23 October 2013

Alaska Adventures, Part 2

One of the first things I did while in Alaska was casually explore the Fairbanks area. This included hitting up the free Alaska historic theme park, which was okay.  It's a good thing it was such a nice day, and the fact that it was free helped.

At least I got to ride a giant salmon.  That's always a win, isn't it?

Like I mentioned in Part 1, Aaron and I were able to spend a day together in Fairbanks, so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to sneak in the obligatory pixelated Aaron.

I'd love to have this art.

The Tanana Valley Farmer's Market was great. So many beautiful vegetables and local crafts!  I suppose that since they only have a few months of decent weather, the 19 hours or so of sunlight really make up for it.

And of course Denali.  I talked about that a little in the last post, but it was gorgeous!!!

It was crazy, the weather would be awesome one minute, and then we'd drive a few miles and it would be freezing and windy.  And then a few miles later, totally fine.

This was pretty neat.  Inside of the Eielson Visitor center, about 66 miles into Denali National Park, was this image on the window to show you were the 2 peaks of Denali (Mt. McKinley) would be if you could see them.  Only 30% of the time you are able to see the mountain, and obviously the day we went was super overcast.  There were markers on the floor for you to stand on based on your height.

In order to preserve and protect the natural resources of the park, you have to take a shuttle bus if you'd like to go any more than about 20 miles in.  That was totally fine with me, since the view would totally distract me of this interesting road.

Oh, you know, just napping on a bear.

The last day I spent in Denali, I was pretty beat.  I took it easy going for a few short hikes and then walking through the woods to the dog sled demonstrations.  It was pretty interesting to learn about the dogs and the importance of them in the park.  During the winter, the sled dogs are the only way for the park rangers to patrol the land.  A few of the more friendly dogs were chained outside and were more than happy to be pet and cuddled with the visitors.

Later that day I was picked up directly from the park by the cool college kids that work at the Denali Mountain Morning Hostel. I stayed in a womens only room in the octagon log cabin fit with our own private giant bathroom.  Seriously, it had this enormous tile and stainless steel shower, and it was quite refreshing to stay in there as long as I wanted to with the door locked.  My last hostel had quarter/min showers because they had to truck water into the location.  I settled down, reorganized my gear and walked across the street to this great little everything-homemade restaurant where I got a huge plate of fish and chips, a local beer, and just relaxed.  I was in no rush, and when the woman carded me for my beer, she must have spotted my military ID card, because she brought me over their last piece of strawberry rubarb pie (which I had previously inquired about but then declined), thanked my husband for his military service, apologized for the wait (I wasn't aware of one) and said the pie was on the house.  I was stuffed so I brought it back to the hostel and ate it later that night, and it was delicious.  Also, when I told thanked Aaron later for the free pie, he was extremely jealous that he had not yet been given free pie for being in the military, but I have for being married to him.  Oh the benefits of a military spouse!

The next morning I caught a ride back to the park from the hostel folks again.  I didn't have time to go for any hikes so I explored the bookshop and museum, and tried to stay out of the rain until my train came.  I was SO excited about this part of my trip.  I was originally going to cheap it out and take a bus from Denali to Anchorage (about 7 hours - $60) and instead decided on the more adventurous route of the Alaska Railroad (about 8 hours - $156).  It was even better because they were able to provide me with a military discount of 20% off! Sweet!  I wasn't counting on it because not all places (especially in Alaska) give military discounts to spouses.

Taking the Alaska Railroad - Denali Star was worth EVERY.SINGLE.PENNY.  It was so much fun and relaxing and the sights were amazing!  I paid for the cheaper class, Adventure class rather than GoldStar Service.  The main differences between the two were price, seats (all seats in GoldStar had a domed roof), and GoldStar got priority restaurant seating.  I'm glad I chose Adventure class and saved $100.  There weren't many people on the train, and even in Adventure class, there was a domed section that you could take turns sitting in.  My assigned seat was just below that, so I could see that barely anyone was utilizing it, so I sat their almost the whole time.  My assigned seat reclined a ton, so I was able to zonk out comfortably for a bit.  I also opted not to eat at the restaurant, but grab a beer and a snack from the cafe/snack bar.

For nearly 8 hours, I had views like the one below.  There's no way a bus on a highway would have this good of a view.

This is one of my favorite pictures I took on the trip.  In between every train car was open doors, so you could stand with the wind in your face and some fresh air.  I hung out here a lot.

See what I mean? Gorgeous!

Outside the train.

Well, this is still only a week into my Alaska trip, so there's much more to come!  Keep a look out for my next post!

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