Day 4 of the Grand Alaska Adventure: Day in Denali

Our second night in the RV provided a better sleep experience. It’s amazing that it has only been two nights in our little RV. I love a vacation that doesn’t take days to “settle in” and I already feel unwound and detached from the stress of daily life.

Saturday arrived with some light rain and cold temperatures. We’ve been averaging upper 40s to low 50s and intermittent rain since leaving Anchorage. Typical of the Denali experience. Although according to Park personnel it’s been a very dry year so far, which hasn’t been good for the berry crop or the bears.

We’re now officially “dry camping” where we are relying upon the RV without fresh water or electrical hookups. There’s a dump station by the Mercantile but it’s a hassle to move the RV then re-level so we’re watching our gray water tank and using water sparingly. It’s also good practice for our move to Tek further in the park. Our RV is equipped with larger than expected tanks so while we shouldn’t have a problem, we do need to reserve our resources. It’s rather eye-opening to realize how much water we waste at home.

Without an electrical hookup the RV runs house lights on large batteries but the microwave, toaster and coffee maker requires the generator and Denali has restricted noise hours. Generators may only be run between 8 – 10am and 4 – 8pm. We also need to run the engine to recharge the large house batteries during those hours.

Coffee maker? Yep, that’s right. Can’t use the coffee maker until after 8 am. However, we’re equipped with a propane range and stove so we’ve been using Linda’s lovely espresso maker and have started using the coffee maker by pouring boiling water over the grounds in the basket and holding over the pot. Very effective.

Today we’re planning on spending more time at the Visitors Center (VC) and visit the Denali sled dog kennels. Denali is the only national park to feature sled dogs!

There are several walking paths that lead from Riley Creek Campground to the VC which is about a mile away. The walk is pleasant and gives us an opportunity to practice our “Yo bear!” mantra. Bears and other wildlife are deterred by the human voice and I really don’t want an on-foot encounter. From a bus or car yes; from on foot several yards away, no thank you. I know I’ve mentioned my fear of bears but it deserves another mention. Just being on foot in bear country raises my blood pressure but doesn’t keep me from visiting!

The Alaska Railway also crosses the trail as it heads to the train depot located near the VC.

Further down, the track spans a scenic gorge raising visions of train travel from an era long gone.In addition to the animal exhibits at the VC there’s a section dedicated to the mining history and early establishment of Denali as a tourist destination. Nothing like tent camping in a dress and loafers. Yes, the good old days. The VC is very interesting and easy to spend an hour or two viewing the movies, reading and studying the exhibits and watching the historic video clips.

After enjoying the center we boarded the park bus for the dog kennels to attend one of the scheduled tours.

With only three tours a day it’s a popular event and well worth a visit. Of course just as we arrived it began to rain, but didn’t keep the dogs and human apart. The dogs were eager for the attention and the humans just as eager to make new friends. 

You couldn’t help but fall in love with these adorable working dogs. This particular rascal tried his best to lean me to the ground. After loving on the dogs one of the Rangers gave an entertaining talk on the history and purpose of the Denali kennels then it was time to hitch up the dogs for a quick spin around the kennels. As the talk was winding down the dogs became increasingly excited and the air was full of their yipping and raucous barking.  Each dog seemed to vie for the privilege to pull the cart. These are dogs that love to work!

As the day wound down it was time to return to our RV and what had become a social happy hour. Weather permitting, we’d gather outside to discuss our day and relax with a glass or two of wine before enjoying a delicious dinner.

Tomorrow we have an early morning as we catch the Discovery hike (Disco hike) bus. Rain or shine it’s time to hike!

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