We checked out of our lodge fairly early in the morning. The Missus really wanted to hit the road. We had some reservations to keep at 2pm and the Missus still wanted to enjoy the scenery.
While Denali National Park gets all the headlines; I have to say, for us, the unadventurous type, the views along Denali State Park are wonderful.
We stopped at the Alaska Veterans Memorial for a short break and to pay our respects.
It was mile after mile of beautiful vistas.
A couple of three hours or so later, we made it to Denali National Park. But not before watching this moose cross the road.
After wandering around the shops and displays at the visitors center; the Missus wanted to take a short hike. We chose the McKinley Station trail, which took us along Riley Creek, under train trestles, and down a really nicely groomed path.
The hike goes under the Alaska Railroad Trestle.
We loved the birds we saw along the route and the rabbits we saw hopping across the trail.
Hard to believe that there was once a little community established here.
It was a nice, easy hike.We got back to the visitors center and headed off to the strip of tourist shops called "Glitter Gulch" (Nenana Canyon), yikes! We soon headed on out to a pick up spot for our next stop for the day. We'd made reservations to visit Jeff King's Husky Homestead. A mini bus came to pick us up and take us to Jeff King's Iditarod Training Center......I'm hoping you folks know what the Iditarod is. Jeff King is a four time winner of what is called "the Last Great Race on Earth". I was looking forward to seeing the dogs, the training, learning about life and preparation for the Iditarod, learning about the Alaskan Husky. All of which was answered. But first....some puppies!
We were told that they have visitors meet the puppies to help socialize and get them used to being around people.
We quickly found out that "Alaskan Huskies" are not considered pure bred....they are not recognized by the AKC. These are dogs bred for their abilities to be able to pull, work as a team, run, lead....
They are also quite affectionate and each has its own personality. They also love attention.....
It was quite obvious that in the same way Frankie is made to eat snacks; these dogs are, well, to paraphrase the Bruce Springsteen song, they are "Born to Run". They seem most fulfilled and happy when working.
It was amazing watching them training on the custom treadmill pulling an ATV.
As soon as they were hooked up....they just wanted to go. Check out this video:
What was even more entertaining was watching the treadmill turned off. The team just pulled the ATV into the woods and then back around and up the hill. While all the other dogs just wanted to be part of the spectacle.
The outdoor presentation was wonderful; we learned about the breed, met the lead dogs, several of which were brought out to meet the audience.
We learned how the dogs were named....and yes, there was even a Sammy!
The indoor session was even more fascinating; at least for me....plus; the presenters, who have actually done the Iditarod; since Jeff King was out of town, had a pretty funny schtick.
Seriously though, topics like Vet care, how many dogs they take for each race, staging food......each dog consumes about 12,000....yes, twelve thousand calories a day during the race. Each musher is responsible foe feeding his or her team, with no help! They need to schedule the dogs time pulling, rest time, prepare their food.....I was told that to make the most of what time they might have to sleep; 3-4 hours, they'll often forgo shelter and just sleep in the sled.....rinse, repeat.
In other words; the dogs are noble athletes, it is about them....the mushers, well, they must be nuts.....
The average age an Iditarod sled dog lives to is 12-15 years....which is pretty amazing for a 60 pound dog.
There was so much covered in the time at Husky Homestead......regardless of your belief on the Iditarod, I learned a lot about the Alaskan Husky. The folks at Husky Homestead are great.
After the tour we were dropped off at our pick-up point and we headed to where we were staying for the night; McKinley Creek Cabins. Really nice, friendly folks.....
Originally, I wanted to have dinner at the nearby 229 Parks Restaurant, but they were still closed during our visit. So, instead we ate at the McKinley Creekside Café, which I read good things about.
This low keyed spot had a simple menu of basic fare.....
We ordered a couple of things off the menu. First up was the Reindeer Sausage Vegetable Soup which was on the greasy side.
It was also overly salty.
We also ordered the "Alaska Sampler" ($23); which was basically an appetizer plate.
So here's the deal; if you like basic, say, TGI Fridays fare, you'd like this. The calamari was tough, the halibut was fried too long and dry, the Reindeer sausage was also over-cooked, tough, and dry. The item the Missus thought She was not going to like; the Smoked Salmon Dip was what we enjoyed the most, smoky, almost crab like flavors; which went well with the nicely toasted, we were told, house made bread.
We also got the Bacon - Jalapeno Deviled Eggs.
The egg whites were too rubbery and the egg yolk mixture was very runny....not much bacon, nor jalapeno tones in this and the runny mixture just didn't look very appealing.
On the good side; the staff was wonderful.....
McKinley Creekside Cafe
224 Parks Hwy
Denali National Park and Preserve, AK 99755
Still a bit unsatisfied, we walked across the bridge to Panorama Pizza Pub.
Went and ordered a couple of beers and a cheese bread. The young lady working the bar was amazing.
As was just sitting on the porch and chilling......
Though it seemed that our cheese bread was taking quite long....another round of beers..... I then went in and spoke to the young lady nicely, it wasn't her fault. I got talking to one of the guys sitting at the bar, who it turns out is a chef, for one of the nearby more fancy places......he told me, "things are kinda rough right now in these places......the season has just begun and the staff is getting used to things, but there's no excuse for cheese bread taking an hour".
We decided to take our cheese bread to go...….
Panorama Pizza Pub
Mile 224 Parks Hwy
Healy, AK 99743
We left the cheese bread in the room and went for a walk....it was nearly seven pm, but the sun didn't set until nearly ten and this is what McKinley Creek looked like.
We got back to the room....and there was no cheese on the cheese bread....whatever....we really didn't care. Would you have if this was right outside your door?