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Published: February 19th 2018
We took the Denali Star
north to Denali National Park. The Anchorage train station is about 230 miles south of the park, and it took about 8 hours to get there by train! The train car is very comfortable with large windows, and during the trip, it’s easy to walk from car to car, and stop in small open-air vestibules between the cars for an even better view. There is also a dining car, where you can order meals, or you can lounge and eat your own snacks that you brought. We visited other cars in the train, including the double-decker with the glass top for a panoramic view!
They made announcements during the ride to let us know what we might see on either side, including, “On the right side of the tracks you will see a herd of…,” but since our car was about in the middle of the train, by the time our car got there the animals were usually LONG gone! Still it was a great trip with magnificent scenery along the way. The train loosely follows the Susitna River up toward Denali, and to the east of the track are the Talkeetna Mountains.
The railway employs part time interns who do some of the narration along the way. It happened that one of the shifts was over about halfway to Denali, so the train pulled to one siding while the train going south pulled to the other, so the intern could switch trains to go back home!
One of the sights we passed is the Goose Creek Tower
, also known as The Dr. Seuss Tower. I didn’t get a photo of it, but if you click the link, you can see photos and read more. Phillip Weidner, an attorney with an MIT degree and a penchant for architecture, built the base as a 40x40 log cabin, but then went UP, adding layer after layer. The top is a fantastical tower, now at its maximum height of 185 feet - federal air space starts at 200 feet. It’s not complete, though it’s been under construction over 20 years! Phillip says it's a great place to view the Aurora Borealis!
Along the way, we crossed the Hurricane Gulch Bridge, so named for the 90 mph winds that can occur at the water surface below. The bridge was built about 1920, and at 918 feet long
it was quite an engineering feat at the time. The bridge is about 300 feet above the valley floor and Hurricane Creek. The bridge is both the longest and tallest bridge in the Alaskan Railroad System. As we approached the bridge, they announced the location and slowed so people would have a chance to get some great photos.
When we arrived at the Denali station, a shuttle bus picked us up for our ride to Denali Cabins, cute and rustic log cabins with a small restaurant on site. They had a shuttle that would deliver us into the park, into town for a dinner and some shopping, and back to the train at the end of our stay.
It’s hard to grasp the size of Denali National Park. The 6-million acre park is between the size of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. There is only one road that goes into the park, which is about 90 miles long, but only goes from the main entrance about halfway across the park. Private vehicles are only allowed on the first 15 miles, and then access is only by park vehicles and private tour buses. The mountain is around 20,000 feet high
– so tall that they say it creates it’s own atmosphere; clouds usually obscure the peak. They said that about 70% of people who visit the park never see the peak!
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