On to Denali!

Trip Start Jul 04, 2013
Trip End Jul 21, 2013

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Flag of United States  , Alaska
Saturday, July 13, 2013

We woke this morning in Whittier, Alaska (actually arrived around midnight last night). While we slept, our luggage had been transferred to Anchorage, where we would pick it up, along with the van we had arranged. We were given a scheduled time of 9:15 a.m. for disembarking the ship. With that in mind, we were able to get plenty of sleep, have a nice breakfast and prepare to leave.

We boarded a bus that would take us to the Anchorage International Airport, which is where we needed to pick up our rental van. We had a great bus driver (Richard) who told us a lot about the area as we drove. To leave Whittier, you have to go through a tunnel that is about 2.5 miles in length. This tunnel is only one lane wide, so each side has to take turns going through the tunnel. In addition, the tunnel also serves railway traffic, which means cars/buses are actually driving down the tracks as they go through the tunnel.

As we arrived in Anchorage, Richard took us to a view point right near the airport where we could see Denali (it was a clear day and even though we were about 200 miles from the famous mountain, we could see it pretty well.) From there, we got the van, loaded it up, and headed north. We drove through Anchorage, then Wasilla, and soon found ourselves in some pretty open country. We eventually stopped at a small eatery in a sparsely populated area, as it had been quite a while since we had eaten. It was a very small place, but the food turned out to be quite good. The sandwiches were large and very tasty. SteveB ordered a burger that had reindeer sausage on it. This place actually cooks its burgers on a Foreman Grill – I told you it was a small place! Anyway, the food was very good and this is exactly the kind of stop we were looking for.

We made a couple other stops on the way to the Denali area as well. As we knew we were going to be up very early for a bus tour of Denali NP the next morning, we needed to stop for some snack food. We pulled into a small roadside mini-mart to stock up. They had an adequate selection of things, but everything seemed to be twice the price it would be back home – oh well, not much we could do. The next stop was a bit more unplanned. We came up on a couple of cars pulled off on the side of the road (literally a mile from where we would be staying tonight). It turns out there was a female moose right by the side of the road! We pulled over and enjoyed watching the moose for a little bit, until it decided to cross the road and head off into the brush. It was an exciting encounter.

We did, ultimately make it to our destination – the McKinley Creekside Cabins. We would be staying here for two nights. This is a bit of a change from the 24/7 service you get on a large cruise ship, but we were looking for a more Alaskan experience. Check-in was quick and easy and we drove around to our cabin. The mosquitoes we a bit bothersome this evening, so we had to unload the van quickly and get the luggage into the cabin. We did finally have to pull out the "Off" spray tonight. I believe for the first time on this trip. The cabin is nice. It's basically one large room with three queen-size beds in it, a little kitchenette, and a bathroom. Very clean and up to date.

After settling in a little bit, we headed over to a nearby pizza place for dinner (dinner was at 9:30 p.m. tonight). This place gets good reviews from Trip Advisor and it turns out they do have pretty good pizza. We ordered a couple of pies and some drinks and enjoyed being in a local place for dinner. As it was quite late when we finished, we headed straight back to the cabin to call it a night. It has been a long day and we have a very early wake-up call tomorrow. By the way, sunset for tonight is at 11:50 p.m.
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