Sunday, July 13, 2008

Alaska '08 Day 28, Denali

Wed July 9, 2008

We took a free bus from the visitors' center to the dog kennels for the dog sled demonstration. This is a really popular thing to do at Denali. They have maybe 2 dozen or so dogs in the kennel and 3 rangers walking around answering questions. They let you walk around for 20 minutes or so then a ranger does a demonstration where he talks about dog sledding and hooks up some dogs and goes around a short track. The rangers emphasize that this is not cruel to the dogs, they are bred for this and this is what they want to do. Evidently the dog sledders catch a lot of flak from the animal rights groups. The ranger also stressed that they use the dogs in the winter to re-supply the back woods cabins. The dogs are functional, they are not here for the tourists. Prior to 1960 everyone had dog teams for the winter. In the 60s snowmobiles started replacing the dog teams. The snowmobiles were not reliable enough, they don't always start and they run out of gas. The dogs proved to be more reliable and safer, they always run and if you get stranded in the snow you can keep warm with your dogs. For the demonstration a ranger
hooks up 5 dogs to a sled and runs around a short loop. They had 3 rangers handling the dogs (who get really excited when they see the sled). It was all the ranger could do to hold on to the sled when he set them off. I couldn't believe how fast the sled goes. 5 dogs can pull an empty sled pretty fast. They say they can go as fast as 15 mph but after a while they fall into a trot. On this short track the dogs don't run long enough to trot.

This afternoon aunt Jenny had sled dog project for the kids. Anna and Jen made dog sleds out of popsicle sticks. Anna really got into this. She made a sled, put together a dog team out of littlest pet dogs and filled the sled with littlest pet supplies. Emmy found leaf rubbings (from the ranger backpack kit) more interesting than the dog sled team. Emmy also did a wolf footprint cast out of the junior ranger backpack kit.

After dinner we went to a ranger talk in the campground ampitheatre. The talk was about the arctic ground squirrel. It was geared towards kids and Anna really liked it. The arctic ground squirrel is a keystone species in the park, just about every predator here eats them especially the golden eagle and
red fox.

- Jon


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