Preserving the Future
~Sunday, August 21, 2022~
Day 62 of Alaska Trip
Craving an old family favorite this morning…..nectarines on waffles. My grandpa was a farmer/grower of nectarines, plums, etc. in Tulare County California, so we were a bit spoiled with having this healthy treat on hand, sometimes even in abundance. My grandma and my mom would spoil us with this yummy breakfast, and sometimes even dinner (don’t you just love breakfast dinners?) Anyway, not having a waffle maker on hand in the trailer, the next best thing would be nectarines on pancakes. So delicious and a great way to use up the fruit I bought too much of in the first place.
Today, we hit one of two visitor centers in the park……..the Denali Visitor Center that’s in close proximity to our campground. The other, the Eielson Visitor Center at Mile Marker 66, is closed indefinitely until repairs are done at the Pretty Rocks Landslide that I talked about yesterday. The earliest they might open is the summer of 2025. The drive to Eileson is (or should I say “was’) one of the most gorgeous areas in the park and the best spot to view Denali. On that stretch of roadway, you have a better chance of spotting Alaska’s Big 5……Moose, Caribou, Dall Sheep, Bear and Wolf. Hopefully the next time we’re back in Alaska, the repairs will be done and this visitor center and road will be reopened.
The Denali Visitor Center is close to the entrance of the park and though it doesn’t have a scenic road to get to it, nor the views that Eileson does, it’s still a worthwhile place to visit and learn a great deal.
Built in 2005, the center has wonderful exhibits (some even interactive), calling attention to the preservation of the national park system and the wildlife that call this park “home”. Presently, there are 2 wonderful films….the “Heartbeats of Denali”, highlighting the varying seasons and incredible beauty of the park, and another on the legacy of the Denali Sled Dog team (hoping to tour this facility tomorrow).
We also learned about a man who played a significant role in the establishment of Denali National Park……Charles Sheldon. Thomas Jefferson said it would take 1,000 years for Americans to civilize their emerging continental nation and build cities on the Pacific coast as they had on the Atlantic. It took 50 years. With the building of the Alaska Railroad in 1915 and market hunters coming into the region with an aim to kill wild game to feed gold miners and railroad workers, Sheldon and other conservationists became alarmed about the threat to wildlife north of the Alaska Range and were spurred into action. “The mountain could take care of itself, but the animals that embroidered it could not,” he was noted as saying. The legislation to create a national park began in 1916 and passed Congress in 1917. It would be the first national park created after the formation of the National Park Service. Sheldon would later become known as “The Father of Denali National Park”. People began coming to see the once-upon-a-time land, the America that used to be. Who knew it would take another 40 years after President Roosevelt, to find a president who would carry on the passion of preserving even more wilderness areas.
Enter President Jimmy Carter who, near the end of his term, established the ANILCA (Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act) in 1980. It took over 4 years of heated debate, but I do remember (I was 17 at the time) what a huge deal this was. He later called ANILCA “one of my most gratifying achievements in public life.” Its purpose was to protect Alaska’s wild heritage, setting aside 106 million acres of federal public lands, classifying these as national parks, preserves, forests, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges, national recreation areas and wild and scenic rivers. In doing so it doubled the size of the National Park System and tripled the National Wilderness System. In regard to Denali National Park, ANILCA added 4 million acres to its already 2 million acres of federally protected land. The act also divided the park into three types of areas: 1️⃣Park, 2️⃣Wilderness and 3️⃣Preserve, with each managed differently. In the Park, subsistence hunting, trapping, fishing and gathering in the park is allowed. Denali is one of seven national parks in Alaska where park managers are directed to “provide opportunity for rural residents engaged in a subsistence way of life.” For the Wilderness portion, Congress designated most of the 2 million acres of the “old park” as Wilderness, which is the most protected of all areas in the park. The Preserve is managed as the “new park” and allows sport hunting and trapping as well as subsistence activities. It wasn’t until President Obama’s presidency in 2015 that in dedication to Alaska’s native population, the tallest mountain was named Denali from its former name, Mt. McKinley.
From there, we visited the Morino Grill for a warm drink before perusing the park store…..always interested in the best books to add to our already magnificent collection of books from our trip (you can check out our book list on our website at https://www.footprintsonwheels.com/trip-bookroom).
We thought it would be fun to investigate the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge where Jeff’s parents stayed years ago on their cruise through Alaska. Not only does Princess Cruises have a lodge for their cruising tourists, they have a compound. We stopped in one of their shops where I noticed Christmas music playing, so I couldn’t help but ask what that was all about. Apparently, because everything shuts down in the winter, Princess Cruises plays Christmas music and decorates for the holidays for staff during the summer months so they don’t miss out on company related holiday stuff. Pretty cool! And here I was thinking someone had hit the wrong “button”. We went into a few shops where I happened to score on another piece of jewelry. Since I’d recently lost my pearl earrings, I’d been on the hunt for something unique in sterling silver since my ears are very sensitive. And I found them.
A company called “Here & There” has a collection of jewelry using Alaska Sand and Glacier Silt, blended with gemstones, shells and other minerals. Jewelry designer Jessie Snyder travels around Alaska with her family to collect material, to destinations by paddle or plane. You can check out her online store at vhttps://www.atravelingboutique.com/. My particular set is from the Byron Glacier, close to where we stayed in the town of Girdwood. It will be a keepsake that will bring me back to this amazing journey we’ve been so privileged to do.
With the many Princess Cruise tourists wandering around, a woman from the east coast (you couldn’t miss her accent), recommended Fannie Q’s Saloon as a fun spot to hang outside or in. What a fun atmosphere.
We pulled on up to the bar where we were quite entertained by the workers being both physically and mentally on the ball. Tip those people well!! They deserve it. Now who is Fannie Q? Fannie Quigley was an American pioneer and prospector that could do anything from hunting and trapping to cooking with high proficiency. I’m so intrigued by this woman, I decided to buy a book about her legacy. She became involved in the mining operations during the Klondike Gold Rush. A total badass! (for a lack of a better term). Here is a fun excerpt from the restaurant menu about her famous homemade blueberry pie recipe, transcribed in her own words:
“First, pick five gallons of blueberries as they ripen on the back of your mining claim. Then, in early fall, shoot a good fat bear. Haul it a quarter at a time to your cabin. With sufficient snow, use the dog team to haul 10 or 15 cords of wood for the woodstove for the winter. Using a large kettle and the wood you’ve hauled, render the bear fat into lard.
Then, mush your dogs 125 miles to Nenana for 100 pounds of flour and 50 pounds of sugar. Use the bear fat lard and flour to bake a dozen flaky pie crusts in the oven of the wood cookstove. Keep the stove well stoked to maintain a high temperature. Mix the blueberries with some sugar, and add enough flour to bind up the juices. Put the filling into the crusts and bake.
Don’t let the stove get too hot, or the pies will burn. Cool the pies, then store them frozen in the permafrost mining tunnel behind the cabin.”
I can just imagine the kind of fearless, stubborn, independent woman she was, by the recipe alone.
Craving hamburgers (me a veggie burger-yes I do crave these too) which Jeff made while I took Sadie on a walk. About 2 minutes into our walk, a lovely woman from Wisconsin stopped to ask if she could pet Sadie. What easily could have been a 20-second hello, turned into 45 minutes, making me late to dinner. I have no one to blame but myself. But they were a very interesting couple, especially her husband who was very much into showing me his latest gadgets on his rig…from his Hensley hitch to his storage drawers. He was definitely proud of his stuff. Too bad Jeff didn’t get to meet them as they would have had a ball comparing gadgets. Anyway, my hubby, always the patient man, was happy to see me so he could finally eat. Hopefully, I’m not in the doghouse or in our case, the forest.