Denali and Skijoring?

I’m in Denali National Park and so far it’s really nice. Purchased some Bear Spray and did a couple of hikes. The rain is a bit of a problem. I don’t mind hiking in a light rain when it’s not too cold out. Mid 40’s and breezy, not so much.

My expensive Solar install works great, except… Mostly cloudy days and trees shading my campsite almost defeat it. 😦 I brought a small generator for those days. It’s just frustrating, but I’ve been using the heck out of it..

Denali is a HUGE park, most of which has no access via car. Most of the climbers who brave the ascent to Denali North or South peaks fly into Talkeetna glacier to begin. Even from there it takes 3 weeks to bag the peak and return. If the weather turns bad, they eat up their food and return unhappy. Historically, just over 50% succeed, mostly due to weather.

While I have no interest in summiting the peak, it’s interesting how few hikes are even near it. That’s how remote it is.

There is ONE ROAD into the middle of the park, and it’s imaginatively called “Park Road“. The Park Road was built in the early 1900s and connects to Wonder Lake and the resort community of Kantishna. It’s 90 miles of single lane dirt road and only accessible by Park Bus, and it won’t even be “open” all the way until June 8th.

On Tuesday I took the bus just 66 miles to the Eielson Visitor center; a 3 1/2 hour ride. It was still fun and I could see many Moose, (Meese?) Caribou, and wild Dall Sheep. No Bears or Wolves, though. The weather cleared for ONE DAY I did finally got some pictures of Denali! The mountain is often so shrouded in clouds that there is a “30%” chance you’ll see the peaks. Well, the clouds briefly broke and I got the two peaks. Not the whole mountain, tho. 😦 So no 30% badge for me…

Being on a bus for 3 1/2 hours each way isn’t exactly fun, but the bus driver on the trip back was interesting. She is an Alaskan native born on Kodiak, loves winter here, and she LOVES her sled dogs. She talked long about her favorite passion: Skijoring. I had to look it up. She cross country skis with her dogs pulling her. Apparently there is a market for “Retired” sled dogs. While they can’t pull like the puppies, they still enjoy being out and about.

The Park service uses sled dogs in the winter here and keeps teams year round. They give demos of Sled Dogs in action during the week. What was more interesting was they have locals “Adopt” the Park dogs with the requirement that they walk the dogs at least three times weekly. While they don’t get to keep them, they get first chance to adopt when the dogs retire. Retirement age for sled dogs: around 9 years.

Since I went on the bus tour, I’ve been sick; Dry, hacking cough that won’t quit. 😦 I can use the rain as an excuse, but I’ve felt like dirt for the last couple of days. I finally found the Oral Thermometer, annnd the battery was dead. Anything close to the park is more like a gas station convenience store, and I got blank looks from Russian speaking clerks when I asked for a “Coin Cell”. Finally drove 15 miles to Healy which had a tiny HW store. By the time I got it working, I think my fever broke. Figures.

Tonight all I wanted was Chicken Noodle Soup for dinner.

I’m going to stick around Denali for 14 days. While the thunder is fun to listen to, I’m waiting for the clear days to get some more hikes in once I feel better. I booked the the bus run to Wonder Lake/Kantishna on Monday, June 10th. ($224! But I get a Free Lunch. eye-roll) 13+ hours on a bus sounds like torture, but we’ll see. I’m damn sure not spending $400-$500 for an Airplane trip, even though it sounds neat.

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