On the final day of our Alaska cruise-tour we relaxed in the resort area of Denali Park Village before boarding the noon Alaska Railroad train from the Denali National Park Depot. Behind us is the Nenena River, which flows from the Nenana Glacier in the northern Alaska Range about 100 mi (160 km) south of Fairbanks. This river forms the eastern boundary of Denali National Park and Preserve.
Our granddaughters enjoyed shopping and frolicking in the Village
This Red Squirrel was looking for handouts.
As we awaited the arrival of our train, a cow Moose crossed the tracks...
...followed by her calf.
The Moose sheltered her young one while she browsed within a few feet of the depot.
The train pulled into the station, several minutes late. Since it is a one-track line, the schedule is often only approximate, depending on freight traffic.
Our car was the special Wilderness Express double-deck observation car at the rear end of the train.
I snapped this shot as the train was pulling out of the station. Our party of eight and some friends we made occupied all the front seats upstairs. The lower floor is our dining area.
Initially, we followed the Nenena River, which flows from east to west northward as we set out. This river actually crosses through valleys to the other side of the Alaska Range and ultimately empties into the Bering Sea.
We then followed the Sustina River which flows southerly past Anchorage into Cook Inlet and the Pacific ocean. We crossed several high trestles.
Trumpeter Swans and other waterfowl occupied the placid lakes, but I obtained no photos as we whizzed by, causing the foreground to be blurred in these photos.
This is typical tiaga, occupied by rather widely spaced spruce trees. The permafrost, short growing season, harsh winters and relatively poor nutrition in the soil all limit the forest's ability to sustain a greater number or variety of trees.
A few land bird species were identifiable, but photography was not possible. I took this photo of a Yellow-rumped Warbler on a previous trip to Denali, in June, 2011. Interestingly, it has the white throat of the eastern "Myrtle" subspecies rather than the yellow throat of the western "Audubon's" form which I expetected to see. Forces related to the retreat of the glaciers 16,000 to 13,000 years ago are responsibel for the failure of the Audubon's subspecies to expand its breeding range to the northwest.
Amazingly, despite scattered showers and often cloudy conditions, I got some of my best photos of Mount McKinley (Denali) from the moving train. Distance and the camera's image stabilization contributed to the sharp images, overcoming the blurring as seen in the foreground.
I had to shoot blindly through openings in the trees, hoping for clear views in some of the photos.
Looking back on a delightful trip as we pulled into Anchorage in the light rain.
Visit these links to view the entire series of blogs on this Alaska trip:
Cruising to Ketchikan, Alaska
Cruising to Alaska's Icy Strait and Hoonah
Visiting Juneau and Skagway
Hubbard Glacier and Seward, Alaska
Denali National Park
Riding the rails from Denali to Anchorage