Driving from Fairbanks to Denali National Park

Today I was by myself for much of the day, as the group took the Alaska Railroad to Denali while I went ahead with the bus.

The first photo is the buffet that the group set up last night – good fun 🙂

A homebuilt buffet dinner

The trip started off badly when the McKinley Explorer rep at the train station had never heard of us (the McKinley Explorer is Holland America’s private rail car, pulled by the Alaska Railroad). The Alaska Railroad desk knew nothing of our reservation. So I tried Celebrity since the group is going on a Celebrity ship – no luck there either. The head McKinley Explorer person finally said that despite our confirmation, we had no reservation, but there was room on the train for everyone. That taken care of, I went for the breakfast I’d skipped.

I started south a few minutes after the train’s 08:15 departure. Up on the hill is the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) campus, and to the lower left, part of their research farm.

University of Alaska Fairbanks

These fine looking reindeer are part of the UAF Reindeer Research Program.

Reindeer Research Program at UAF

The weather forecast called for rain in Fairbanks, improving to cloudy at Healy – the view from my office window wasn’t very pleasant going down the George Parks Highway this morning.

Rainy Alaska highway

Looking down into the Tanana River valley.

Tanana River valley

I always enjoy stopping in the village of Nenana and poking around. This is the Tanana River.

The Nenana Ice Classic is a major lottery to guess the time that the ice on the river breaks up. The winner this year got $350,000!! The ice officially went out on Monday, April 23rd at 7:39 p.m.

Nenana Ice Classic

Nenana is a major shipping center for communities along the interior rivers, and this tug, the Tanana, is one of the most powerful on the rivers.

Tug Tanana

My group’s train roared through Nenana at 10:35.

Alaska Railroad train at Nenana

I got the luggage unloaded at our hotel and got all the keys, then met the train at the Denali station at 12:15.

Alaska Railroad train at Denali

This is the main building of our hotel for 2 nights, the McKinley Chalet.

McKinley Chalet

The one-bedroom suites are rather cute.

McKinley Chalet

It’s a long walk from our block to anything, but these shuttle vans run constantly right until midnight. Driving one must be about the most boring job in Denali.

McKinley Chalet

The view to the north from the hotel parking lot is quite impressive. That’s the Nenana River.

Rafts on the Nenana River

I took a shuttle over to the park Visitor Center and spent an hour there. It’s exceptionally well designed.

Denali Visitor Center

One of the on-demand films at the center.

Denali Visitor Center

It’s time to get to bed. The weather forecast is calling for mostly sun for tomorrow, when we spend the day on a bus tour into the park.

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