Sunday, July 3rd, we left Fairbanks and headed to Denali National Park. The only reservations we had made far in advance were for our week in Denali. Back in February, I had booked 3 nights at Riley Creek Campground in the front of the park and 4 nights further back at the Teklanika Campground.
Of course, booking that far in advance you have no idea of what the weather would be and now looking at forecasts, it didn't look too promising.
We arrived at the park entrance
and found a space in the Caribou loop at the Riley Creek Campground. Reservations are first come first serve here, but there are two types of sites, under 32 ft. and over 32 ft. We weren't sure if we would have any choice in sites since it was the July 4th weekend, but we actually did have a choice and found a pretty good campsite.
As soon as we got set up, we took off to explore. You can only drive 15 miles of the 90 mile road yourself. There is one point on the road you can see Denali if it is out. The white clouds were covering it in the middle.
Our next stop was my favorite during our stay at Riley Creek Campground. We went to go see the sled dogs. This group of sled dogs is the only sled dog team in a National Park.
We were greeted by a friendly park ranger that said we were free to go around to visit the dogs and could pet any who were out or came up to us in the pens. A lot of them sat up on their houses watching their visitors.
Some were very happy to have some attention
and they loved to be scratched behind their ears.
Many of them have these beautiful blue eyes.
Some just didn't want to mingle too much.
We found out a demonstration would begin in about 20 minutes so we just hung out waiting for it. Then the rain came down as a heavy drizzle.
It didn't damper the dogs' spirits, though. The ranger asked us if we were ready to see the dogs and everyone applauded. As if on cue, every dog began to jump and howl. They knew after that applause some would be chosen to be on a team.
Several of the rangers went to fetch the dogs, then harnessed them to the sled. They were so eager to get going and finally they were off around a path.
We were told they didn't use a full team as the ranger on the sled would have a hard time stopping with that many and they would also go a lot faster.
After the demonstration, the ranger answered questions and the team hung out by the audience.
There's definitely a bond between the dogs and the rangers here.