• pond surrounded by green brush, reflecting a distant range of snow-covered mountains that are dominated by one massive mountain

    Denali

    National Park & Preserve Alaska

Wilderness Through the Eyes of a Student Conservation Association (SCA) Intern

May 20, 2014 Posted by: Marinell Chandler

Each summer, the Denali Kennels hires two interns through the Student Conservation Association to interact with visitors and assist in the daily care of their canine rangers.

two images of young women and sled dogs
2014 SCA Summer Kennel Interns, Kelly Bell and Marinell Chandler

Founded in 1957 in response to an overwhelming need to take care of our nation's national parks, the Student Conservation Association strives to build the next generation of conservation leaders by engaging young people to become stewards of their communities and the environment. Over the last 57 years, the SCA has given over 75,000 young people the opportunity to make a lasting impact in our nation's public lands and urban spaces. Internship positions range anywhere from environmental education to fire management, fishery science to digital media, and everything in between.


Our internship at the kennels, however, is especially unique, since Denali is the only park in the United States that employs sled dogs to help protect its wildlife and wilderness. Having been here for just over a month, I have been amazed by the incredible impact these dogs have on the functioning and sustainability of the park each year. We call them "Canine Rangers" because they, too, are stewards of the park. These amazing animals allow us to access remote areas of Denali in winter. They help rangers contact winter visitors, haul supplies into and remove debris from hard to reach locations, and transport researchers to and from study areas throughout the 6 million acre park. By using the sled dogs to accomplish each of these tasks, we minimize our impact on the wilderness and wildlife that is so precious in Denali.   

two images; one of a red fox eating a headless squirrel; the other of a grizzly bear on a hillside
A bear digs for roots, and a red fox feasts on a ground squirrel along the park road 

On one of our first trips into the park, we were assigned the task of cleaning out the Wonder Lake cabin, one of many shelters that the park rangers use on patrol during the winter season. Visitors traveling through the park are often anxious to see the wildlife that thrives here and we were no different, nor were we disappointed. We watched a red fox hunt and eat a ground squirrel in the tundra, and encountered a grizzly bear foraging for food beside the park road. Both animals were completely uninterested in the excited photography coming from the inside of the truck. Although our wildlife encounters were spectacular, there was one more elusive park icon that I was desperate to see: Mount McKinley.

The weather forecast for the day had been promising – partly cloudy, warm – but as we drove further west, Mount McKinley remained behind a thick blanket of clouds that hung over the Alaskan Range. Knowing that less than 30% of those who travel into the park ever see the mountain, I tried to envision it: how much higher it rose than the surrounding mountains, the vertical climb, and what the highest peak in North America looks like from base to summit. It was hard to imagine, but I didn't have to visualize it for long.

In a short ten minutes, with the range stretching parallel to the road, the thick clouds began to slide away before our eyes. It started from the top: the North and South summits appeared from above the clouds – MUCH higher than I imagined they would – and soon the entire mountain stood in all of its beauty, as though it had come out just for us. Before we began our cabin cleanup work, we stopped at Reflection Pond, where many iconic pictures of Mount McKinley have been taken. It was truly humbling to stand beneath it knowing years ago, the park's early visitors had stood in the same place we were standing, saw what we were seeing, and that the mountain and everything around it had remained largely unchanged.

large snow-covered mountain
 Mount McKinley stands above the clouds across Reflection Pond

In this increasingly technological age, it is absolutely fundamental that the excitement and wonder of our national parks and wild places be impressed upon our nation's youth. The Wilderness Act states, "it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness". The up and coming generation – my generation – must understand the importance of keeping these places protected for ourselves as well as for future generations. The SCA and the National Park Service continue to strive towards this goal every day, finding ways to make connections that will last a lifetime.

For me, and for many that visit Denali, that connection to wilderness is made through the sled dogs.  There is nothing more satisfying than to walk to work in the morning and be greeted by 31 furry coworkers who truly love what they do. Each winter they run over 3,000 miles within the park boundaries, mainly in wilderness. To put this in perspective, 3,000 miles stretches from East coast to West coast in the lower 48, meaning each winter the dogs run the equivalent of a transcontinental trek. Each summer they greet and inspire over 50,000 visitors to the kennels to go out and experience the wilderness areas of the park for themselves. These dogs have devoted their lives to exploring and protecting this park, and have already inspired me (and, hopefully, many others) to do the same.

This summer, I urge you to read more of our kennels blog, browse the park website, or come see us in person. Make your own memories, and be inspired by the breathtaking wildlife and wilderness that our canine rangers continue to protect. Our national parks and wilderness areas were established for everyone to enjoy. Each connection that is made is a testament to the significance of Denali and the importance of protecting it not only for the wildlife who depend on this land to survive, but also for the people who benefit from all that our wilderness has to offer.

wildlife, mount mckinley, student conservation association




12 Comments Comments Icon

  1. Fabio Muher - lhokseumawe
    July 25, 2014 at 05:29

    We still have children and adults from all over the lower 48 ask us about them.Keep up the great work! Harry & Lela Schlitz and TEAM! Mountain Mushers, Yapenbit College adalah sebuah lembaga Pendidikan serta Pelatihan khususnya bidang IT. Lembaga ini dibawah Yayasan Pendidikan Bina Informasi dan Teknologi Aceh atau biasa disebut (YAPENBIT) Aceh. Yayasan ini sendiri berdomisili di Kota Lhokseumawe. Yapenbit Sendiri dulunya hanya sebuah Organisasi yang bernama BIT (Bina Informasi dan Teknologi),Alhamdulillah seiring berjalan waktu,di tahun ke5 (lima) organisasi BIT ini berdiri,BIT bertransformasi menjadi Yayasan yang sekarang bernama YAPENBIT atau Yayasan Pendidikan Bina Informasi dan Teknologi. Belajar Komputer Gratis 3 Tahun di Yapenbit http://ollagituloh.blogspot.com/2014/07/belajar-komputer-gratis-3-tahun-di.html Free Download Apps Android,Game Android,Apk http://ollagituloh.blogspot.com Download Software and Drivers Free This Blog Share About Download Software and Drivers Printer Canon,HP,Epson,Brother,Samsung,Dell,etc http://dosodrive.blogspot.com

  2. Cindy (Chandler) Plyley - Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada
    June 23, 2014 at 11:19

    We recently returned from our 1st trip to Alaska. We were blessed with wonderful weather and stunning views of Mt.Denai (McKinley)from both the air and the ground. Although we enjoyed our entire trip,one my favourite parts was our stay at Denali National park. The campgrounds were clean and well shaded with plenty of wildlife to wonder at. Our day at the sled dog kennel was amazing. The dogs are all so beautiful and lovable. It was nice to meet Marinell (who knows, maybe we're related) Chandler. I hope to some day return for a longer visit in Alaska and especially Denali. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. Enjoy your summer and take good care of those beautiful dogs.

  3. poussette double - Aiea, HI
    June 23, 2014 at 08:04

    Great thanks http://www.sabaa-package.com/

  4. Darlene Gillespie - Elizabethtown, Kentucky
    June 05, 2014 at 08:26

    What can I say I left my heart in Alaska. Lived there for two years and enjoyed every minute of it. Had a chance to visit the Park Kennels. And took tones of pictures of these beautiful sled dogs. God Bless You

  5. Sherry - Idabel, OK
    May 21, 2014 at 07:55

    Thank you...enjoyed reading your experience. .will be following your summer adventures. ..you are very fortunate to have been given such a tremendous opportunity!!!

  6. Ann - Pine Grove, PA
    May 21, 2014 at 07:08

    My husband and I returned home from a 12 day visit to Alaska. We were blessed with good weather and a view of Mt. McKinley; but one of the highlights of my trip was our visit to the Denali Kennels. What a joyful experience! I wish you well in your endeavors and "thank you" for becoming a caretaker of our most beautiful National Park, Denali.

  7. Ann - Pine Grove, PA
    May 21, 2014 at 07:08

    My husband and I returned home from a 12 day visit to Alaska. We were blessed with good weather and a view of Mt. McKinley; but one of the highlights of my trip was our visit to the Denali Kennels. What a joyful experience! I wish you well in your endeavors and "thank you" for becoming a caretaker of our most beautiful National Park, Denali.

  8. Ann - Pine Grove, PA
    May 21, 2014 at 07:07

    My husband and I returned home from a 12 day visit to Alaska. We were blessed with good weather and a view of Mt. McKinley; but one of the highlights of my trip was our visit to the Denali Kennels. What a joyful experience! I wish you well in your endeavors and "thank you" for becoming a caretaker of our most beautiful National Park, Denali.

  9. Harry & Lela Schlitz - Laurel, Montana
    May 21, 2014 at 11:30

    Keep up the great work! From owners of the two BEST retired Denali Sled Dogs! "PIXIE" (lead) and SORREL (wheel) rest in peace!!!!

  10. Harry & Lela Schlitz - Laurel, Montana
    May 21, 2014 at 11:14

    We had the honor a few years ago to drive to Denali from MT. To pick up to retired Sled Dogs, "PIXIE & SORREL"! We had them both for the next 5-6 years! They travel all of the lower 48 with us as we visit schools, libraries and many other special events! This happen with the support of Mrs Karen Fortier and staff at the Denali kennel! We miss PIXIE & SORREL so very much!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We still have children and adults from all over the lower 48 ask us about them.Keep up the great work! Harry & Lela Schlitz and TEAM! Mountain Mushers,

  11. Karen Fortier - Salida, CO
    May 21, 2014 at 10:54

    Love it! Many of your Kennels SCA predecessors have found their long term home in Denali. Maybe this love of wilderness will draw you there as well! Best of luck this summer!

  12. Tim - St. Louis, Missouri
    May 20, 2014 at 08:36

    Well written article.

 

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