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Running With the Sled Dogs in Denali National Park and Preserve


Denali National Park is the only unit of the National Park System with a working kennel of sled dogs. NPS photos by Carmen Adamyk, top, and Jared Withers.

Sled dogs long have been part of the lore of Alaska. Just pick up most any Jack London book. That lore continues at Denali National Park and Preserve, which has the only working sled dog kennel in the National Park System.

While it's difficult, at best, for most folks to head to Denali in winter to see these dogs at work, you can follow their exploits by reading a blog that's updated from time to time by the park's mushers.

For instance, here's an excerpt from a December 7 post from Michael Raffaeli, a seasonal ranger and musher who just happens to be married to Denali's kennels manager, Jen Raffaeli:

With all the trails broken as far as the Savage Mountain Vista Trailhead, we decided that it was a prime time to get out for our first overnight patrol of the season. Lists were generated, revised, and checked. Gear was given another go-through and minor adjustments and repairs done. The kennels staff met and discussed the plan.

As we pulled the sleds out from the shed, the dogs sensed the anticipation lingering in the air. They slowly wound up as we unwound sections of gang-line. Several dogs started pacing as we began to stow our supplies into the sled bags. By the time we were ready to put the sleds into position to leave the yard, a few dogs were whining to go, and almost everyone was out of their log houses, staring at us intently.

And then the pandemonium of hook-up began. All it took was one dog to be brought to the lines and every other dog was barking deafening yips and yaps to get to go next. And this trip, every adult got to go, plus the three ever-growing puppies from Keta's litter. For the puppies, Lucor, Mixtus, and Sitken, this was going to be a grand adventure. Their walks and skis with us had not yet brought them as far into their park home as we were headed. Nor had they ever slept out. Nor had they had the chance to run with the big dogs yet.

You can keep tabs on the dogs by following the blog at this page.

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