August 25, 2009
The Train to Denali
Once we were to begin the land portion of our journey, Princess Cruises continued with providing first class service. We all stayed aboard the ship overnight in Whittier, only to rise… foggy and early to assemble in one of the dining rooms prior to our disembarkation from the Island Princess and embarkation aboard the “Princess Express”, our first class all dome car train (a different train is pictured below) to Denali National Park, Alaska. This ride was to take us past the Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet, through Anchorage, through Wasilla (to wave at Sarah), then up through the inland wilderness of Alaska.
We assembled on time, and in a bittersweet moment, were promptly called to leave the ship for our final time, begining our next fantastic experience.
We walked across the dock to our waiting train where we were assigned a car and a table to sit. The great part of this was that all passengers were seated upstairs under the tinted Plexiglas dome. Every 4 people sat around a table. which was great, except for me spilling my freshly filled coffee all over the table, eventually cascading onto my wife’s jeans! Oh yeah, she was happy with me…
But we pressed on, now was not the time to be distracted by trivial, albeit staining matters, there was Alaska to see… and see it we did. The train pulled out of Whittier on time. It had to, because it has a specific time it must transit the Whittier Tunnel, a 2+ mile long shared tunnel between cars and trains. And by shared, I mean that either cars… or… trains… can pass through at a given time, not both. We eased away from the Princess Pier leaving the Island Princess dockside in the rising sun, she, expected to set sail southbound by nightfall.
We cleared through the tunnel to be almost immediately greeted by sunshine and the Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet. Beautiful.
As we trundled along the seaside tracks we had the fortune to witness the famous “Bore Tide” of the Turnagain Arm. Because of the unique geography of this narrow, long inlet, the tide races in and out in such a fashion as to create a Bore Tide, or a unified wave all the way across the arm. This wave can be more than 10 feet high in some circumstances, and travels as fast as 15 miles per hour! This tide has been known to trap and ultimately drown people who have had the misfortune to get stuck in the low tide mudflats of the inlet, only to be submerged rapidly as this impressive tide rolled in.
We proceeded through Anchorage, and up past Elmendorf AFB, home of F-15s and F-22s. Then traveled northeast around the Knik Arm of the Cook Inlet, to wind our way back to the north through Wasilla and on to the Alaskan wilderness.
The 9 hours spent on the train were great. We enjoyed the company of many of the other passengers we met, and the stories they had to share, and I never seemed to run out of reasons to go down to the open patio (of sorts) to fill my digital storage card to the brim. On to the obligatory images… As always, click the image to see the larger size (then your ‘back button’ to return here).
We eventually approached Hurricane, AK. A small town of 4 or so people during peak season… I’m pretty sure during the winter months the population rotates as to who exactly the population of “One” will be. But it was here that our train moves over to a siding allowing the southbound train to pass. Everyone do your Moose Wave!
It passes a little close when you’re out on the patio hanging your head out like a dumb Labrador Retriever. But it makes for a cool photo!
Once this behemoth passed we were once again blessed with a tremendous panoramic view of the Alaskan countryside. (The image below is worth the click.)
I especially liked the montage of colors Alaska presented. Even though it was a bit cloudy as we progressed further inland, the richness of the brilliant fuchsia colored Alaskan Fireweed and purple Alpine Lupine trackside really filled the visual senses.
Our train began to move again and we crossed the Hurricane Gulch Trestle continuing our trek to the Princess Denali Lodge, our home for the evening. As we crossed Broad Pass, a large treeless plateau that is the lowest pass in the entire Rocky Mountain chain (Alaska to Mexico), the champagne and cookies were brought out for a toast by the train’s very knowledgeable and friendly crew. We all toasted a job well done! Dad on the other hand couldn’t resist an opportunity… ;-)
We asked one of the train staff to help us capture the whole family for posterity, he was glad to oblige.
It was shortly after, that we made our last turn headed for our evening stay in Denali.
As always, more of these images can be found here… [Link]
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Thank you Mrs. Jones! It is great to hear from you. I hope you and Mr. Jones are doing well!
Posted by: John Carmichael | Aug 30, 2009 7:50:25 PM
John, your mom called last night, and suggested that we look at the photos. Kenneth and I have enjoyed the great pics and your stories. Great job, Martha.
Posted by: jones | Aug 30, 2009 7:04:56 PM
It's more like Industial light and sound.
Posted by: Motorhead | Aug 26, 2009 4:23:10 PM
If I look good in any photo... you know there had to be some editing! Don't make me publish YOUR photo Ken!
Posted by: John Carmichael | Aug 26, 2009 4:18:20 PM
Posted by: Ken | Aug 26, 2009 1:37:25 PM
Fantastic pictures John! Looks like a great getaway...I'm envious. Heck if the scenery can even make you look halfway decent it has to be impressive ;)
Posted by: Tom | Aug 26, 2009 9:22:58 AM