Wednesday & Thursday June 15th & 16th 2011 DenaliNational Park
Dear Friends and Family,
“Stop!” was the word for the day. And, then you’d say what type of animal you saw and, believe me, we were lucky in our sightings! We started our Tundra Wilderness bus tour early in the morning. It rained and snowed during the trip but cleared up in the afternoon. We were able to see several brown bears, a red fox (I saw it first!), a moose, a couple of caribou, some Dall sheep, and, my favorite viewing, two of the most beautiful wolves I’ve ever seen. Except for the sheep sighting yesterday, this is the first time I’ve seen these animals in the wild. I’m hoping to be able to share some photos with the rest of the tour members later. Some have some super big cameras and have some great pictures of the bears. Mine are just at a 12 x optical zoom though I DID take one at a 48 x digital zoom so you would see that the spot in the other pictures actually IS a bear. It’s blurry but obviously a bear.
The wolves walked right by our bus! It was amazing! I got a good picture of the first big grey wolf. She has a tracking collar on and is the alpha female for the largest pack in the area. I only got a “butt shot” of the second wolf which is typical of most of my own dog pictures I take. THAT was so cool and a very unusual sighting.
When we got back, we were able to rest and have dinner and then went to the Husky Homestead Tour. This was a lot of fun. We first played with some of their puppies, ranging from a couple of weeks old on up. That’s the way they socialize their puppies. The dogs they use inAlaskaare Alaskan Huskies and not Siberian Huskies. They are basically mutts as they are mixed breeds. What happened is that when the gold rush started in the 1800’s, miners came up from the “lower 48” (as we are called down there), noticed that the Indians were using dogs and sleds so they went back down and brought up all of the big, furry dogs they could find like Shepherds, Rottweilers, and Mastiffs. These were bred with the Indian dogs and the descendants make up what are known as Alaskan Huskies. I also video taped Jeff King’s presentation. It was his home and kennel and he has won the Iditarod four times. We saw some of his training methods, including him using an ATV cart for the dogs to pull during the summer months. In case you didn’t know (I didn’t), the Iditarod is an 1100 mile dog sled race in March each year. The dogs LOVE to pull the sled and you can tell by their enthusiasm when he started to strap some of them into their traces. During the race, the dogs pull the sled for 6 hours at a time, rest 6 hours, then pull again 6 hours. This continues for the rest of the race. They wear little booties on their feet to prevent the snow from getting in their pads. They go through about 1500 of them each race! They cost a dollar a piece! Another amazing thing we heard was that each dog eats 10,000 calories a day during the race! (No, I didn’t make a typo! That is ten thousand!) These dogs are only averaging 50 lbs in size.
This morning, we went to the Wilderness Homestead and Dog Cart experience. THIS was another amazing excursion! This gentleman has raced in the Iditarod 21 times! The closest he’s come to winning is third place. We got to hold his puppies, too. Their two boy puppies were 10 weeks old and huge! We also had the pleasure of riding IN a cart that is used to train the dogs during the summer months! THAT
was a blast! I video taped that as well. We got to see some of the pelts and skulls of the animals of the area. And, a bonus was being able to pet and feed their two pet Caribou aka Reindeer (they are Reindeer when they are being farmed and Caribou when they are out in the wild)! They are in the “velvet” phase of their antlers and we were able to feel them. Since the antlers are part of their bodies and are “living,” they are warm. They really DO feel like velvet! These animals shed their antlers every year. They lose them one at a time so they ten to be lopsided for part of the time when they only have one left.
This afternoon, before boarding the train we are on, bound forFairbanks, we went to theDenalipark ranger dog sled kennel. Those were more amazing dogs. They were much bigger dogs and not meant for racing. They are used by the park service to bring things in and out of the park. Again, a very informative presentation!
On the train today, we saw a moose swimming in the lake. That was neat. Unfortunately, we were two of the 80% of the people who didn’t get to viewMt.McKinleyakaDenali.
We’re almost toFairbankswhere I’ll be able to post this on the blog. I’m going to try to get some of these pictures edited and hopefully, WordPress will have written me an email, letting me know how to put the pictures on the blog.
Lori and Susan