We missed the 5am wake up call to catch the bus back to the Train Depot!!! No worries, Lou had booked us on a flight from Kantishna to the park entrance when he stepped into the Kantishna Air office the day before and we weren’t leaving until 8am. No long bus ride for him today. I was fine with this decision, even though I didn’t mind the bus ride. This gave us a few hours to spend visiting the main visitor’s center for Denali National Park, and meant we’d be more rested for the 8 hour train ride to Anchorage.
We included a fly by of Mt. McKinley on the trip back, and this turned out to be just as awesome as the day before. Different, because there were so few clouds, and we had much better views of the mountainous terrain surrounding Mt. McKinley. We were the only passengers, so it was like having a private viewing of the mountain.
This was our view as we topped the first hill the day before:
This is what we saw today:
Seeing the full majesty of Mt. McKinley in clear skies was worth missing a long bus trip:
We have more photos of the mountain, but they are much like the previous day’s, except we didn’t see the climbers. As we turned towards the park entrance, we got a much better look at the mountains we’d missed on our bus trip to Kantishna. The colors of the Polychrome Mountains are just amazing:
We had a clear view of all the shuttle busses that take over 425,000 visitors into the park each year. Denali National Park covers more than 6 million acres.
We landed on the railroad tracks – not quite, but the landing strip is adjacent to the tracks and you get to walk across them on your way to the depot.
We walked the short distance to the Visitor’s Center, and enjoyed an overview of the history, flora, and fauna of Denali:
We failed at mosquito love …
Do you have Prince Albert in a can? This display reminded me of Dad, who used to roll his own.
After a good tour of the displays, and watching a movie about the park, we went over to the gift shop and cafeteria. We still had an hour or so to go before boarding the train. It was a beautiful morning in Denali:
We picked up our checked bags and walked over to the train station. There was no one available from Holland America to check on the configuration in today’s car, so I made another executive decision. After finding out there were still a few seats available for Gold Star service to Anchorage, I booked two seats – we weren’t taking a chance on riding backwards for 8 hours. And, this way Lou would get to ride in a real Alaska Rail Road car. As I was paying for the tickets, Lou saw the rep, and she tried to get us to cancel the new tickets. She apologized profusely for the ride from Fairbanks, saying that wasn’t how it was supposed to be. She confirmed today would be all forward-facing seats. That’s okay, we said, we’ll stick with our new tickets.
Check out the next post to see if we made the right decision …