Sunday, August 10, 2014

Alaska and the Yukon - Fairbanks to Denali National Park

July 15
Fairbanks, AK to Denali National Park, Alaska

I was up early to put our bags out at 6:30 and then went back to bed for a while as we didn't have to leave until 9:30.  As we expected the skies were overcast and it was raining when we left Fairbanks.  We had about a four hour bus trip to Denali National Park and while we drove through some very scenic country, our spirits were dampened by the weather.  

There was a midway stop at the Alfred Starr Cultural Center in the native town of Nenana.  One of the interesting things about the town is the annual Nenana Ice Classic. which is a contest to guess the exact data and time the ice will break up on the Tanana River.  People from all over the world enter the contest and this year the jackpot was a record $363,627, a surprisingly high amount considering the population of the town is only 378.

The Tanana River from the deck of the Cultural Center.

The Alfred Starr Cultural Center.
After our stop in Nenana we drove straight through to Denali National Park and arrived at our hotel around 1:30.  We were staying at the McKinley Chalet Resort which, like all the other hotels we stayed at, is owned by Holland America.  There is a a cluster of hotels, restaurants and shops just outside of the park as there are no services within the park.  The cruise lines seem to dominate the tourist industry here as there was a hotel owned by Princess Cruise Line next to our hotel.  The McKinley Chalet Resort was very nice with nice rooms, well kept grounds and had a good restaurant.

The McKinley Resort.
The grounds of the hotel.

We got our room assignments, got settled in and then decided to have some lunch, which was quite good.  Tomorrow we tour Denali National Park and since only snacks are provided, we ordered box lunches for tomorrow from the Grizzly Grind, which is a coffee and sandwich shop.  After checking out the shops we walked around the grounds a bit and then returned to our room to get ready for our evening excursion.

We had a Photo Workshop excursion scheduled for 6:00 that evening with Terry Boyd Photo Tours, but with the weather continuing to be rainy we didn't know whether it would be cancelled or not.  By 6:00 the rain had dissipated a bit and we met Terry and were on our way.  There was only one other couple going with us, which was great as we had a lot of one on one time with Terry.  It turned out to be a great tour and we managed to avoid the rain.  Terry took us to some great places for pictures including an area where moose were feeding.  He was very helpful with advice when needed and the workshop turned out very well in spite of the weather.  As he pointed out, you see the most interesting pictures when there isn't bright sunny skies, a little weather makes it interesting.

We'll be on this train in a couple of days on our way to Anchorage.
The Nenana River.

Val gets some advice from our guide, photographer Terry Boyd.

We returned to the hotel around 10:00 and went straight to bed as we had to be up early for our Tundra Tour of the the park tomorrow morning.

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