Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fairbanks to Denali

Our beautiful train to Denali:

Waiting for the bus ride to the depot: Front lobby, Riverside Lodge: COACH FROM RIVERSIDE LODGE TO RAIL DEPOT: This was a great train ride. We left Fairbanks around 8 a.m. and got to the Denali depot around noon. We sat upstairs in beautiful observation cars, and had wonderful views of everything along the way. Breakfast was served on the first level - the food was great, and the service was great also. Here we are at breakfast: Dick and I in the observation car: At the village of Nenana, every year they have a contest to see when the river will thaw, or "go out". This year it thawed on April 29 at 9:06 a.m. People bet on the exact date and time of the thaw. It's as good as winning the lottery!

Nenana is 65 miles southwest of Fairbanks on the George Parks Highway.
Nenana is at mile 412 of the Alaska Railroad, on the south bank of the Tanana River (just east of the mouth of the Nenana River), and at mile 305 of the Parks Highway.

It is an historic community - an Athabascan Native Village 56 miles (as the raven flies) from Fairbanks and 75 miles north of Denali National Park. Nenana has air access, with a 5,000 ft. paved runway for float and ski planes.

Nenana Ice Classic 2010

The Jackpot for the 2010 Nenana Ice Classic is $279,030.00. The payout will be made on June 1st The winners are: Chris Arnold - Purchased his ticket at Marylou Redman/Diamond Jim's in Indian, Ak Donna Smith - Purchased her ticket at Carrs/Sageway in Wasilla Alison Foley - Purchased her ticket at Carrs/Safeway - Bently in Fairbanks April 29, 2010 9:06 AM Alaska Standard Time Tanana River went out Tripod clock stopped.

This is where we learned that "na" means river. Talkeetna, Chena, Tanana, and Nenana are all river names.

Here, just for you, are 16 seconds of our train ride through Alaska:

Denali Natural History Tour

Dick's notes:

Thurs 5/20/10
Board train for Denali Princess in mist and rain. Rain clears as we move south. See Dall sheep and 3 dead wolves from train. Not see Denali.

From station, shuttle to lodge. Check in and go on Natural History tour with driver Gary. He has been in Alaska 9 years, ex-long haul trucker. Very passionate about park.
From the bus we see caribou, very pregnant moose, artic hare (10 feet away) spruce grouse, ptarmigan, artic ground squirrel, and best of all a mother grizzly and cavorting cub.
Tour has stops at wilderness center, cabin for reenactor, and a talk with native Athabaskan.
Dinner at the bistro

We settled in at the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, and freshened up for our Natural History tour.

This was a five hour bus tour that felt like an hour - and left you wanting more! We learned about the history, culture and wildlife of Denali National Park from a sincere, passionate bus driver whose life has been changed by being in the wilderness. He narrated beautifully, he was knowledgeable, and he even read us poetry. It was the most successful wildlife tour you can imagine. We saw caribou, moose, grizzly bears, ptarmigan, Arctic ground squirrel, and snowshoe hare. Unbelievable. The bus drivers were all exclaiming about how rare a day this was. We've been sprinkled with pixie dust.

MOOSE (2) This was a very pregnant moose. I'm sure she's a mama by now.

CARIBOU (2) Did you know that caribou and reindeer are the same animal? The difference between caribou and reindeer is that reindeer can fly. We have it on good authority!



GRIZZLIES (4) There's at least one bear in each picture. One of them clearly shows the cub. This was the most fascinating part of the tour for me.