The Train to Denali

August 25, 1991

This was a truly luxurious train trip. The train was comfortable and relaxing, and you could just sit and look out the large windows at the wilderness passing by.

A totally new type of terrain to us was the taiga forest. Small, sparse conifers sprinkled the landscape, surrounded by low growth which often had a red color. Part of the red was fireweed, but there was also an abundance of blueberry bushes which were showing their fall colors at this time in late August.

Tundra, taiga, river and mountain!

The trip tooks us through the four types of landscape that characterize Alaska. In the foreground above, along the Nenana River, the reddened tundra shows its fall colors. Across the river is a "taiga" forest, meaning "land of little sticks". We were told that a black spruce five feet tall and 4-5 inches in diameter could be 300 years old! Their roots are in the shallow soil layer over the permafrost which covers most of middle and northern Alaska, so they grow very slowly.

We followed the Nenana River for a considerable distance as we approached Denali Park. Its banks were decorated with the red fireweed. We passed a lot of ponds with a surprising number of beaver dams and lodges. I hadn't realized that the beavers were so numerous. The mountains became steeper and more numerous as we approached the Alaska Range.

The train wound around the b anks of the Nenana River into the mountains and finally arrived at the Denali Park station.

We knew we were approaching civilization again when we saw this bridge and the natural-color wood buildings which are characteristic of the Denali Park area.

The train finally arrived at the the Denali Railway Station, disgorging hundreds of excited passengers. Trains start from Anchorage and Fairbanks each morning, passing each other at a siding about midway. They exchange crews at that point, so that each crew is back home at night. The Denali Station then is extremely busy twice a day and otherwise essentially deserted. It had been an extremely pleasant and enlightening railway trip.

On to Denali Park

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