugar, she might get jealous.

We still had a good drive to get back to Big Lake and as we set off again the snow started again.
We stopped to let Kamryn get out and feel the snow falling.  Ian wasn't feeling good, so I stayed in the backseat of the truck with him laying in my lap.  It was a good time to let Ryan have a chance to drive, not only practice on a stick shift, but drive in the snow.  He wouldn't get that chance at home.  He drove for about 2 hours and did a great job.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful adventure!
    I would share with you that my adventure today- about 90 degrees - was a kayak paddle in Lakes Park - we saw thousands of birds, many nesting and many, many fledglings and fuzzy headed babies. It was awesome as was your trip.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Carole Massey


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