Saturday, May 30, 2009

Denali - Sled Dogs

Thought I'd provide a slight change from the wildlife images. Some folks have requested photos of Muddy, so they are included later in the post. First, I wanted to provide some pertinent sled dog history. The Denali National Park huskies have a long history in the park (NPS Photo above).They are the only sled dog teams that conduct patrols in any national park.
When Denali received its first park ranger in 1921, Harry Karstens, pictured above (NPS Photo), he used sled dogs to patrol and address the rampant poaching within the park boundaries.
By the late 1920s, the kennels had expanded. The current building you see pictured above and to the left was constructed in 1928. You can really feel the history when you walk into the building.
Within the building and pictured above are some examples of the antique and current sleds used on sled dog patrol. The same tradition of sled dog patrol continues today. The sled dogs provide transportation for the park rangers in the winter to patrol the back country, resupply park cabins and assist researchers. The dogs' winter patrol is on average about 3,000 miles. One interesting fact is that this breed of dog is most comfortable at approximately -10 degrees. They are so well insulated that when they lay in the snow it doesn't melt. A short, interesting, video produced by the Discovery Channel about the sled dogs can be viewed on this link: Denali Sled Dogs

During the summer season, one of the most popular interpretive programs in Denali is the sled dog demonstration. An average of 50,000 visitors view the show.

At the end of the program a ranger takes the dogs on a short run through the woods for the visitors to see the dogs in action, as seen above.

Also, since the dogs don't get any sled time during the summer season, they ask the ranger staff for volunteers to adopt a sled dog for the summer. Since the camera gear lackey was not able to join me in Denali, I have a summer bride and adopted a female dog named Muddy, pictured in her pen above.

Your responsibility after adoption is to walk your dog as many times as possible during the week. Muddy and I have become good friends. She usually spots me when I walk into the kennel area and starts barking like above, just raring to go for our walk.

Before I put her leash on, she jumps up on top of her house on command.

She is quite a handful. When we take our 4 mile walk most nights, she pulls me the entire time. As you can see she is a rusty brown and a unique color from all her other team members.

Blue Skies,


SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

This is a great post Ken and extremely interesting. What a fantastic way to do patrols in the winter. The camera lackey is not going to be happy being upsurped for the summer but I am sure she will forgive you when you are back home. LOL!!

Barbara said...

That is neat that you have a special friend and get exercise as well. He is a gorgeous dog and looks like he enjoys your company.

Tim Rucci said...

Nice job, Ken. Glad you were able to show us some photos of Muddy. You must be one tired 'puppy' yourself after doing 4 miles with the dog in the evenings. I'm assuming you get to slow down and walk for part of that time. If not, you'll be ready to compete in a marathon by September.

Stacey Huston said...

Muddy is beautiful. looks like your having a fantastic time in Alaska.. enjoy your time with Muddy. and thanks for sharing all your wonderful adventures.

fishing guy said...

Ken: What a neat story and photos of the park operation with the dogs.

Qiper said...

Interesting pics and story - Such a great area for game, birds and landscape photos

gidje said...

I learned something new today. Didn't realized these sled dogs were naturally tolerant to such cold temps. Loved the post!

Twisted Fencepost said...

Interesting bit of history there, Ken. Thanks for sharing it with this post of Muddy. She is a beauty!

T and S said...

That's a wonderful piece of history you have posted Ken. And I like you gesture of adopting a dog for summer and apart from her colors she is huge.

Did you get to patrol on sledge when you first went to Denali !

EstherK said...

Hi Ken :-) I was blog surfing and came across your blog as well as your photography blog. It is inspiring to read how your passion fuels your love for photography - it shows in your pictures (I'm sure its not just the equipment!).

I shall be back!

alex216 said...

I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool.


Ken Karstens said...

The Park pups have always been photogenic.
Nice pics.