After several years of discussing and researching this trip and trying to decide if we wanted a cruise and land trip or land trip only, we finally made the decision for 9 day land trip organized by Furman University. Furman and Greg Cornwell our escort and naturalist took care of everything. All we did was show up when we were supposed to. No hassel checking in and out of hotels, no standing in line to get tickets, no moving luggage, no being lost, no driving for Bob – it was painless and while still the most expensive vacation ever, we thought a good value. It was also a VERY busy schedule. More than Bob or I would ever have done on our own but that’s ok. If we are going 4500 miles each way we should see the sights.
Link to photos is at the end of this post. We also took movies but haven’t had a chance to look at those yet. Hope they have more wild life pictures.
We traveled with 20 other people, mostly our age and a very nice group they were. No jerks, loudmouths or latecomers. We had good weather, around 65, and good food which surprised me. Of course beautiful mountains and wildlife. The down side was everything was expensive. Gas was $1 more a gallon than SC. I just kept telling myself they pay more for gas, ship lots of stuff in and have only about 100 day tourist season to make all their income for the year. Fay, get over $50 for a couple glasses of wine and a snack. It’s only money!
On Saturday June 5 we left from Charlotte NC airport (1 1/2 hours from our house) and flew to Philadelphia and then 8 hours to Anchorage arriving at 9 p.m. Alaska time or 1 a.m. SC time . Two movies on the plane helped the time pass quicker than I expected. The four hour time change was something we never completely adjusted too. The first few days were really hard plus 22 hours of sunlight. I could get to like that. Had a glass of wine and deep fried halibut appetizer (YUM YUM) and tried to get a good nights sleep. Hiltons have the BEST beds and pillows.
On Sunday we boarded a domed top train to go to Denali National Park, about 6 hours on the train. We were fortunate enough to be part of the 20% of people who see Mt. McKinley or Denali. Hard to believe 20, 232 ft. of mountain can hide but it does most of the time. It’s 100 sq mile foot print and height let it create it’s own weather which is usually lots of clouds. For breakfast I had eggs with a side of reindeer sausage and for lunch a very good seafood chowder. Seats were comfortable, view beautiful.
Getting comfortable on the train.
Mt. McKinley or Denali from the train
We learned much about climbing the mountain. There are about 1200 climbers a year in the summer and about half make it to the top. It takes 2-3 weeks. They have to camp and acclimate to the climate with about half the oxygen and also may have snow storms that stop them for days. In Telketeena where the climbers prepare it was 65 degrees and by the time you get 17,000 ft. up at night it is -5 degrees at this time of the year and that’s still 3000 ft. from the top. A climber died while we were there so a very dangerous sport. A guide gets about $6000 to take you up plus all your other costs and gear and time off work. This will not be my next adventure.
Another beautiful view from the train
One thing that was surprising was that I thought the runoff water from the glacier would be sparkling clear but it is really filled with silt and very muddy and fish can’t live in it. You can sort of see this in the photo below.
After 7 hours on the train we were ready to spend a couple nights at McKinley Chalet Resort. Some of the group went for a hike but we were tired. Took a nap and had a glass of wine and another bowl of seafood chowder for dinner and then tried to sleep. Remember, it is 11 p.m. and still full sun and this room didn’t have such good black out shades. Tomorrow a 12 hour trip into Denali National Park. Looking forward to wild life.
Here is a link to a photo album and later posts will give you more details.