Super Green Thumb
Posts: 2038
Joined: Thu Mar 10, 2005 9:58 pm
Location: Michigan--LP(troll)

Day 6--27 VI 2007 AKRR

Took the noon train out of Denali Nat'l Park to Anchorage. Actually, it's the only train from Denali to Anchorage. You want to go that way you take that train at that time. Period. The taiga forest gave way to an increasing variety of vegetation as we ambled further south. Spotted huge salmon in the river below our trestle. Looked up and saw an eagle circling overhead, waiting for us to get out of the way so it could have lunch. We were in another of those double-decker, all glass humaniterrariums, owned by HAL/Gray Line, so we sat in the back of the car like three little naughties and ignored their tour guide chirping away up front over the P.A. system. Until we heard her shriek like a banshee and say "Look, there it is!" As one we swung our heads around in the direction she was pointing and saw Denali in all his glory; hovering like a giant spaceship between two near hills. The base was socked in by clouds, adding to the floating effect. Even at 20 miles away it was an impressive sight. That is, once your brain convinced your eyes that those were not clouds between those two hills, but glaciers and snowpack reflecting the sun off of the mountain's shoulders. Besides, the "clouds" were all pointing toward the summit. Once that argument was settled it was a majestic sight. We glimpsed it a few more times rounding some curves, then the trees started closing in. About 1/2 hour outside of DNP we met the Conductor for our train; yes, he does punch tickets, among other things. It's mostly PR work and occasionally directing traffic between two trains. At that 1/2-hour mark the train stopped and a NB train pulled alongside and stopped. This is unusual because most of the track between Fairbanks and Seward is one-wide, meaning one train at a time. Apparently, the NB & SB crews switch off at this point so they can all be home for dinner. Or something like that. The trains are so close the people were walking kind of sideways as they made their way between trains. I saw several tourists reach across platform-to-platform and shake hands before the Conductors shut them down. OK, it may have been a little dangerous, but we weren't moving! Anyway, having completed that task, we proceeded on to Anchorage.

As the forest became more temperate, the varieties of trees included cottonwoods. Remember at the beginning of the trip, a week ago, the lilacs were in full bloom (mid June)? Well, here we are end of June and the cottonwoods are in full flurry. Snow in summertime. Except the little furballs clogged the intake filters of the air conditioning and generating systems of the car we were in and the a/c stopped working. Hence the "terrarium" reference. And no, the windows don't open. Boy, those "coach-class" cars up front were looking better and better--you know, the ones with OPEN windows! We stopped in Talkeetna to effect repairs, which only lasted about 20 minutes then back to roasting. So we spent the next several hours alternating between standing on the platform between cars and down in the dining cars where there was at least a bit of breeze and about 20 degrees cooler. Note: next time drive--the trip shaves about two hours off the travel time and if the a/c conks out at least you can roll down the windows!

We got one last glimpse of Denali about 50 miles out, still impressive. Then picked up speed as we traversed mostly flat land, pockmarked swiss-cheese style with melted permafrost. Nearing Anchorage we picked up some belts of forest and increasing signs of civilisation. First cabins around man-made (yes, even up here) lakes, jet-skis, bars and more bars. Then strip malls, gas stations, and the sign for Wasilla, a burb on the N side of Anchorage. About 25 minutes later we pulled into Anchorage station, on the N side of town. After walking two city blocks and crossing a major thoroughfare on foot(!)we came to the luggage corral and waited another half hour for the luggage to be unloaded. All told, we checked into our hotel about 11:00 p.m. Since we were out of the mountains we were back to near-constant daylight. Oh sleeping mask, where are you?


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