Monday, June 8, 2009

Alaska Cruise - Day 11 - Monday, June 1

This morning after an early breakfast we boarded the McKinley Express, the Alaska Train that goes between Anchorage and Fairbanks. It was an eight hour ride through some of the most beautiful scenery that I have seen. We saw some eagles nesting in the trees, 4 bear, a moose, some swan, and a lot of beaver dams. The weather was beautiful with mostly clear skies; however Mt. McKinley was not visible. It is over 20,000 feet from sea level to the top of the mountain, making it the tallest mountain in the world. Everest's altitude is higher than McKinley, but it starts at a higher altitude. McKinley goes from sea level, to over 20,000 feet. Unfortunately, McKinley was covered in clouds so we could not see it. I was able to take a lot of great pictures, including a couple of trains going in the opposite direction. An interesting picture at the bottom showing an A frame house by a lake. The houses are so anyone having problems in the winter can land on the frozen lake and the A frame is stocked with emergency supplies, so they can survive for a few days while help come for them. After they are rescued, they are supposed to go back and restock the house for the next person in need.

One of the towns we passed was Wasilla, the town Sara Palin is from. I took a picture of one of the homes that she lived in (picture on the right - green roof). The have an interesting ordinance in that town; no signs can be higher than the American flag. So the picture on the left shows McDonalds with the golden arches really short compared to most restaurants in other towns.

Denali National park covers 6 million square miles and included Mt. McKinley. The national park area grew from 2 million square miles, to the current 6 million square miles over a 50 year period that began around 1945.

When we arrived at Denali National Park, we checked into our room and had a bite to eat. We went to a dinner show in the evening. The dinner was fantastic. We had BB Ribs, salmon, potatoes, corn on the cob, tossed salad and blueberry cobbler. It was served family style. Since my wife and I were seated at the head of the table they appointed me the "father". Anytime we needed anything we all had to raise our napkins in the air and one the count of three waive our napkins and call our waiter's name. We had a lot of fun with this. There was also one of the girls that if you held a dollar over someone's head she would come and give him a kiss (one of the guys would come kiss the women). One lady paid five dollars and so the guy got five kisses with bright red lipstick on. The lips were all over him, pretty funny stuff. After the dinner they put on a show about some of the Alaska people during the gold rush days. Each of the staff played the part of a different character. They sang and told stories about the different characters. One of the characters was Charley McGonagall. He was the first to climb the north face of Mt. McKinley. He was also the person that was looking after our table and when I told him my name was Harry Potter he thought that was funny. So I got a picture with him. One of the other tables did not believe that my name was Harry Potter, so I got out my driver’s license and showed them my name. They thought it was cool and one of the guys wanted his picture taken with me. All in all it was a fun day.
The picture at the bottom is sunset outside our cabin in Denali National Park at 12:20 am. So the days are getting longer the farther north we get.

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