Fairbanks to Denali National Park
June 5, 2017
Miles Driven: 172
Sunrise (Fairbanks): 3:20am / Sunset (Denali): 12:00am (i.e. the next day)
Latitude: 64.84N to 63.11N
National Parks Visited: 1
Wacky Roadside Attractions: 0
With a belly full of the most marvelous mashed potatoes and buffalo meatloaf wrapped in applewood smoked bacon (and topped with a few crispy onion rings)* I sit down to write this blog content after a great day seeing just a smidgen of what Denali has to offer. Truly it was only a smidgen. In fact, from the single entrance to the park, you can’t actually see the grand mountain. You must take an 8-hour round-trip bus ride deep into the park before you can catch a glimpse. You cannot drive your vehicle, like you can in the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, or Yellowstone. There is only one road serviced by the Denali buses. It is a vast wilderness without constructed boundaries; as the sign says, “Denali’s boarders exist only on maps.”
We are hoping to see a bit of the tallest mountain in North America tomorrow as we continue down to Anchorage. At 20,310 feet high, it the third largest in the world (after Everest and Aconcagua), and the tallest if you measure it from its base (i.e. the elevation of the region). As we approached the park from Fairbanks, the limited view was obscured by clouds today. But today’s highlight wasn’t the mountain scenery or even the wildlife (of which I did see a moose and her two calves in the parking lot). The highlight was visiting the sled dogs.
In the kennels, they currently have 34 dogs, Alaskan Huskies. They are not any sort of recognized breed; they look like mutts. They are bred for strength, long legs, larger (and stronger) feet, and temperament. They can withstand 70 degrees below temperatures (without any sort of added gear). You can visit them and pet them. The rangers give a demonstration with a dune-buggy-type sled. All 34 dogs go wild when it’s time for them to run and pull – barking, howling, whining. And boy are they fast. Yet, at the end of the demonstration, I wanted nothing more than to curl up with any one of them.
An Inuit myth tells us that:
The earth split in two, and the men and beasts were separated by a profound abyss. In the great chaos of creation, birds, insects, and four-legged creatures sought to save themselves in flight.
All but the dog.
He alone stood at the edge of the abyss, barking, howling, pleading.
The man, moved by compassion, cried, “Come!”, and the dog hurled himself across the chasm to join them. Two front paws caught on the far edge. The dog certainly would have been lost forever had the man not caught him and saved his life.
Any dog owner can recognize the simple truth in that myth. So, with my full belly, preparing for bed, I find myself thinking about my own beloved Tempe, who honestly could have been one of these dogs (if maybe she had slightly bigger feet).
Until tomorrow from Anchorage…