September 14, 2003--Fairbanks to Denali

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Early on Sunday morning, September 14, we left Fairbanks by train on the Midnight Sun Express to go to the Denali Park, a huge National Park and Preserve, containing Mt. McKinley and a great deal of wildlife.  This is a first class train with domed observation areas on top and a dining rooms below.  We were on this train twice--this day for on a morning trip including breakfast and another day on a dinner leg.


The scenery on this trip was beautiful, particularly as we approached Denali.  A bit earlier, one of the guides pointed out the huge tracking station shown in photo 604 which was once part of the early missile detection system used to monitor any unfriendly missile activity from the Soviet Union.  We went through a tunnel and over a trestle (611-616) and finally could see our lodging for the evening, the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, off in the distance (617). 


After checking in and lunch, we took a nature tour of Denali on school busses.  We asked why they used school busses and they said are to preserve the roads and no larger busses are permitted in the park because of their weight. Our guide, Todd (625), was an extremely knowledgeable naturalist who seemed to know virtually everything about the animals, plants and mountains in the park.  He even brought along his 50 power telescope to help see the wildlife on some of the distant peaks.  During part of his tour, we also visited a re-created ranger station (621-622) and listened to a commentary on the bus by one of the local natives (624).


During our conversations with Todd, we discovered that he had once climbed Mt. McKinley with a couple of friends.  It took them almost a month to make the trip.  The climbing season is relatively short (2-3 months, ending in July).  One would not have wanted to be up there on this September day, since the wind was really blowing near the top of its 20,000+ foot summit (620).

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