Tag Archives: mushing

A snowy Denali National Park

The view across Denali National Park at the end of May, 2022

In the 99 years of record keeping within Denali National Park, the winter of 2021-22 was the record setter. 176 inches of snow fell at park headquarters this past winter, breaking the 174″ of 1970-71.

As of May 15, there were still 33″ of snow on the ground at the park’s headquarters, far above average for this late in the season.

It’s been a tough winter for wildlife, particularly moose, who have had to fight the deep drifts. Both moose and bears have been traveling on the park road, so traffic has been limited past Sable Pass. Bicyclists normally can travel up & down the park road, but with the stressed wildlife, that will remain limited until the snow melts.

The shuttle bus will only be traveling as far as Pretty Rocks, due to the road collapse from the melting ice formation.

The park’s visitor center will be open for the first time since 2019, and the park’s sled dog kennel will also be open for tours. 2022 is the 100th anniversary for the Denali Park Sled Dog Kennel.


A new Champ

Brent Saas and his team mushes into Nome

Brent Saas, in his seventh Iditarod, won the 2022 race. He crossed under the famed burled arch in Nome early Tuesday morning. Local temps were hovering around zero. It was the first Iditarod win for Sass. Five time winner, Dallas Seavey came in second. A win would have given Seavey a record sixth title, but Sass, who ran a phenomenal race, held on for the victory.

Brent Sass, and his lead dogs Slater and Morello, after winning the Iditarod

Brent Sass first ran the Iditarod in 2012, winning rookie of the year when he came in 13th. Sass has won the Yukon Quest three times.

Images credit: Alaska Public Media


The Iditarod 2022

The 50th running of the Last Great Race gets its ceremonial start this Saturday in downtown Anchorage. Mushers will then officially get the race going on Sunday from the town of Willow. The Iditarod Sled Dog Race runs annually in March and commemorates the Serum Run of 1925.

The race is mostly back to normal in 2022, with the trail following the northern route, which happens in even numbered years. All mushers must be vaccinated and will be tested during the race. All officials and volunteers must take daily tests until the race ends.

One musher, Nicolas Petit, recently tested positive for Covid-19, and had to scratch from the race. Four-time Iditarod champ, Jeff King, will run his dogs in his place. The 66 year old King last won in 2006.

49 mushers will race across the 49th State, including 13 rookies.

Map of the Iditarod Trail

Map and image credit: The Iditarod Sled Dog Race


Alaska Travel: 1910

A musher and dog team outside Nome, Alaska

Yukon Quest 2022

The Yukon Quest in 2020 ran before Covid had hit North America.

Unlike the Iditarod, the Yukon Quest will be anything but normal for 2022. Unlike the All-Alaska Iditarod Sled Dog Race, the Yukon Quest is an international race running between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, YT. This year, there will be no border crossing due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The usual 1000 mile race will be separated into four smaller races for 2022. On Saturday, February 5, the YQ350 will start with teams running from Circle to Fairbanks and back to Circle. Also getting its start on Saturday is the YQ200, which is a one-way run from Fairbanks to Circle.

February 19 will see two races start in Whitehorse. The YQ100, which runs from Whitehorse to Braeburn; and the YQ300, which is a roundtrip between Whitehorse and Mandanna Lake.


The Akiak Dash

Dog mushing season is in full swing in Alaska, and the big races have started up. This past Friday, the Kuskokwim 300 had its start time, and that race wrapped up on Sunday.

On Saturday, the Akiak Dash had its annual run. The Dash is a dog mushing free for all on the Kuskokwim River. Dog teams line up on the river, and make a mad dash from Bethel to Akiak and back. 17 teams ran the dash in 2022, and Jackie Larson, of Napaskiak, repeated as Dash champion.

The 2022 Akiak Dash

Video credit goes to KYUK and the students of the Lower Kuskokwim School District.


2022: 50th Running of the Iditarod

Nicolas Petit in the lead during the 2019 race; Photo credit: APM

The Iditarod Sled Dog Race will go back to a normal route in 2022, and finish in Nome for its 50th running. Last year, the race was a “there and back”, and did not venture into the historic gold rush city.

The Iditarod will require mushers to be vaccinated for the anniversary race. Even with the vaccination requirement, the usual checkpoint at Takotna, will not take place, as the community has decided not to host the checkpoint this year due to pandemic concerns.

It should be noted that the Iditarod race commemorates the 1925 “Great Race of Mercy”, when several teams of dogs and their mushers relayed the diphtheria serum to Nome to combat an epidemic.

The Iditarod is scheduled to start the first weekend of March.


“Sled Team”

Oil on Board by Theodore Lambert; Circa 1944

Theodore Lambert was a musher, freight hauler and miner in Alaska, as well as one of our premier artists. His knowledge of the outdoor life in Alaska comes through in his paintings. Lambert, disappeared without a trace, from his remote cabin in the Bristol Bay area in 1960.


Mail Run

Film Friday:

Photo courtesy of University of Alaska Archives

The Yukon River mail run, leaving Eagle, Alaska around 1906. Currently, only media mail still travels this way within the state.


Denali National Park & Preserve

National Park Week, Final Day; Today’s Park Theme: B.A.R.K. Ranger Day

Denali and the Alaska Range, view from the south

I think it’s safe to say that I have visited Denali National Park more than any of the others. Of course, it’s only a two hour drive away. Denali is a gem of a Park, and its Mountain and namesake is the crown jewel. Discussions for the area to become a National Park started as early as 1906, and by 1915 there was a solid plan and momentum for the idea. The naming of the Park was contentious from the very beginning, and that should be the subject of a future blog post. Alaskans and Park proponents who had actually visited the area wanted to see the Park named Denali, which was the Athabaskan word for the Mountain. The powers in Washington DC, particularly  Thomas Riggs of the Alaska Engineering Commission, disagreed. The new park would be named Mount McKinley National Park, a decision that Alaskans would fight for decades until it was finally officially renamed Denali National Park in 1980.

A view along the Park Road

At first the new national park was accessed by the Alaska Railroad, which ran between Seward on the southern coast and Fairbanks. The Denali Highway was opened in 1957, giving road access to the Park from the Richardson Highway, which runs between Valdez on the coast and Fairbanks. It wasn’t until 1971 for Anchorage to have direct access to Denali with the building of the Parks Highway between Anchorage and Fairbanks. The Denali Park Road starts at the George Parks Highway, and travels west into the Park for 92 miles. The road ends at the historic mining community of Kantishna.

Teklanika River

There are several trails for hiking in Denali NP, but like the Wrangell-St Elias, this is wilderness, and most hiking is off trail and across country. River crossings are common, and seeing wildlife is (practically) guaranteed. I have one friend who is so wildlife viewing challenged, that other than rabbits and ravens, nothing will show for him. I add the “practically” for those in that exclusive club with my friend in NY.

Caribou in Denali

For the rest of us, wildlife viewing in Denali NP&P is a smorgasbord. I have never been in the Park without seeing caribou and moose, and always grizzly in the summer months. I once took my Dad to Denali and we rode the school bus to the end of the Park Road. While stretching our legs at a rest area, I spotted a wolf sauntering along a river bed, and pointed it out to my Dad and another gentleman who was on the bus with us, and they watched it through my binoculars until we had to board again. I ended up getting scolded by everyone else who was on the bus, because I didn’t hunt them all down and show them the wolf too. Beware of the bus etiquette.

Alaskan Standoff: Grizzly Bear vs Bull Caribou

Denali is a special place in the winter, and I’ve enjoyed snowshoeing the trails and even the roads with the crowds of summer a very distant memory. Dog mushing is a very common activity in the winter, either with your own team, or riding along with a guide. Cross country skiing, snowshoeing and winter camping are the most common wintertime activities. It is a very beautiful, and quiet, winter wonderland. I searched and searched for winter pictures, and I could not find where I stashed them so that I could easily find them again. I will have to go back to create some more.

Denali Park Kennels

Dog mushing teams have been a part of Denali Park since 1922. The Park still maintains and works a team of sled dogs. In non-Covid years, the kennels can be visited, and the rangers give some pretty cool demonstrations. Plus, these dogs are just a lot of fun to hang around; Alaskan sled dogs have developed their own unique personalities, and they love to show them off. Driving the Park Road, you will often see the dog handlers walking the sled dogs, so watch for the signs.

The Replacements: Denali Park Puppies

Denali National Park & Preserve covers 4,740,911 acres and received 594,660 visitors in 2018.

Find your Park! And pet a Puppy!

Images of the Denali Park Dog Team and Puppy Patrol courtesy of NPS/Denali Dog Ranger Division