Denali/Train to Fairbanks

Had to check out of the hotel by 11am this morning, which was kinda annoying.  So we did that, then checked our carry on luggage at the lodge, and went to catch the shuttle up to the park so we could watch the dog sled demo they run.  When you first get there, they give you some time to wander around and see the dogs, which seemed like the laziest sled dogs we’ve ever seen, they all wanted to just lie around and ignore everyone.  Then we watched the demo, which pretty much consisted of about 25 minutes of talk and about 5 minutes of demo.  Might have been somewhat more interesting if we hadn’t largely seen and heard all of this from other sources already, but since we had, we were both somewhat underwhelmed by it.

After the demo, so we could try to kill some more time, we decided to take the Horseshoe Lake trail.  Not too bad a hike, maybe 1.2 miles or so, although after the first .2 miles, it does lose about 200 feet of elevation.  Going back up not so much fun.  There was a group of rangers wandering around along the trail, apparently in the next year or two they’re going to work to make it a somewhat easier hike.  Coming back up the trail, the trail cross the railroad track.  I was a little ahead of Cathy at the time, and as I was crossing the track I head the crossing gates at the road just a little bit further down start making noises.  Cathy ended up getting stuck on the other side of the train for a while, which actually stopped right where the trail crosses the tracks (the Alaskan Rail Road seems to have a lot of switches that have to be manually operated, and I suspect that’s what they were doing).

From there it was back to the lodge to eat lunch, then wait until it was time to head to the rail depot to catch out train to Fairbanks.  They load you up on the shuttles at 3:15, you get to the depot at about 3:30, but then the train doesn’t arrive until about 4:00, so you do a lot of sitting around waiting.  While waiting, I couldn’t help but notice that it seemed like Royal Caribbean/Celebrity and Holland America both had better busses than Princess was using.  And for that matter, after having watched the earlier train go through, and the one we were waiting on arriving, their rail coached seemed slightly larger and better too.

The first 30 to 45 minutes of the 4 hours to Fairbanks is fairly scenic, running through the Healey canyon.  We spent most of that on the observation platform, which turned out to be at the back of the train.  After that, you end up with mostly flatter areas, largely almost swampish, just not quite as interesting, although we did barely see a couple of moose (well, I caught a glimpse of them, Cathy didn’t).

In Fairbanks, we found out that oddly we were, as far as I could tell, the only ones from our rail car to be getting on coach C, which was headed to the Fairbanks Princess Lodge.  Everyone else was headed to another lodge.  Gotta be honest, the Fairbanks Princess Lodge seems to not be quite as nice as their Denali property.  But then, I think we were also in a newer section of the Denali property, and there were sections of that one that didn’t look quite as nice either.  And oh joys, a room with a connecting door.  Thankfully we haven’t had problems with noise so far, but then, apparently they’re not quite full tonight, but will be full tomorrow.