Denali National Park - Savage River

Saturday, July 29, 2017
Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska, United States
It was really nice being in a campground for 3 nights and not have to put the beds away every morning.  This morning we got the van ready to drive down to Savage Creek Campground, mile 12.5 on the Denali Park Road.  On the way down, we stopped at the Savage River, mile 15 and the furthest a car can drive into the park without reservations at Teknalika Campground, and hiked the Savage River loop trail – 2 miles roundtrip, and then played on the rocks.  It is beautiful to look down the canyon and see all the different colors of green along the hillside.  We did spot one dall sheep ram on the hillside, but it was still too far away to get a decent picture.   We headed over to the campground to find our campsite and then made our way down to the mercantile at Riley Creek to pick up some much needed provisions and eat some lunch.  When they say that food is expensive, they are not kidding!  A loaf of white bread was $7.00!   Our final stop of the day was the dog kennel.  We were able to play with the dogs while they were tethered to their poles.   The huskies are beautiful.  Many had the ice blue eyes, while their coloring ranged from white/blond to light brown to dark brown and black.   Prusik, Polly and Disco were the most interactive.  Prusik really enjoyed having his belly rubbed while Disco was just a very happy 2 year old.  You knew immediately when it was feeding time as all the dogs jumped up on the kennel boxes and started barking and getting excited.  Polly and Disco must be some of the last to be fed because they seemed quite content getting human attention while the other dogs were being fed.   Back at camp, we cooked dinner under the newly constructed eating area (as it was raining) and listened to the ranger program titled “Bambi and her cousins.”  The program was about caribou, moose and dall sheep.
7/30 Sunday
Our campgrond neighbors told us Denali was actually visible so we ran over to the Savage River to get a picture.  We were lucky to actually see her.  I went to take a picture, got zoomed in, pressed the button and the camera said “battery exhausted”.   UGHH!!!  Ran back to the campground to change the battery and by the time I got back she was covered in clouds again.  We headed out on the Savage River Alpine Trail from the campground, a 4 mile (one way) trail with 1250 feet elevation gain.  It was interesting to start in the lower level with willow bushes and spruce trees, and then to hike up into the alpine tundra.  I was hoping we would see a marmot but we only saw arctic gray squirrels and mosquitos (which were quite large).  Although we all have a few mosquito bites, they are not nearly as bad as what we were led to believe.  The kids enjoyed playing on the rocks so much, we almost missed she shuttle to take us down to the kennels (which only comes once an hour).  The bus driver was nice and stopped for us across the bridge from the shuttle stop.  We arrived to the kennels around 3 and found most of the dogs to be napping in the afternoon sun.  Even Prusik and Disco were quiet!  Once the crowds arrived for the tour, we headed back to the campground on the shuttle and walked out to the Savage Cabin, which is used for tours in the summer but is used for rangers and the dogs in the winter.   Had some thunder and lightning and some more (light) rain this evening.  Cooked in the kitchen shelter again and listened to the ranger program on ptarmigan, wood frogs and arctic gray squirrels and how they adapt in the cold winter climate.
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