We tried once again to get a glimpse of Denali this morning, but again, she was shrouded with clouds. Our 5 nights in Denali is over and we definitely need to come back and spend more time exploring this amazingly vast park. While there are very few defined trails, you can walk throughout most of the park, on the tundra, through the taiga and on the river bars.
Once we got packed up we made our way out of the park. We had to stop at the kennels to say goodbye to our favorite dogs and ended up catching the last 15 minutes of the sled dog presentation. Said goodbye to Prusik, Disco and Polly. We found out the dogs are only fed once a day in the summer (hence why they were to so excited the previous day when it was feeding time) and twice a day in the winter. Clove is pregnant (she came up to me the first day but since has just been sleeping) and is due sometime in the next 5 days. Can’t wait to see what, or how big, her litter is. The ranger said the dogs could have any where between 3 and 13 puppies. They expect clove to have a large litter based on how big she is. ***Update - Clove gave birth to 7 healthy puppies on August 4th - 5 boys and 2 girls!
Finally made it over to the Murie Science Learning Center, which is actually the visitor center in the winter. They have a nice display about the dinosaurs and the fossils that were found in 2005. They also have this amazing quilt hanging that represents the different climates in Alaska and the animals that can be found in each area. Finally got another shower and did some laundry at the Riley Creek Campground/Mercantile. $4.50 for a 7 minute shower was pretty nice, but the laundry had 3 of 4 washers/dryers working, again, small machines (not like the industrial size machines at most Laundromats).
Gassed up (and got a few goodies for the road) and hit the Denali Highway around 2:30 pm. This 135 mile road cuts across the interior from Cantwell (just south of Denali) to Paxon, was completed in the early 1970's. 110 miles of the road is unpaved, and while the majority of the road was fairly washboard, there were a few patches of serious potholes in the 60 mile and 90 mile areas. It is hard to go faster than 35 mph even though the speed limit is 50 mph. There are lots of kettle ponds and you follow the Nenana river. We finally saw some caribou around mile 66 and saw 2 swans with 4 babies along one of the lakes. We also saw a bald eagle that looked like it was being chased by a smaller white bird (mew gull?). We had off and on drizzle/rain from about mile 70. The clouds were low (and we were high on the road) so it was hard to see the landscape. Our original destination was Paxon Lake (which the boys fished for a little bit and stretched our legs) but we decided we wanted to get to Glenallen to do some very necessary grocery shopping and get up to the Kennicott/McCarthy area a day early. After leaving Paxon Lake we started seeing some white mountains pop up behind the trees and curves in the road. We were graced with the presence of Mt. Drum, 12,010 feet high, in the Wrangell Mountains. It was a truly stunning sight!
We spent the night at the Northern Lights campground at the east end of Glenallen. We had a nice dry site - $27 – which included free coffee and 2 shower tokens.