25 July 2008

July 02 - Denali to Anchorage via AKRR

A close up of Denali, aka Mount McKinley.

Denali (on the right) with his fellow peak buddies: Mount Hunter (in the middle) and Mount Foraker (on the left).

Apparently this is the clearest the mountain has been since May 12th. The travelogue by the RR mentioned (ad nauseum I might add) that Denali makes its own weather and is usually cloud covered. The smaller mountains at the base are what is usually seen.

- Awaken to the seriously loud alarm clock here at the cabin, I could not get to sleep last night due to the noise: traffic, equipment movement, and people ... in this world of little sunset, goods run as long as the light lasts, and many people seem to think nothing of slamming doors or calling out in loud voices while the sun is out, even if it is eleven at night
- we are beginning to adapt to our smaller bed, but I will be so happy to be back in a larger bed, especially since this mattress seems to gather items toward the middle ... sheets ... people, etc.
- finish packing and shuffling things around, I'll put the GPS unit in luggage ... if it disappears into the hands of thieves, I'll have to replace it ... we're such nerds
- BH is sick of the facade and faux everything that so many things are going to; he wants to go back to the Yellowstone Lodge in Yellowstone National Park in Montana, I've never been but he has such fond memories of the park and all the creaky old wood in the old original lodge
- I want to go out along the east coast and see what awaits us out there
- We are sitting in the McKinley Princess Lodge, and the fireplace mantel has elaborate oak carvings in it, but there are no oaks in this area ... Aspen, Spruce, Alder, yes, but no oaks ... that's what started the facade irritation ... of course, there are the obligate fake ficus 'growing' all over the place as well
- we went by the general store for soy milk and chips, then we went to Subway for sandwiches
- we took the hotel shuttle to the depot and checked-in for the train and walked up to Denali visitor's center and perused the first/basement floor, I'm fairly impressed with the layout and how much nature they put into the layout
- onto the train at call, BH is taking pictures of the engines and their unusual font presentation which has captured his attention
- we get underway ontime, and I hope that BH is onboard ... he disappeared after unloading his stuff and the train has started moving ... by this time I am starving
- the man finally shows up to change out the camera battery ... we sit down and I power through a footlong veggie delite, half bag of BBQ Grizzly chips, a clif bar, and a soymilk ... this is a huge meal for me; I feel like I've been living on crumbs for days, probably all that crappy cruise food catching up with me
- I do enjoy listening to the tour commentary provided by AKRR employees, they are youngsters with summer jobs, and occassionally flub a line or three, but they all concentrate on diffrent areas of the trip ... the commentators take half the trip and switch trains at the midpoint between Anchorage and Fairbanks, a bit south of Denali
- we have a noisy and boisterous group of seven on this portion of the trip, two children: Sidney and Jeremy (today is his birthday, everybody is invited below for cake)
- we got a clear view of Denali today, "it is only visible twenty percent of the time;" BH is taking copius pictures, I'm, sure; it's a mountain, it is far away, it is covered in snow ... it looks like just about every other moutain I've ever seen, meh.
- I really enjoy looking at the beaver dams, there is awe at their industriousness, but also the cooperation required for a family lodge to go together ... they join meerkats, ants, termites, primates, and some single celled organisms that excell in family/peer/social structures
- AK beavers can reach 100 pounds, beavers elsewhere average 40-70 pounds
- GoldStar (Service) AKRR wise, car B is the preferred car, as a shorter car follows and better picture taking opportunities exist
- however, wildlife viewing is probably better in car A
- watching salmon in the rivers is really interesting, they are huge
- west WA seems more untamed in its pure wildness of flora and faunal forms ... by comparison, AK is tamed and lessened by its severe winter, which curbs its growing ability to a few short months of long-lived days
- In AK, there is this desperation, we must do this now, today; WA has a more timeless mien ... if it doesn't get done today, don't worry, it will tomorrow
- People are still in awe of Denali, it is still a mountain
- BH made this comment regarding the cruises AK King Crab dinner, "They served us the left-over legs, they didn't serve any claws or forearms that are a meal due to their sheer size ... I've been out on a boat ... we'd trade with the fishermen ... Coca-Cola, coffee, sugar, flour, eggs (if on the boat) for AK King Crab, the one's headed for Asian markets" ... now, it's been awhile since he's been out on a working vessel, and he doesn't quite get the reality of reduced crab stock and size, but regardless, I've seen some small AKKC, and I have to agree, the crab the cruise boat served were miniatures ... maybe the steakhouse served the larger ones?
- we had cell service through most of Denali (the NE corner anyway), but half an hour out of Anchorage and I still don't have a useful signal
- finally get hotel, only to be told call back after you have luggage ... the obtaining thereof proves to be a crazy, old timey experience
- our five minute shuttle driver finally hauled himself to the station fifeteen minutes later
- we check in go up to the room and collapse, and find nasty coffee stains all over the sheets, request replacement, and absolutely gross out over the condition of the mattress, how many more of these have I slept on through the years? Ick, ick, ick ... I took the opportunity to check for bed bugs ... we seem to be safe.
- Day's Inn half recommended, but half not

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