Thursday, July 20, 2017

North To Alaska


Alaska has nothing to do with mid-18th Century historical miniatures gaming in Germania or India. Even so, Alaska beckons many who might want to go there. What Dorothy and I experienced follows.

Our journey lasted from June 24 through July 6th, 2017.

Alaska Airlines brought us to Fairbanks on the 25th., 419 miles north of our embarkation dock in Whittier. Princess Cruise Line supports oceanic operations with land-based lodges, buses and double-decker observation train cars/carriages.

The back third of the lodge does not look like a classic North American lodge. It does inside. Princess houses many folks doing excursions before or after their cruise. We understood from friends who had been to Alaska that doing the land portion first is the preferred option. They were right. 

Fairbanks had twenty-two hours of daylight while we were there. The main chef at the lodge grows salad greens in a dozen or more of these platforms. Nothing remarkable? Untrue. These plants had only been in the ground three weeks. Twenty-two hours of daily sunlight gives plants a prodigious opportunity to grow. We had some for dinner.

We started here two miles from the lodge viewing anthropological, biological, geographical, geological, historical and paleontological exhibits plus two movies; Northern Lights and Sea Monsters (toothy prehistoric denizens of the deep).

One exhibit concerned the WWII Japanese occupation of Attu and Kiska. Artifacts displayed: Japanese sword, helmet, rifle, equipment and regalia. Surprisingly, the helmet had character symbols written all over it.


 The Alaska Pipeline Above And

Descending Below The Surface 

Display of a "dumb pig" scraper device. Afterwards a "smart pig" drives through the pipe using sophisticated cleaning and repair gizmos. Alyeska is not a misspelling of Alaska.

 Train ride to a closed gold mining installation.

Dredge #8 scooped tons of earth and rocks sifting for gold.

Scoops from the lower right to the flags formerly chewed into the earth bringing tons of material inside to be sifted. Useless tailing's (rocks, etc.) were conveyored out the back.

Everyone on the train was assured of finding gold at the next stop.


I found eight flakes.
Funny how everyone found some.

River transportation was and still is huge in Alaska. 
Discovery III took us along the Chena River to....

A replica Atahabaska Indian village. 

 Woman's coat made from hides. 

The Atahabaskins lived in log homes. 

Replica shelters for hunting in the bush.

Formerly Mount McKinley National Park

In 1897 Mount Denali (High One in the Athabaskan language) was named Mount McKinley after the newly elected USA President. In 1917 President Wilson established Mount McKinley National Park. The name Denali was restored in 1980 and 2015.

We stayed at the Princess Denali Lodge a few miles outside the park.

Now THIS is a woodsy-looking North American lodge!

Tourism is mostly and strictly limited to bus excursions.
Reason: To affect nature as little as possible. 
We took a thirty mile excursion in and thirty out.
The sixty mile excursion in and sixty out was luckier seeing wildlife.

Our bus group did not see bear, doll sheep, moose or caribou herds.
It is easy to feel disappointed not seeing these. Some were.

However, let not that govern your feelings
in this refuge set aside for all to enjoy....

And contemplate.

Water in this river was glacial ice twenty-four hours before.

The park is immense, unique, strikingly beautiful and interesting. Learning about permafrost, taiga, tundra, boreal and spruce forests, Native American and pioneer cultures plus.... 

Flowers and more will easily satisfy.

The primary reward and reason to go to Denali is next.

Look carefully and slowly in the very center of this image.

Something very big lurks there under two-tone colored clouds.



Princess owns several "consists" of double-decked observation cars. We passed five trains on our way south from Denali to the Port of Whittier. The Alaska Railroad provides diesels to pull them all.

Views from the top are spectacular. Chow can be served there or below in dining areas. Most cars had outside viewing platforms. I spent a lot of time outside while moving south.

View from the rear observation platform. 

A meet.
Alaska Railroad motive power pulls Princess cars north and south.


One of two semi-formal evenings allows passengers to dress up. 

We rafted for an hour and a half, saw two dozen Bald Eagles and did not care about cloudy misty weather. Nor did we mind grounding on rocks a dozen times. We got to get out on the gravely stream or bounce up and down to move the raft off the rocks like kids. Fun.

Our raft excursion ended here.

We were cold, damp, becoming warm with coffee, fed sandwiches and happy.

Our whale watching boat.

Bald Eagle and seals taking it easy.

Humpback Whale.

Tlingit and Haida Indian cultures.

Clan House.


Time To Say Goodbye

Thank you for looking in.