|Denali to Anchorage McKinley Explorer June 8
This morning we boarded the McKinley Explorer Dome Train, heading to Anchorage. On the way to the rail depot by the traffic circle, we saw a moose by the road. We were in the Eklutna car. Grant was our bartender and Rose was our guide. The scenery was spectacular, and the ride was so much fun. Each car is raised over the kitchen and dining room. The whole top of the car was a glass dome, so we could see so much in both directions. We were told that a glacier is moving ice and an ice field is stationary. Water from snow melt is clear and water from the melting glacier is murky because of the silt. We saw several (probably at least 7-8) moose from the train, several huge swans, an osprey, and 2 bald eagles. Jim and I didn't see every one of them, but saw a lot. One river we crossed was the Nenana, which means great place to camp between rivers. Edes lake along the way has water left over from a glacier. It was long and narrow, looking like a calm river. There were some very small cabins for bush pilots to stay in if needed. The highest point on the Alaska Railroad was 2363 feet above sea level. Rachel, our journey host, showed us a sample of Qiviut. It is shed from the Arctic Musk Ox and is 8 times warmer than wool and lightweight and not scratchy. It sounds so awesome, but hats made from it run in the hundreds of dollars. We went through Honolulu, Alaska on our ride. Our train went by where the Iditarod race follows the train track near the Chulitna River (which means river of big tree leaves.) We crossed The Hurricane Gulch Bridge, a 918 ft long steel arch railroad bridge that crosses Hurricane Creek. The bridge is 296 ft above the Hurricane creek, it is both the longest and tallest bridge on the entire Alaska Railroad. tallest bridge and building in Alaska is at Hurricane Creek. We were so lucky to be able to see most of Denali, with just the top prak on the left clouded over. Only 30% of people who come to Alaska get to see it, so we're officially in the 30% club. Lunch was very good. Jim had reindeer chili with warm cornbread, and I had a cod, crab, and shrimp salad sandwich with coleslaw and Alaska potato chips. In the distance, we could see the top of Goose Creek Tower. It started as a 40x40 log cabin, and he kept adding stories so he could see the view. He stopped at 11 stories, or 185 feet as 200 feet is federal air space. From the top, one could see 300 miles in every direction. On the outskirts of Wasilla, gas was 3.24 per gallon. We passed a fence with an American flag on it. It is Sarah Palin's house. I hear she can see Russia from there, lol. Actually they said that it was Tina Fey who said that, but there are places in Alaska where Russia can be seen from the USA. It's only 2 miles away in places. We passed a huge Osprey nest on a power pole and an osprey was on the pole nearby. Wasilla was named as the Honorary Duct Tape Capital of the World by Duck Products, a maker of the tape. Wasilla has some places where you have a 360 degree view of mountains. The Alaska Railroad is the last railroad in the country to provide flag stop service, meaning they can let you off anywhere and you can flag them down anywhere. They also will deliver goods including lumber and huge items if you arrange it in advance. There are many places only accessible by railroad, and many only accessible by air.
We arrived in Anchorage, around 5:30 pm, and were bussed to The Sheraton. It is nice. Holland America also owns the Westmark Anchorage and we thought we'd be there, but must be they are full. We headed right into the city afterwards, looking for the Trolley. We had to wait for the 8pm trip, so did a little walking and shopping. Anchorage is a beautiful city. The Trolley tour was excellent. When passing Cook Inlet, we learned both on the train and the trolley tour not to go walk in the mud flats which is silt at low tide. It's a bit like quicksand. Apparently if you step in it, there is suction as the water goes down. You will get stuck. If there is someone to rescue you, they can get you out. I think they said they blow air near your feet and the suction releases. If you don't get out, the tide difference is 39 feet and you'll drown. Not going near that!. We went by a 2800 square feet underground home. It's 3 stories high and maintains a 60 degree temperature year round. It costs $150 per month to heat in the winter and this includes a heated driveway to melt the snow and a hot tub operating year round. They got the idea from the Aleut Native Americans. We stopped for a minute to see Earthquake Park. The ground is sunken in and uneven where a whole development was destroyed by the 1964 earthquake. It was 9.2 on the Richter scale and at least at the time, the largest ever, in North America. It lasted between 4 and 5 minutes. Not that many people died from the actual earthquake, but there was a total of 139, mostly from the tsunami that followed the quake. We went bt Delaney Park, which is long and narrow. It started as a runway for planes, but is now a park. We walked back to the Sheraton and called it a night. Long, but fun day!