Saturday, August 9, 2014

Riding the rails from Denali to Anchorage

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.

Princess Lodge Denali 2-20140623

Our granddaughters enjoyed shopping and frolicking in the Village

Graci and Cari Denali Village 20140623

This Red Squirrel was looking for handouts.

Red Squirrel 20140623

As we awaited the arrival of our train, a cow Moose crossed the tracks...

Cow Moose at Denali RR Depot 20140623

...followed by her calf.

Moose calf crossing tracks Denali RR Depot 20140623

The Moose sheltered her young one while she browsed within a few feet of the depot.

Moose cow and calf Denali RR Depot 20140623

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.

Train to Anchorage arriving 20140623

Our car was the special Wilderness Express double-deck observation car at the rear end of the train.

 Train to Anchorage arriving 2-20140623

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.

Our gang pulling out of Denali 20140623

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.

View from Denale-Anchorage train 20140623

We then followed the Sustina River which flows southerly past Anchorage into Cook Inlet and the Pacific ocean. We crossed several high trestles.

View from Denale-Anchorage train 06-20140623

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.

View from Denale-Anchorage train 02-20140623

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.

View from Denale-Anchorage train 01-20140623

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. 

Yellow-rumped Warbler 20110619

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.

View from Denale-Anchorage train 07-20140623

I had to shoot blindly through openings in the trees, hoping for clear views in some of the photos.

View of Mt McKinley from train 11-20140623

View of Mt McKinley from train 10-20140623

Looking back on a delightful trip as we pulled into Anchorage in the light rain.

View from Denali-Anchorage train 12-20140623

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


  1. incredible views! love the moose and her calf!!! cute squirrel, too.

  2. Fantastic photos and fantastic Alaska cruise-tour... Reflection in a lake is tremendous...

  3. Such a gorgeous place and superb captures!! I love the animals, too! I have squirrels like this one sit on the window frame and stare at me at my desk -- their way of requesting breakfast, lunch and dinner!! Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and for your comment!! Much appreciated! Hope you're enjoying a lovely weekend!!

  4. Gorgeous views! I enjoyed seeing the moose and her calf. We often saw moose where we lived when I was little.

  5. Great pictures and like the Moose shots.

  6. Exquisite views! Loved what you were able to photograph in spite of the speed of the train! The moose with baby was wonderful too. What an awesome trip!

  7. I can't help it....I'm in awe of such beauty!! And all the wonderful wildlife. I see you're both wearing jackets in the first photo....was it cold? I would really like some COLD 'bout now!!!

    Marvelous adventure, And a sweet yellow-rumped!!!

    Thanks for sharing and linking up at I'd Rather B Birdin' this weekend.

  8. What a great excursion! Beautiful scenery. I love the shots of the moose.

  9. @Anni-- it was not very cold by Alaskan or even Illinois standards, but I fear that living in Florida has thinned our blood. Early in the morning we were very comfortable in windbreaker or fleece jackets but days were quite warm unless it rained, as was the case several days in the more southern ports of call. Right now Florida is unbearable and we are staying inside!

  10. It is so very nice to meet you via Anni and your photos are superb. I enjoyed each and every photo.

  11. Wow, fabulous shots of that gorgeous scenery! Your g'daughters look like that had a blast! Love that squirrel.

  12. Wow! What gorgeous scenery! Just beautiful!

  13. Amazingly beautiful scenery captured so beautifully by you.

    Scenery I will never be able to see. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Sure is pretty up here isn't it! You got better views of Mt McKinley from the train than we did on our bus rides through the park. Lucky you -- only one/third of the people who visit the park actually see the peak because of clouds and fog (which is what we had). We did see quite a lot of wildlife though and a few ibirds. So I was happy.


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