I was given some good advice to splurge on the glass dome train, and it was worth it!
After a leisurely stroll around Denali “town” we caught the shuttle to the train depot where we waited for the Wilderness Express. It took us from Denali to Talkeetna. There was another little 4 year old girl waiting on the same platform and the girls made fast friends. They piled up rocks, picked “flowers” (grass) and amused themselves with the simplest of things while 40 or so adults watched for the train.
The train pulled up and we were lucky enough to be the first ones on.
The girls were SO excited to be getting on the train, and even more excited when they realized we were up high and the ceiling was all glass! We also sat at the front giving us an unobstructed view of the wilderness.
The scenery in Denali is spectacular and definitely best viewed from a glass domed train. Kacela spent a fair amount of time (which for a 3-year old means a few minutes) just watching out the window.
We saw some wildlife, including eagles nests, beavers & beaver dams, and 3 Moose. I thought that we might see a bit more wildlife, but I guess the train is noisy and nothing sticks around for too long once they hear it coming. I can’t say I blame them!
We were lucky enough to have one of our nicest weather days for our train ride. There were just enough clouds to provide some contrast in the sky, and it only spit rain for a few minutes towards the end of the journey. We spent time standing on the “deck” at the back of the car while we trundled over Hurricane Pass. The air was crisp and fresh, and the view of the train ahead winding it’s way through the pass felt like we were in a Harry Potter movie! The girls liked being outside, peeking over the edge to watch the tracks roll by, but only if we were hanging on tight!
We ate an okay lunch in the dining car below our seats, and other than that I drank coffee and enjoyed the view! The girls alternated between playing with their new friend, and watching out the window for animals! Randy enjoyed a beer and the scenery. It was an incredibly relaxing way to spend an afternoon and I would highly recommend it!
We arrived in Talkeetna just ahead of the rain. Sadly Mt McKinley was hidden behind the clouds, so it made for a rather lacklustre conclusion to our train ride! We scarfed down delicious pork belly at the Talkeetna Brewing Co. under an umbrella in the rain, and then hopped on the bus to the McKinley Princess for the night.
The next morning we woke up, packed up, and took it easy while waiting for our bus back to Denali. At 11:10am (our bus was supposed to arrive at 11am) I had a phone call from the bus company. They were waiting for us at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. I had made the assumption that since the bus stopped at the McKinley Princess Hotel on the way TO Denali, that it would also stop there on the way BACK from Denali. This was not the case for the bus I had booked!
So, we missed our bus and were stuck in pretty much the middle of nowhere, with no scheduled transportation available to get us into Anchorage in time for our evening flight. Luckily (I sometimes think we have horse shoes hidden somewhere!) we were able to track down the Talkeetna Taxi Co. Elliot met us in town an hour after we called, and drove us into Anchorage with lots of time to spare. We paid a pretty penny for my mistake, however it was much cheaper than a hotel in Anchorage and the flight change fees!
It just goes to show that mistakes happen. Even when I think I’ve planned and checked everything, stuff still happens! It’s important to go into any vacation with a contingency “fund” and an easy going attitude and everything will work out.
It’s not always as expected, but we always end up where we need to be. Sometimes we just take a more interesting route getting there!!
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