Friday, February 6, 2015

The Coral Princess Northbound Cruise and Land Tour Day 10

The Coral Princess Northbound Cruise and Land Tour
The Train from Talkeetna to Denali

The next morning we checked out of the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge, boarded the bus to the Talkeetna train station and waited for the train to arrive. Then we waited a little more. As someone who took the train back and forth to college, I wasn't terribly surprised that the train was late, but the ride more than made up for it.

It was pretty much the same deal as the first train as we were assigned a table and had the option for gift shop purchases, lunch and an open air viewing platform. This time, however, lunch was nicer in a separate dining car and the viewing platform was much more accommodating and for the first half of the ride felt like my own private space as virtually no one walked out there until the sun started to shine.

The views on this part of the train trip were truly amazing as we snaked alongside rivers, traveled over the ever impressive and dizzying Hurricane Gulch Bridge, eventually making out way into Denali State Park as the mountains began to rise. And, just as the train entered the border between Denali State Park into Denali National Park and Preserve, we had the great fortune of being greeted by a rainbow. It was truly a beautiful ride.

If you're a fan of the reality tv show, Alaska Railroad, Sherman City Hall may look familiar to you.

Fiddlehead ferns, a plant that you'll hear a lot about in Alaska.

We passed by another Princess train of passengers who had stopped briefly on the tracks.

The entrance to the interior of the train car from the outdoor viewing platform, this is also where the restrooms are located.

The stairs that take you up to the assigned seating area of the dome car, you can see the entrance to the outdoor viewing platform in the back.

The menu for the dining car

Right before we passed over Hurricane Gulch the outdoor viewing platform suddenly became very crowded, so if you do intend to see the gulch on the platform, snag a spot early.

Just like the train ride from Whittier to Talkeetna, shortly before arriving your train car guide will tell you everything you need to know about tours, the lodge, your room key and information packet. After getting off the train you go to your assigned bus (as labeled in the information packet) and take what will probably be the shortest bus ride of your entire trip, as it takes roughly 5-10 minutes to go from the Denali train station to the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge.

I ended up regretting this later, but in the several months before our trip I decided to schedule an excursion for the same day as our arrival and the lateness of the train didn't help things. When we were dropped off I had just enough time to walk up to the building our room was in, drop off the things I didn't need and walk back down to the main lodge to catch the bus for my next excursion.

One thing to note though, when you're not in a rush a shuttle does drive around the property, however, there is a fee for using it. I believe it's a dollar but as I didn't use it I'm not certain.

The excursion that I thought would be fun and exciting, as I have never tried it before, was ATV'ing. I quickly learned that I did not in fact like the activity, which didn't help as I was the only person in the group who had never driven an ATV before and our guide and more than half of the group wanted the rougher, more challenging and, apparently, more exciting trails.

I tried to enjoy the scenery around me but all I kept thinking about were the several warnings of possible death and injury that was talked about in the informational video we watched before mounting our bone shaking steeds. It also didn't help that I kept replaying in my head that episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations where he tumbles down a sand dune while riding his ATV. Eventually the guide made a few stops along the way where my frazzled nerves calmed down a bit and I could finally take in the nature that surrounded me and happily snap away.

In the end though, if you've never driven an ATV before, I wouldn't recommend doing so in a rugged terrain like the one we went through at the Black Diamond Resort.

The ATV I drove, aka the bone shaker.

Once the ride was thankfully over and done with, I boarded the bus back to the lodge and managed to spot some Dall Sheep on a rocky piece of mountain off the road. Once I got off the bus, I realized just how hungry I was and, trying to give my wallet a break, I walked across the road for a Subway dinner. 

And here's a quick video highlight of my day on the train from Talkeetna to Denali National Park.
Unfortunately I can't figure out to make this bigger and to display it in the full 1080p on command, so make sure to enlarge and select 1080p!

Next up, Denali National Park and a tour of the town of Denali and the lodge.

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