National Park Mystery Spot 6 Revealed: It’s the Sled Dog Kennels at Denali

A ranger runs a dog team during a sled dog demonstration at Denali National Park and Preserve. National Park Service photo by Kent Miller.

The National Park Mystery Spot 6 quiz hinted that “you might hear it before you see it,” suggested that “rhyme and reason” would help, and offered you these five clues:

f for k and you’ve got the aromatic herb shown in the photo.

m for h and you’ve got a toothy trophy.

Pingo and Aurora, not Comet and Cupid

You might hear it before you see it.

You can go right after the show, but they must stay ‘til nine.

The aromatic herb shown in the photo, Foeniculum vulgare, is a fennel. (I’ll hazard that most Traveler readers just Googled Foeniculum vulgare and came up with that fact. The scientific name was included in the photo caption to offer that opportunity.) You are now looking for a word that rhymes with fennel and is spelled exactly the same way except that it begins with k instead of f. The word kennel is the only word that fits. Since a kennel houses dogs – that is, animals that bark -- it is also something you might very well hear before it comes into view. This is a huge clue. The mystery spot is a place where dogs are kenneled.

The next hint is very tough to deal with if you forget that rhyming matters, and even tougher if you don’t know your freshwater game fish. Here’s how you work with this one. You need a word that rhymes with a name for a “toothy trophy.” The word you need is spelled exactly the same way except that it begins with an h instead of an m. If you work your way through the possibilities, you should eventually discern that husky rhymes with musky* (a “toothy trophy”) and is spelled exactly the same way except for the h at the beginning A husky isn’t a breed of dog, but rather a kind of dog that’s bred and trained to pull a sled. You now know that the mystery spot is a kennel that houses sled dogs in a national park. BTW, most sled dogs in use these days are not huskies.

* Slang for muskellunge, a word used by almost nobody except fishery biologists.

The next hint also deals with the concept of sled dogs, but comes at it from a different direction. Comet and Cupid are two of Santa’s reindeer, of course. Their only real function is to pull a sleigh, which is just a big sled. Pullin a sled/sleigh is the operative idea. It’s unlikely you’d know right off the top of your head that Pingo and Aurora are the names of two sled dogs that work for Denali National Park and Preserve.

We’ve already dealt with “You might hear it before you see it,” but it’s tossed in here again as a memory-jogger.

“You can go right after the show, but they must stay ‘til nine” locks in the fact that the mystery spot is in Denali National Park and Preserve. Among the 392 units of the National Park System, Denali is the only one that stages sled dog demonstrations (shows) for the public. During the peak season in 2009, 30-minute demonstrations were given daily at 10 am, 2 pm, and 4 pm in association with kennel tours.

Oh yes; I almost forgot. That “they must stay ‘til nine” business was probably no help at all unless you happened to know that Denali sled dogs are typically retired at about age nine.

There are 25-35 sled dogs at Denali. If you’d like to learn more about these wonderful dogs and the kennels that have housed Denali sled dogs for the past 80 years, visit this site. To learn about the National Park Service employees that work with the dogs, read this Traveler article.

Postscript: Are the sled dog kennels a popular attraction? You betcha. About 50,000 Denali National Park visitors go there each season.