Land Tour Day 1: Whittier to McKinley

Trip Start May 09, 2008
Trip End May 19, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Alaska
Saturday, May 17, 2008

Today began with an excruciatingly early start. We had to meet onboard at 6 a.m. in the casino. This was the end of some people's cruise vacation but it was just the start of the land portion of our tour through Alaska.

Once we left the ship we boarded the Princess railcar for a 5.5 hour ride from Anchorage to Talkeetna. There was a guide on each rail car that talked about the history of the area and the landscape that you were seeing outside the window.

The rail car was very nice and offered great views of the surrounding area. There was also a kitchen onboard so you could get food and drinks. We got some delicious sticky buns.

Along the way we saw Moose, Eagles and Big Horn Sheep in the mountains. I was struck how wide, open and spacious Alaska is. It wasn't uncommon to ride for almost an hour before seeing another little city or village, just wilderness.

After a long ride we arrived at Talkeetna where we were transferred to a bus for an hour ride to Mt. McKinley where our lodge was situated. I wasn't thrilled to have to get back in a vehicle but I had no choice.

We finally arrived at the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge and it looked beautiful. The lodge is situated perfectly for a vast view of the Denali Mountain range. Its amazing that this lodge is 40 miles from Denali and yet you can see it clear as day.

We walked around and took pictures of the mountain range because sometimes Denali will hide behind the clouds and we wanted pictures before the mountain disappeared to the fog.

We got situated in our room and then walked over to the Grizzly Bar to get some food. While we were sitting there I started to get a terrible headache and feel dizzy. I ordered food anyway. I got a beer, french fries and a large Cheese Burger. The food was great and the portions were huge.

After eating we went outside to the large back patio area that has a sweeping view of the Denali Mountain Range. We took alot of pictures and decided to take a walk on one of the only trails that were open around the lodge. We quickly took noticed that there was alot of scat on the trail that we were on. We continued on anyway hoping we wouldn't run into the animal that was responsible for it.

We were able to get closer pictures of Denali and several of the other mountains in the area and also the river near the lodge. When we returned to the lodge one of the rangers told us that it was a Moose and her baby responsible for marking the trail.

I went to the main lodge and checked my email on the computer there before returning to my room to take a shower. My headache still hadn't subsided and while I was in the shower I got very dizzy and fell down. It was similar to the sea sickness I experienced onboard the cruise ship the night we had really rough seas. Apparently this is part of losing your sea legs and adjusting to land again.

We decided to go to Photosyphony which was a movie playing at our lodge. It was an artistic film about the Northern Lights. A photographer captured the Aurora Borealis and also the change in the plants and animals in the local are as the seasons wore on. It was a very pretty film and only made me want to see the Northern Lights even more.

Things Learned on Day 1 of my Land Tour:

1. Take pictures of Denali while you can. Its not uncommon for the mountain to be covered in clouds or fog.

2. Be prepared to get hit with a wave of dizziness and nausea once you lose your "sea legs".
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