DENALI, Alaska (January 2015) - 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.
The sun sets behind the mountains in Denali National Park, Alaska, Jan. 19, 2015. Denali National Park encompasses over 6 million acres of land, containing hundreds of miles of trails and is home to Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Elias Zani)
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
As most Alaskans and most service members
stationed in the "Last Frontier" know, the beauty of
snow-capped 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 6
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
By U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Elias Zani
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