Filed under: 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History, Grossman, Personal History
Part I: Drive up
Part II: Cruise
Part III : Inland Tour
We rose early, made sure our luggage was ready for pickup, then picked up a quick breakfast. From the Hilton we were only about 1½ blocks from the train station, but our driver took us for a quick tour of the city, before going down to the station. He told us about some very cold weather, and the games his grandsons enjoyed playing in that very cold weather. Then train was coming in, so we unloaded the bus, and boarded the train. This was a double decker, with the dining area below, and the upper level domed, for us to be able to see the scenery as we headed to Denali Park. The train ride was eight hours, to just enjoy the beautiful scenery.
We were able to get our first glimpse of Mt. Denali. WHAT A SIGHT. Hard to get a good picture from a moving train.
For lunch we went down to the dining area, I tried the reindeer chili served in a cornmeal bread bowl. It was very good.
There were so many ooh’s and aah’s along the way. The hostess told us, we were seeing new snow on the mountains, new snow is “termination” snow as the tourist season is quickly coming to an end. Several of us purchased tickets for the Cabin Night dinner theater, at the McKinley Chalet Resort. Arriving at the train station, buses took us to our night’s destination, the McKinley Chalet Resort. The rest of the group was able to obtain tickets to show, so all 9 of us unloaded, found our rooms, and explored a little until time for dinner and the show.
They served us family style, we had salad, ribs, baked salmon, corn, and it was topped off with a berry pie. We had already eaten so much on the cruise, we had a difficult time eating that much. Our waiter said he could tell which way the group was going. Those doing inland, then the cruise ate very well, and those having cruised could hardly eat. I wanted to cry when I saw him put the ribs and salmon we didn’t eat in the trash.
Then the group put on an interactive play giving us history of the park, as well as the people who were instrumental in developing the park. The cast interacted with people from the crowd. They had us sing the “Home in the Snow” song, and recognized birthdays and anniversaries. Leading the group in “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”. (Thanks to Gloria for sharing her photos.)
Charles, Judy, Gloria and I headed back to the main lodge to have our picture taken by the Old Sourdough Photographer. We dressed up in the fur coats and gloves, then climbed in the sled, with Charles as our musher, to get our picture taken.
Back to our very rustic cabin for the night.
The next morning we put our luggage out, as we would be spending the night in Fairbanks. Up to the main lodge for breakfast, and await our bus. This would be a refurbished school bus. This tour was taking us up to a look out point to see Mt. Denali.
As we drove through the park, I kept seeing all of these jigsaw puzzle pictures. It isn’t easy to take pictures from a moving vehicle, but kept trying.
At the rest stop, we walked up to the Ranger’s Cabin. He told us about living there with basically only his dogs for company, but the need to have a presence there. The inside of the Cabin reminded me very much of the pioneer sod houses. We also saw a moose on our way up. So many pictures it is hard to narrow them down.
Then it was off to the lookout point, and turnaround. There we got another view of Mt. Denali. The range and the peaks, along with the changing colors of the foliage made for a glorious sight. We were able to see the peak. So we became a part of the 30% club as only 30% of the people get to see through the clouds.
On the way back our driver said we were ahead of schedule so he stopped at the parks entrance to give us a photo op. This is the one and only picture of all nine of our “Cruise Family”.
Back to the Lodge, we no longer have rooms, so some played cards, others did a computer catch up, and some just sat and relaxed until it was time to load the bus, back to the train, for our four hour ride to Fairbanks. We arrived in Fairbanks and headed to our rooms. At least we would be here 2 nights.
This morning we boarded the Holland Line bus to be taken to the Goldmine, a lunch of Miner’s Stew, then a Riverboat ride.
A bonus was a stop at the segment of the Alaskan Pipeline, where we learned that ½ is above and ½ is below ground and other interesting facts. The frozen tundra makes it impossible for it underground the entire way. It is an awesome project, we hadn’t thought of all the engineering problems that had to be solved to send that much oil to a location where it can be transported to where it can be processed for our use.
Then off to the El Dorado Gold Mine. We took an open air train ride through the area, getting a flavor of what an individual would go through to find his fortune in gold. (which very few did) We were shown through a mine, then saw some of the equipment used to bring the ore to the surface.
At the end of the ride, an demonstration area was set up. After the demonstration each traveler was given a poke and a pan to pan for our own gold. All were guaranteed some gold. It was exciting to find those flakes of gold in the bottom of the pan, but it also took a very skilled hand to dip and swirl the water in the pan to get the heavier dirt and rocks out of the pan. My pan of gold yielded about $6.00 worth of gold. I had the gold put into a bubble, and put it on a chain. As far as I know no one found a nugget. Some of the couples put their gold together to make a larger take.
They had drinks and cookies for everyone. Then back to the train, which took us back to the bus. Our next stop was Goldstream Creek Gold Mine, a larger operation, where we were served a lunch of Miner’s Stew with biscuits, and a drink. We ate in a dining room like the miner’s would have been served. After lunch, several took a tour of the workings of this mine. Then it was off to our next destination.
Our final destination of the day was the Riverboat Discovery.
We took a 3 ½ hour cruise down the Chena River. Arrived at the home of the late Susan Butcher, 4 time Iditarod Race winner. Here her husband and children showed off the dogs training for a race. David Monson, her husband, took a team of dogs on a practice run. It was exciting to see these dogs ready to give their all. Susan had started a book about one of her dog; David completed it after her death. He would be at our next stop, available to sign copies of the book Granite.
Further down the river was a Chena Indian village, with guides from the Athabascan tribe to take us through the village. Our guide was a young man from the tribe. He described their home and hunting habits, then off to where we could see how they cared for their animals. Our last stop on the tour was to see how they prepared their furs. The young man’s sister, with his help, described the procedure for tanning and drying the hides. When his sister asked him to demonstrate a moose call, he came out with a small megaphone, and called “Here moosey, moosey, moosey?” Then his sister modeled some of the clothing, ending with a beautiful fur coat for a young maiden.
After our tour, it was time to get my books signs. Until the riverboat whistle blew, we could explore at our leisure. Then it was back up the river. The matriarch of the family was standing on her front lawn to share the journey with us.
Everyone loaded back on the bus, heading back to our motel. We again shared our evening meal together. Now it was time to pack and repack to make sure our luggage was ready for the flight we were going to be taking the next day.
Our last day and time to start our journey home. Our luggage was packed, weighed, and ready for the flight. We had most of the day to relax and enjoy the day at Fairbanks. Charles, Judy, & Gloria and I decided to walk about 8 blocks to a restaurant for our lunch. We had a delightful lunch at a little café called Gambardelli’s Pasta Bella.
On our walk we enjoyed the beautiful flowers, seen all along the way. Back at our motel, we admired the huge cabbage, and rhubarb growing out side the front door.
Finally the bus arrived to transport us to the airport. When we got to airport, there was a sea of luggage, for us to locate our pieces. When the second bus arrived, our group headed in to get our tickets, trying to keep track of luggage, figuring out what that computer wanted us to do, waiting in line, was all a part of the process.
I got my ticket, and my luggage was taken, the agent then asked if I wanted one of my carry one pieces to go through at no cost. I decided that was a good idea, then I went to help Melba, we also got one of her carry on pieces sent on. Now I juggled both of our tickets, luggage, as well as passports, to get her through. Then it was up to the line to wait to go through security. Most of us got through without any problems. Charles & Judy were not so fortunate. Security went through their luggage and all of their bags, not a pleasant experience. Nola, could not through the metal detectors due to knee surgery, so had to have individual search. We all gave a sigh of relief when all were through security, now to wait for our plane.
It was during our break that we learned that the Sapphire Princess, a ship that followed us most of our cruise, sank a couple of fishing boats coming in to dock at the Ketchikan Harbor. The Statendam, our cruise ship, skipped the Ketchikan port of call. The return cruise of the Statendam, would not have been a pleasant one. Glad we sailed up and not back.
Our flight was called, we boarded heading for Seattle. Landed at the Sea-Tec airport. That was an experience. It was about 11 at night. We unloaded gathered our things, and started walking to our next connection. First of all the moving sidewalk was under repair, then the escalator was not working, there were no carts, so we walked, and walked and walked. We were very tired by the time we got to our plane.
It was a short hop from Seattle to Vancouver, BC. Again loaded up our belongings, and headed for customs, needing our passports, and paperwork for anything to declare. Remember I was keeping track of Melba’s things as well as mine. Now it was time to collect our baggage from the carousel. Once the luggage was collected I returned Melba’s passport to her. Luggage for nine looks like someone is moving. Everything was collected then out to catch a shuttle back to the hotel. Everyone was ready to call it a day. Unloaded and checked in. Carl & Nola bid us farewell as their plane was leaving about 6 that morning.
The rest of us would be driving and trying to miss the tunnel bottle neck.
……………………. To be continued.
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