Monday morning, we took the park shuttle from the visitors’ center to the dog kennel, where we got to meet the dogs, and see a sled-pulling demonstration. It was kind of rainy, but the dogs were raring to go regardless. They were probably wishing for snow.
denali sled dog kennels
sled dog demonstration
We rode back to the visitors’ center and shopped (A LOT) at the store. We bought a bunch of postcards and then went to eat in the cafe there so we could fill them out. Fyi, the restaurant in the park is surprisingly good. Spectacular dining is hard to come by in that area, since your options are so limited.
We dropped our cards off at the post office, the headed over to the Horseshoe Lake Trail. It was kind of cold, but the rain gear we had was very sufficient. My waterproof jacket from REI was an excellent investment.
The mosquitoes were terrible, but we were well-protected. On the trail, we saw woodpeckers, and these strange burled trees. Even on one of the more popular trails, we hardly saw any other people.
We hiked back up to the road and drove the 14 miles down the park road to the Savage River bridge. It’s the farthest private vehicles can go into the park; after that, you have to take a shuttle bus. We headed down the trail to the north. For about a half-mile, it’s paved, and then it becomes a narrow path heading into the canyon.
glacial runoff entering the savage river
We saw tons of ground squirrels, who let us get very close so they could yell at us, and dall sheep up on the top of the surrounding hills. Glacial runoff was melting into the river, mixing clear water with silt from miles away. We hiked over shallow streams and waterfalls, occasionally wondering how the hell we were going to make it back. Also, I peed on a peak overlooking the river. I rule.
We ate lunch on the trail, then headed back to the bridge. Near the road, we encountered a family of ptarmigans. I love those birds! They’re like Alaskan quail.
We drove back up near the visitor center to see the train trestle, then went down to the station. There was a train sitting there, and we resolved immediately to return to Alaska, and travel by rail.
alaska railroad trestle
We decided to drive to Healy in search for Independence Day party supplies and food for dinner. There was a little convenience/liquor store combo on the corner of the Parks Highway, so we turned off and thought we’d drive into town to see what else was there. A few miles down the road, we realized that was all there was of the town. We turned around and stopped at the store for snacks and liquor. We then headed back to the park entrance. After checking several restaurants (all of which were insanely crowded), we decided to just go back to the same place as the previous night.
We realized that the crowds were because the cruise people had just arrived on the train. There was a long line there, too, but it wasn’t as bad as the rest. We had pizzas and devised our new travel motto: have fun, be awesome, don’t die.
Words to live by.