Alaska Trip

Staff member: Danielle // Trip date: Mar 2007

Anchorage - Fairbanks - Anchorage

The Alaskan adventure is one that can be both relaxing and easy going or exciting and filled with adventure seeking extremists. Alaska is an amazing destination, which has so much to offer even in the middle of the coldest weather most Australians may never experience. My journey starts in Anchorage, where you fly in over the vast mountains ranges covered in a blank of white and land in a city with the population of approximately 260,000 of the most hospitable and welcoming people.

Anchorage

We experienced one of the most amazing festivals in winter for Anchorage. It was the opening day of the Iditarod Trail, the last great race which is a 1049 mile dog sledding race. This is a major attraction for local and foreign visitors in Anchorage.
After watching the first 5 out of 82 dog sledding teams start the race we headed down to the river where the local community participates in an ice sculpting competition. Here people had created amazing sculptures of polar bear, Viking ships and all sort of visual displays of people's imagination. We then went out to the Alaska Native Heritage Centre.


Anchorage - Seward - Girdwood

We drove down the coast to Seward, the freeway follows the coastline down to the Kenai Peninsular. The freeway down to Seward is side by side with the train tracks. The train does take passengers down to Seward but only during the summer seasons.

Once in Seward we took a ferry through Kenai Fjords National Park, this was a 3 hour trip to view Alaska's wildlife and sea life. After the ferry we headed back and finished our Seward tour with a visit and private behind the scene tour of the Alaska Sea life Centre. After this we drove back up the freeway to Girdwood where we stayed at Alyeska Resort.

Girdwood

The day started with a visit to the wildlife conservation centre. It is Alaska's only drive-through wildlife park, sanctuary to orphaned and injured animals. Then Alpine Air took us for a Helicopter ride up and over the mountains to land on 20 Mile glacier. After the Helicopter flight we had a quick lesson and ride with a dog sled team, then heading back to the resort to take advantage of the ski resorts faculties.


Girdwood - Telkeetna

We started our day firstly by visiting Heidi and Ron Jenkins, they are local tour operators that offer guided snowmobile and dogsled tours. They gave us a tour of there facilities and briefly went into what products and services they offer. We continued our journey into Denali national park stopping a Telkeetna Lodge. This lodge is closed for winter normally.


Talkeetna - Fairbanks

The work activities consisted of starting the day with a trip on the local mail delivery flight to the Artic Circle. This was a 2 hour return journey, they offer tourists during winter and during summer they offer guided flights as well.
After the flight we made our way up through Denali national park to there main information and tourist centre.
Tonight was the first night we were able to go and view the northern nights. This was an attraction that no visitor in winter should or could possibly miss out on.

Fairbanks

Starting the day with a visit to Alpine Airlines where they flew us up to and around Mt McKinley. This is one of there most popular flights and takes and hour and a half, they offer it year round.
We stopped off at the North Pole on the way to Fairbanks, and had a general tour of Santa's Smoke house. Just before Fairbanks we stopped in at Chena Hot Springs Resort where we were showed through the Ice Hotel and their local and award winning hydroponic centre. That night was again spent viewing the northern lights.


Fairbanks

On our way to Chatantka where they hold local out house races and human ice bowling we stopped off at a spot on the high way where you view the pipeline up close.
Then on our return we visited and had a tour around the UAF museum, they are currently expanding and building new hangers to display planes.

Fairbanks - Anchorage

The Alaska Railroad in total stretches 470 miles from Seward to all the way up until Fairbanks. The only service open in the winter is the Denali Star. The Denali Star rail route travels north and South from Anchorage to Fairbanks. North travel starts in Anchorage where you travel along the Knik Arm and through the towns of Wasilla and Talkeetna. Heading north from Talkeetna the train passes over Hurricane Gulch (Picture 1) and Broad Pass before arriving at the railroad station at Denali National Park. On the journey the train crosses Hurricane Gulch, which spans 918 feet, some 296 feet over the Chulitna River. The trip from Denali Park to Fairbanks takes passengers through Healy and Nenana and several other small communities. The entire railroad trip takes 12 hours. The Denali star service only runs one a week, travelling up from Anchorage to Fairbanks on the Saturday and returning on the Sunday. Also during the winter the train acts as a Flag stop so the train does stop at places where it looks as if no one would possibly live to pick up locals going into town or hikers finishing there journey.

The actual journey that I went on was the southbound journey from Fairbanks to Anchorage. The Fairbanks depot has just been renovated so the faculties are all very clean and modern. The Check in time is recommended at 45mins before hand as there is only limited staff on in the winter. You check in your luggage when you check in and you will also receive your ticket and seat numbers.

The doors to hop on the train don't open right until the time the train is scheduled to depart. There were 2 passenger carriages, one dining cart and one luggage carriage. Each passenger carriage has picture windows, as well as in between each carriage there is room for passengers to go and pull down the windows to take photos without the glare on the glass. All seats are forward facing and 2 seats on each side. There are toilet facilities at either end of the carriage and there is access to a disabled toilet.

Once passengers are on the train and the platform is clear the train departs. The train will stop every time there is any sign of wildlife so your arrival time can be later than expected. We stopped for moose, doll sheep and had the amazing experience of watching 2 bald eagles fly overhead. The train also stops at the most scenic points of the trip to give passengers the change to take photos without the train moving.

During winter the dining car is open for all passengers at any time. There is plenty of seating in booth style seating. The dining car is still lined with picture windows so you never miss a view while on this train. The meals are limited during winter season. Currently in winter the dining car prepares all the meals without water. This is due to the fact the water pipes are on the outside of the carriage and the water freezes. So to be honest with no water the meal selection is quite good. They have a breakfast menu served from 9.00 to 11.30. There is 4 breakfast items you can choose from, including your usual scrambled eggs and toast, to just toast and coffee. The lunch menu offers 4 options as well. From a hamburger and salad to the famous beef stew hot pot. They offer all day tea, coffee, hot chocolate and soft drinks. There are alcoholic drinks for purchase.

When first travelling on the train I though I would experience the same views that I did when we were travelling up to Fairbanks on the freeway but to my amazement the views where just as spectacular. You feel as if you are travelling where no other forms of transport can possibly go. To be honest when the train is hugging the side of the mountain you literally are going where no other transport can go. The railway is a great way to end any ones travel. It is a very relaxing and scenic journey that can be enjoyed either in winter or in summer.

More staff stories

Go to staff stories page

 

Back To Top