Our bags had to be outside our hotel room by 6:00am on this morning as we planned to depart Anchorage by train to our next stop, Denali National Park. We boarded a bus for the short five-minute ride to the train station at 8:15am. Our train departed Anchorage at 9:15am for an eight-hour train ride through the beautiful Alaskan terrain.
The train was a double decker domed car with large windows so everyone in our group could take in the stunning scenery at every turn. The mountains were still covered with a patchwork of snow resembling a zebra. The rivers were filled to their banks with water from the quickly melting snow as the temperatures were in the 70’s. There was not much wildlife to see along the way but the scenery made up for it.
The train consisted of only three cars and each car had only one group from Holland America on each car. The cars held about 75 guests but our groups only consisted of about 35 guests each so we had plenty of room to spread out. Each car had a bartender for drinks and snacks as well as a guide to narrate our journey with the history of what we were seeing. Breakfast and lunch were served on the lower level of the train in a dining room with tables of four people each.
The train trip took all day, but the time passed quickly with the guided tour, natural beauty of the landscape and dining. We passed several small towns along the way but mostly just untouched wilderness. The weather was clear and sunny so everything looked its best which we understand is rare for Alaska where it rains most of the summer months and can often be cloudy around Mount Denali. Similar to California, they have a bark beetle that is killing many of the pine trees in the area leaving them looking like they were burned in a fire. The hillsides are covered in lush green aspen trees with fresh leaves just springing out. The groves are so thick you can’t see through them.
We stayed at a beautiful rustic style resort by the name of The McKinley Chalet Resort. Our room had a topography map of the area wallpaper on one wall and rustic wood siding on the other. There was a nice patio balcony with a table and chairs and a nice wooded view of the surrounding snowcapped mountains. We had a peak of a view of the Nenana River from our balcony. The resort, owned by Carnival Cruise Lines, had upscale dining, quality entertainment and some local shopping opportunities.
For dinner we walked a short distance to an area in our resort called Denali Square where they have a lovely restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. The menu was quite limited but we did find some Brussel sprouts, pasta and a Caesar salad for dinner. The square also has a small stage where musicians perform live. There is a small theater and many small shops for your retail therapy.