First Day of Land Tour:
Because of months of planning with AAA's knowledgeable and patient Lynchburg travel agent Judy Martin, we looked forward to this stage of our trip. We were not disappointed!
Julie, our tour guide, and Josh, our bus driver, loaded us on a bus in Anchorage and drove us to the Alaska Railroad Station. We boarded the Wilderness Express, a sleek double-decker, glass-domed train that provided jaw-dropping views of the Alaskan wilderness.
Passengers oohed at the mountains, ahhed at the turbulent, gray rivers, snapped pictures. I learned to turn off my flash and hold the camera against the window so there wouldn't be as much reflection, although some is still visible in a few photos.
We rode slowly through Elmendorf Air Base where a plane had crashed the week before. There were no survivors. Guides asked us not to talk or take pictures out of respect for the dead. Wreckage lay alongside the track. We could smell the burned trees nearby. I thought of the families whose lives were changed because of the crash. Some of us silently prayed for them. Seems as though small planes crash often in Alaska. While we were on our trip, Senator Ted Stevens' plane crashed. He died.
Guess who was waiting for us when we passed through the little town of Wasilla! Yep, you're right. That's my hubby standing with Sarah Palin. Actually, he's standing with a life-size cardboard cutout. Note her legs.
We ate a late breakfast in the dining car. I ordered reindeer sausage (delicious) and blueberry pancakes. Imagine eating gourmet meals while watching gorgeous scenery at the same time like the two couples below did. It took me longer to eat 'cause I was so busy taking pictures.
We arrived in Talkeetna
, a tiny town of 400 residents. Shops filled with local crafts and touristy stuff lined both sides of the two roads. We attended an informative presentation about Mt. McKinley (called Denali by the locals) at the ranger station, then walked in rain to the Talkeetna Lodge.Talkeetna Lodge
is in the midst of nowhere. Mountain climbers hoping to conquer Mt. McKinley stay here, as well as sight-seers, hunters, photographers, and hikers. Above is one of the many lounges. Our bedroom had two queen beds, TV, a desk, a couple of chairs, and a nice bathroom. Below is the view from our room's huge window. On a clear day, snow-capped Mt. McKinley is visible.
While in Talkeetna, we took Mahay's Jet Boat Adventures
wilderness tour. Our pilot knew the rivers well, and navigated the boat out of the Talkeetna River through the inlet where the Susitna and Chulitna meet. The rivers are shallow, rocky, not what you'd traverse in a motorboat unless you knew them well. The rivers are fed by glaciers, and the constantly flowing silt changes the channels, keeps the water gray. Bald eagles fish the rivers.
The tour also included a visit to a native Indian encampment where our guide explained how the land's early inhabitants survived. Cabins like the one below were used by Indians and trappers. Caches were constructed to store food supplies and keep them safe from animals. Cabins and caches are still used in remote Alaska today.
I took the above picture from the cabin doorway, so you can tell how small it is. A cabin like this can make the difference between life and death.
Notice how the metal pieces on the top part of the support logs has been attached to keep animals from climbing inside the cache. Of course the ladder is removed before anyone storing food leaves!
In my next blog about Alaska, I'll include pictures from our scenic train ride, the town of Denali, and our adventure into Denali National Park.
Labels: Alaska, Denali, Talkeetna