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Exploring Alaska: Denali National Park

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Elias Zani
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Technology has drastically changed the way people live their lives all over the world, but Alaska challenges technology with an "old-world" charm.

People everywhere are fascinated on how many of us live and what we do in Alaska.

However, one of the most recognizable feature of Alaska is Denali National Park, home to Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America.

During a perfect Alaskan summer day, visitors from all across the world explore Denali. Alaska's summer climate makes it an ideal tourist location, but the extreme sub-zero temperatures during the winter bring far fewer visitors to the park.

As most Alaskans and most service members stationed in the "Last Frontier" know, the beauty of snowcapped mountains against a perfectly painted sky keeps many veterans here for life.

Though I've been to Denali before, I had not explored any of the park's six million acres during the winter before a couple weeks ago.

At only a little more than 100 miles from Fairbanks, it's one of the best day trips anyone could find in the United States. And as an added bonus military members can take this trip and spend nothing but time and the cost of gas.

It took my wife and I a little more than three hours to make it to the Murie Science and Learning Center, which acts as the visitor's center during the winter visiting season.

We were promptly greeted by Wendy Mahovlic, our friendly neighborhood National Park interpretive ranger, who promptly taught us all about the myriad of activities the National Park Service offers during the winter.

During the winter months the park is patrolled by around 30 of the most lovable sled dogs that you will ever have the privilege of meeting. Wendy pointed out the kennel and told us that, though you cannot ride a sled, anyone is more than welcome to go visit the dogs and speak with some of the handlers.

Even the drive to the kennel was gorgeous.

While pulling up to the kennel the sound of barking filled the air. Every one of these dogs is thrilled to greet every visitor that walks by their individual houses.

You could spend all day with these furry patrollers, but with the long list of things to do, you'll just have to take another trip to spend time with them.

After the first couple of hours in the park, the Murie Science and Learning Center is a great place to recharge by their fire and enjoy the lunch you packed before exploring more of the vast wilderness.

After lunch we read some more about the park and prepared for our hike to Horseshoe Lake.

There are hundreds of miles of trails in the park, we took a quick 2 mile loop that overlooked the city of Denali, which sits among the mountains of the park.

Our trail followed parts of the Alaskan railroad which runs from Fairbanks to Seward.

Due to how mild the winter was thus far, snowshoeing was not authorize throughout the park, but Wendy was quick to allow us to try them on and walk around the perimeter of the winter visitor's center.

Many may not think of visiting Denali during the winter, but you really cannot claim to have seen Alaska until you have watched the sun rise over the snow capped mountains in Denali, lighting up the valley with a soft, warm light on a crisp day.

There are not enough hours in the day to explore all of Denali and you will yearn to visit again once you make your first voyage.