Denali to Fairbanks

The final leg of the Alaska Railroad.

Trip Report:  20070811

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The Trip

The day's trip consisted of an easy cruise from the small encampment of Denali to Fairbanks, a journey of about 5 hours. There was some nice scenery along the way, but nothing like we saw the previous day from the plane. Our objective was Fairbanks and a visit with our friends Dan and Janet Johnson.

The photos below are what we saw.

The Denali depot was an open-air affair and had a great view of the mountains across the Nenana River.

Our train was pulled by two GM SD70MAC locomotives. These were the same motors that got us to Denali and are seemingly dedicated to this route.

The village of Denali is small. Here you can see the entire settlement. The river in the foreground is the Nenana River which also flowed next to our cabins.

The Alaska Railroad seemingly utilizes some quite old equipment. I spotted this cable driven rail-car-mounted shovel next to the main line. The shovel was enroute to a job as the cars on the siding were hooked to an engine that was waiting for us to pass.

Denali offers float trips on the Nenana River. Here some rafters negotiate the rapids that were just down stream of Denali.

Our last view of the glaciers on the flanks of Denali.

We spotted this nice waterfall across the Nenana River from the rail line.

The highway bridge over the Nenana north of Denali is an engineering wonder. This is a high span.

Another view of the bridge. Here the height of the supports for the span can be seen.

We passed a large coal power plan near Healy, AK. This plan is fired by coal from nearby mines. The coal from the mines is also exported via the railroad to Korea.

We finally arrived at Dan's place. It was a very large "log cabin" on a hill to the north of Fairbanks. Actually, the top side of the structure was made of huge white spruce logs. This is a view of the south facing side of the home.

This is the entrance side. Note the nice details and hand made railings.

This house was hand made. Even the logs were cut, cleaned and fitted by hand. Note the joints in the logs.

The living room was large and open with a nice view of the Alaska Range to the south. The quilting on the wall was done by Dan's wife Janet and a Franklin log burning stove is used for heating in the cold months (which are most months).

The house came with an "extra" from the previous owner, an avid hunter. Bears are both feared and respected in Alaska. They are numerous, smart and fast and frequently become threats to humans, particularly when they learn to eat trash and break into cabins.

The house on the hill provided a commanding view of the Alaska Range in the distance. It was close to sunset, so the colors were subdued, but the 14,000+ foot peaks were clearly visible on the distant horizon. This was a clear day in Fairbanks, so a full view of the mountains was a remarkable sight.

The trail from Denali was long and slow. There were a few nice views and we did see several moose along the way. But, other than that, it was just a train ride. The food was good and we got a chance to talk with the cook on the train. Like most folks in the tourist-based service industry, this was a summer gig that they took so they could see new country. In the fall, they will be gone and on to other opportunities. Tomorrow, we will go out on Dan's jet boat and see the local back country. Adventure awaits, but we did not know it at the time.

Chatanika River Adventure

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