2018-08-23 AK,Denali (Page 1 of 3)
Because this trip was a ‘fur-distance’, I’m breaking up the web-reporting into 3 Pages.
Page 1 – To Denali National Park and to Seward (Alaska) – 4 days
Page 2 – Holland America Cruise (Inside Passage) – 6 days
Page 3 – Northern Lights and miscellaneous
I traveled with a group of 32 people known as “Seniors On the Go Tours”. There is a website under that name. (Note: the tour-director, Cathy Stokes, worked with another company called A&I tours.) We met at a convenient parking space in Snellville, GA and were driven on a motorcoach bus to the Atlanta Airport. (By the way, the official name of the airport is a hyphenated-conjugation of 2 previous Atlanta politicians that is too long for a name, in my opinion – so, I just shorten it. The abbreviation is “ATL”.) We boarded the bus about 11AM and the flight to Anchorage on Delta left around 3PM and we had ‘plenty-of-time’ before the flight for both check-in and security. We were warned that food during the flight consisted of a snack and drink and to bring a wrapped food item if we wanted more. (Also, the food purchased from the airport is expensive.) The flight was a LONG one, the airplane was large and it was totally necessary to get-up and walk-around (as well as find the restroom). Time really becomes distorted when you change several time-zones — and was even more distorted by Alaska having a long daylight. At the Anchorage airport, we collected our baggage (one checked bag, one carry-on item and a handbag, or in-my-case,a backpack.) Since nearly everyone packed warm clothes, there were plenty of bags in the overhead storage and my bag was put-in the front by a stewardess since the back area where I was seated was full. In Anchorage, the bus took us to a Holland America hotel in downtown called Westmark. Our dinner was not included and my roommate and I went across the street from the hotel to the Glacier BrewHouse. It was crowded and we were able to secure a table near the bar area and enjoy our first salmon. It was delicious. There was a light, drizzle rain and we had hopes that it would clear for our trip. We returned to the hotel for the night and were excited about being there.
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The next morning, we were up early and had a buffet breakfast at the hotel. There were many other tour groups there and we learned that they were all with the Holland America company because the company owns the hotel. Buses for our transport to the dome-glasstop train to Denali were efficient. Each person was asked to divert their checked-luggage, i.e. big-suitcase to the cruise ship and take two-nights clothes with them to Denali in the smaller carry-on bag. The train does not have luggage, so Holland America asks travelers to tag their bags for the cruise ship differently from the Denali part of the trip. Trucks of luggage are loaded and driven to the two destinations.
We had a WONDERFUL train trip to Denali. Each train car has an upper-deck for viewing and a lower-part for the restroom and lunch-table area. A host/guide tells each guest about the local information on the top deck of the car. Lunch was included in the trip and the lunch-host would ask several people if they would like to eat lunch now? If so, they would go downstairs to a table and order what they wanted. I estimated that the top-dome held about 50 people and that the bottom had 6 eating-booths that would seat 4 to a table. It took a while for everyone to have lunch – but it was a DELICIOUS one! It was rainy the whole trip, but by the time that we reached Denali, the rain was very light and the temperature was light-jacket comfortable.
We boarded a motorcoach bus to the Holland America property, McKinley Chalet and Lodge. (Note: In the last several months, the mountain that was known as McKinley name was changed to Denali – the same name of the national park. I wonder if Holland America will also change the name of the lodge?) The train-ride was about 8 hours long and some of my pictures will help describe how quickly the time passed.
I ate a light supper at the resort restaurant and we had a very restful first night. We also had a 5:10AM school-bus, i.e. Blue Bird, for the Tundra Wilderness Tour in Denali National Park the next morning. On the bus, the driver gave each of us a ‘snack’ and the previous night, we requested from the lodge the type of box-lunch to pick-up from the door before boarding the bus. I was surprised, we were told to eat on the bus. About 20+ years ago, I had taken the same tour and we rode to the Eilson Visitors Center where we had 45 minutes at picnic tables for lunch. However, the food and tourists attracted bears and the park-service changed the tour to about 2 miles short of the visitors center . In the morning, when the tour started, early-morning is still twilight. We anticipated needing cool-weather jackets and the rain had stopped. The bus-driver said that the park-service has outsourced the tundra tour to a corporation. (When I saw the park a long time ago, the park-service used their employees.) The bus-driver is able to spot the wildlife in the park because they are know where the animals live and where to look. They now have a long-lens camera that they can zoom to see the wildlife and are able to show an impressive picture on small televisions on pull-down slots below the overhead storage. Hopefully, a picture that I took of the televisions will show what I’m trying to describe.
The HIGHLIGHT-OF-THE-DAY was that the full-face of Denali was available when we reached the turn-around area. It was quite impressive. The mountain was beautiful in all its majesty! No wonder it is known as “the tall one” – the tallest on the North American continent. The bus ride to-and-from the lodge was about 8 hours. When we returned, I took a long nap to try and recover some of the sleep that I lost.
My roommate and I joined others from the group with a dinner-show at the resort. We enjoyed hanging around the door before the show and meeting some of the other tourists. After the show, we walked a short-distance up a hill to the lodge.
After our second night at the lodge, the next morning, we had breakfast at the resort restaurant, loaded a motorcoach bus and had a day of travel to Seward to the cruise ship. It was another long travel day, but we had a couple of stops for using the restroom (Alaska state pit-stops) and a buffet-lunch sandwich with delicious home-made cookies in Willow. I have to include that the view of the mountains was outstanding and our-driver told us interesting stories about the towns.
(Note: The lodge/resort closes on September 15 for the season, as well as other businesses. It begins to get cold there and the tourists want to go to somewhere that is WARM!)
<There is a “little-more” to this story that I will tell on page 3 – the Northern Lights. Stay tuned … >
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