The conductor told us we were a 10, or I should say he told us we were among the 10% of people who travel by rail from Anchorage to Fairbanks and get to see Mt. Denali. Normally it is covered in clouds, or maybe you get a teasing glimpse. Having lived in Alaska for three years, I know how special it is to see the mountain.
Once, I was camped out at Wonder Lake, which is way out at the end of Denali Highway. I’d been backpacking in Denali National Park dodging grizzlies and had a small backpacking tent that I had pointed in the direction of the cloud-hidden mountain. I woke up early with the sun (in summertime Alaska, that’s really early). A huge mountain had appeared out of the clouds. “Wow! I said to my friend. You have to see this.” And then a larger mountain appeared behind it. As we sat there in awe, the clouds parted and a third, even larger mountain appeared, a massive mountain, Mt. Denali. At 20,310 feet, is the tallest mountain in North America.
Denali has only recently reclaimed the name it was known as for centuries by the Athabaskan natives of the region. It means big mountain, or the tall one. In 1896, an Alaskan gold miner named it Mt. McKinley in honor of the man he hoped would become president. McKinley won and the name stuck. Alaskans have been lobbying for years, quite rightly I would argue, to return the name to Denali. Their efforts had been continually blocked by a small contingent of politicians from Ohio, McKinley’s home state. On August 28, 2015, President Obama renamed the mountain Denali on the basis of a recommendation by the Alaska Geographical Society. I suspect the Ohio politicians are trying to impeach the President because of his action.
The sky was clear on our whole 350 mile trip from Anchorage to Fairbanks and we had several views of the Mountain. The engineer would stop the train each time we saw it. In fact, the engineer stopped the train several times to point out other things of interest as well, like moose for example. There’s a reason why the trip took 12 hours! Alaska is a state of great natural beauty, and we were privileged to see much of it on our trip. Following are a few of the many photos that Peggy and I (along with grandsons) took along the way. Enjoy.
NEXT BLOG: A new adventure! Peggy and I hit the road in our 22 foot van retracing the route I followed on my 10,000 solo bike trek I took around the US and Canada in 1989.