Travel in Alaska - Dog Gone It Sled Dog Tour

Everyone is happy when holding sled dog puppies!

We ended our time in the Denali area by taking a Sled Dog Tour. Dog Gone It Tours is run by Caitlin and Mike Santos in Cantwell (50 miles south of Denali), this was the perfect stop as we drove back to Anchorage. We arranged for a private tour which resulted in extra long puppy holding times! We learned about these amazing animals, how they train for the iconic Iditarod Race and the special bond with their humans.

Alaskan Sled Puppies Dog Gone It Tour

Alaskan Sled Puppies

Alaskan Sled Puppies

Alaskan Sled Puppies

We had a wonderful time with the Santos Family their Alaskan Huskies - another highly recommended activity during a visit to the Denali area.


Hiking Denali - The Savage Alpine Trail

So far, we completed two loop hikes in Denali National Park and while the park service grades the Horseshoe Lake and Savage River Loop trails as "Moderate" in difficulty, in reality, they are easy hikes. Especially when compared with our next hike, The Savage Alpine Trail (given a "Strenuous" difficulty rating, only one step up from the Moderate rating). With 1500 feet elevation change, this 4 mile point to point hike proved to be a challenge, but with amazing vistas, friendly chipmunks and bonus moose sightings, well worth the effort.

To give you some perspective, a map screen shot of the Savage River loop (red) and the Savage Alpine trail (yellow) is shown below:

As a point to point hike, the park service recommends you utilize the park shuttle bus either before or after your hike. We didn't want to wait on this service so we parked one car at the start and the other car at the end this way: We all drove to mile 15 and dropped off everyone. Teresa and I drove both cars to mile 12 and dropped off her car. The two of us drove back to mile 15 with my car. This gave us a car at each lot.

Traversing the Savage River Alpine Trail

​The trailhead at Savage river starts with a steep and rocky ascent. This part of the trail is the rockier section. By starting at the Savage River (vs starting at the campground and going the opposite direction), the hiker encounters the steepest section of the trail first. For me, that is the preferred way to hike - get the hard part done first!

Rocky Climb

Matty is always joking around:
Always a jokester

Making our way up.

Taking a break:
Hiking Denali Savage River area

The scenery of the Savage River valley below was amazing. The weather was on the cooler side but with no threat of precipitation and partially cloudy skies - ideal for hiking.
Denali Savage Creek

The trail eventually flattens out and traverses along the ridge, high above the lowlands below.
Far Up

These little guys weren't shy!
Friendly Encounter

What goes up eventually comes down, and the descent was quite gradual with plenty of wildflowers and vegetation flanking the crushed trail.

The Views Were Amazing on Today's Hike #getoutandhike #fireweed #mountains #landscape #denalinationalpark #savagealpinetrail #clbm_ak18

Moose Sighting
We encountered another couple hiking in the opposite direction and they let us know that a Mother Moose and her baby had been spotted close by. Teresa and Shirley quickly came upon Scott who had halted along the trail - the Mother Moose was on the trail around the corner!
The pair was blocking our access to the trail, so we waited, watched and took photos. We took care to never come between the mother and her baby - the adult moose is a daunting animal you don't want to mess with.

Denali Savage Alpine Moose

Mother and Baby finally crossed the creek and the trail was clear for us to pass. It was an amazing encounter.

Denali Savage Creek

We really enjoyed our limited time in Denali even though we only saw a fraction of the park. Hiking is a great way to catch glimpses of the vast land and if we had more time, we would do more hikes. For a pdf version of the available trails at Denali National Park, click this link: Hiking in Denali


Travel Adventures - The Savage River Loop Trail - Denali National Park

Yesterday's short hike around Horseshoe Lake gave us a tiny peek to what we would encounter today - two hikes in the Savage River area of Denali National Park. Located at mile 15 along the Denali Park Road, this is the last area accessible by personal vehicle. There is limited parking at Savage River and additional parking at the Savage River Campground, mile 13.

First up, the Savage River Loop Trail, a simple 2 mile loop traversing the banks of the Savage River.

Denali Savage River

It's an easy hike yet very scenic with the river carved between two mountain ranges. Even though the trail is marked, there are numerous opportunities to venture off trail - the adventuresome cousins did just that and left us parents behind.

Denali Savage River

I ventured up off the trail (seen below) just past the halfway point of the hike and you can see the bridge traversing the river to take you back.
Denali Savage River

The rushing water of the river provides a great backdrop to the experience - who doesn't like the sound of water flowing amidst such beautiful backdrop?

My husband, brother in law (Ray) sister (Teresa):
Denali Savage River

This is one of those hikes easily accessible for many people - the elevation change is negligible and the trail not highly technical. If you take your time, there are plenty of areas off the path to access and explore, including the dry river beds:
Denali Savage Creek

We finished the hike and enjoyed lunch at the parking area picnic tables. Next up, the challenging Savage River Alpine Trail.


Travel Adventures - Denali National Park Horseshoe Lake Trail

It's day 2 of our trip in Alaska. We drove from Anchorage to Healy, a town 10 miles north of the main entrance to Denali National Park. Our families rented an A frame house off Lignite road. If you plan to visit Denali, a vacation rental can be a great option. With our seven adults, we had plenty of space in the house, a full kitchen, spacious deck with grill and full laundry facilities. We reserved the house through VRBO about six months ahead of time.

To Denali
On the drive to Denali - scenery abounds.

We arrived into the Denali area around 1:30. We ate at the Black Bear cafe, in the shopping area across from the Princess Lodge. There were several shops that we perused. After lunch, my sister's family drove to the park's visitor center while we went to check into the house on Lignite road. The skies were mostly clear with a constant breeze. The A frame house encompassed a lovely view of the valley. Dinner was salad and grilled tuna that we enjoyed outside on the deck. My family hardly ever eats al fresco but the breeze kept the mosquitoes away and it was a lovely way to start our visit. I stayed up past 11pm to catch the "sunset" because when you're in the land of the midnight sun, you try to take advantage of it.

Denali Sunrise

Contemplative 🤔 #clbm_ak18 #silhouette #sunrise

The next day we dodged the rains and spent a few hours in the park, keeping close to the Denali Visitor Center. The Horseshoe Lake trail starts a half a mile from the visitor center parking lot and takes you around the scenic lake. At first, the 2 mile trail ascends to a lookout of the lake. From there, it descends down to lake level with pine trees flanking the banks. There is a beaver dam complete with lodge on the lake with lots of visible activity. The trail also intersects with the Nenana river for more beautiful views. Our hike lasted an hour or so and we avoided the rain. We felt lucky - once we finished, the rains started again.

Lake Lookout
Hike Horseshoe Lake Lookout - Denali
Selfie Time at the Lookout
Overlooking Horseshoe Lake #hiking #clbm_ak18 #getoutdoors #denalinationalpark

Beaver Dam and Horseshoe Lake:
Hike Around Horseshoe Lake - Denali

Along the Nenana River
Nenena River - Denali

Hike Around Horseshoe Lake - Denali

Today's short hike served as a mere teaser for tomorrow's adventure - hiking in the Savage River area.


Travel Adventures - Anchorage, AK

Last August my extended family (parents, sisters and their families) took a cruise together through Alaska to celebrate my father's 80th birthday. With most of us scattered around the globe, such family trips happen maybe every other year. The last time we were all together was in 2016. As my children are officially adults, I know these family vacations will wane with each passing year, so each opportunity is to be cherished.

As the un-official (yet default) photographer / memory keeper of the family, I am tasked with curating the content and creating the Family Reunion Photo book. Fortunately, advances in technology, the prevalence of cell phone cameras and the ability to share photos easily means I am no longer the sole chronicler of trip and I love seeing the various perspectives from family members.

I am however, still responsible for assembling the photo book.

I am happy to report that I completed the Chang Family Reunion Alaskan Cruise Photo book last weekend. Whew, I am glad that is done.

And as a result, I have fresh blog material to share!

First up - photos from Anchorage, Alaska - Along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

The LeMays and Burrows arrived the week before the cruise in order to travel north to Denali. Flying to Anchorage takes a full day and we arrived late Monday evening. I woke up early the next morning and wandered to the breakfast area that hadn't opened so settled for a coffee. I ran into my sister Teresa who was preparing to go out for a run! We drove out to Margaret Eagan Sullivan Park to access the Tony Knowles coastal trail as the sun was starting to rise. We rounded the Westchester lagoon and under the rail before reaching the official trail. My sister ran while I took photos. I passed the Fish Creek Estuary where most of these photos were taken.

Anchorage Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

Anchorage Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

I posted earlier about Alaskan Fireweed
Anchorage Fireweed

Why should the pretty pink flowers get all the attention?
Anchorage Fish Creek Estuary

The Rocky Side #anchorage #alaska #sunrise #getoutside

When visiting Anchorage, this coastal trail is a great way to get away from the city and into nature. The coast trail covers 11 miles with beautiful views.


The Onion Blooms [Macro]

When one says "onion", the first thought centers around the pungent, tear inducing layered bulb, not the greenery above ground and most certainly not the pretty flowers produced by the developing stalks. A search on the generic term "allium" yields photos of Giant, Decorative Allium, revered for its huge, magenta - purple blooms, commonly offered through glossy nursery catalogs. I found these white beauties in my friend's backyard - her husband grows a wide variety of produce, including the lowly onion. A closer look and you see the beauty in these perfectly spherical blooms.

I initially took several photos with my 24-70mm lens but quickly determined I would not be happy with the pseudo sharpness I was seeing due to the lens limitations and my poor hand held technique. So I dug out my macro lens.



Pin Cushion

I really should use this lens more.


Oasis in the City - Yuyuan Gardens Shanghai

The famous classical Chinese garden, Yu or Yuyuan Gardens, provides an oasis in the middle of old Shanghai and worth a visit. Its relatively small scale (5 acres) means a visitor can leisurely take in the property in a couple of hours.

I visited early Sunday morning - with my flight back to the USA scheduled to depart around 3pm, I arrived just as the visitor gates opened. This allowed me to spend a few hours exploring the grounds. In the early hours, the gardens are less crowded which I prefer. The grounds provide a calm respite from the bustling streets and the outdoor shopping mall (Yuyuan Tourist Mart) that surrounds this tourist attraction. Yes, the gardens rate highly on the list of top things to do in Shanghai, second only to a visit to The Bund, so it will be crowded.

Some of the photos I took while taking in the various rooms, structures and areas.

Sense of Zen
I didn't find much in terms of actively blooming plants - the blue hydrangea being the exception.

The Sitting Room
Where one can enjoy the serenity of the garden while being sheltered from the bright sun.

The Dragon Protects the garden entrance

Infinite Walk
The long bridge to the pavilion

Sunning Himself
The turtle sunbathing by the koi pond

This last photo shows the same bridge to the pavilion, but from a different perspective where you can see more visitors in the garden. As the day progresses, the crowds grow.

I have seen night photos of the illuminated pavilions and that would be a nice time to visit too.



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All images on this blog (unless stated) are the intellectual property and copyright of Shirley LeMay Photography and Shirley Behind the Lens (© 2005-2020). Do not steal, borrow or pirate the images here.

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code. and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) prohibits the use of digital property to be used without the consent of its owner.

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