Alaska travel notes – 4

Thursday – back on dry land with a reasonably fast internet connection at the Princess Denali Wilderness Lodge

Some critics have suggested that Paul Theroux is something of a curmudgeon in his later travel writings, an accusation to which he takes exception. This time out I want to take on the curmudgeon voice, though I have nowhere near the writing skills or travel experience of Theroux.

I start with this: the Princess railway trip from Whittier to Denali is overrated. Big time.

Yes, the view from the domed cars is great. I also have to admit that I can't give an entirely accurate review due to a technical glitch. The microphone in our car was non-functional, so the tour guide had to improvise and talk to a group of passengers at a time. It was probably more informal and interactive than the normal routine would have been, but it was not the experience Princess wanted us to have.


Our car was full, with two couples per table. Quarters were cramped. The trip took a tiring ten hours. I can only say that I am so grateful that our tablemates were very pleasant. There was some great scenery. We got to see Mt. McKinley unobscured by clouds, something we are told only happens a few days during the season. Still, much of the trip was a case study in people behaving badly. Whenever the tour guide advised us that a view of the mountain was coming up, a horde of people would jump up and crowd the left-hand side of the car, showing no consideration for others who wanted to take pictures. I have to admit getting caught up in that myself. Not my finest hour.

Similarly, someone would shout, "bear!" or "moose!" or "caribou!" and people would lunge to the side of the car on which the sighting was and start clicking away.

I have to say, really, that nothing on the train trip came close to the breathtaking views on the cruise.

The lodge itself is nice enough, but is really designed as a jumping-off point for the Denali tour. That tour, being five hours on a school bus with stops for facilities only every ninety minutes, we decided to skip. Which, if nothing else, gave us a nice, leisurely morning for me to write this blog entry.

Random thoughts:

  • There's always been a touch of sadness for us when a cruise ends. I thought that that would not be the case this time, since we still had more vacation after the cruise. Wrong. There's always a touch of sadness at the end of a cruise, whatever the next destination.
  • First thing I learn after getting back to a faster internet connection: Buster Posey is likely out for the season after sustaining a broken leg during a collision at home plate. sigh
  • Don't make assumptions department: Fellow on the train had a t-shirt that said "Friends of the Hunley – Complete the Journey." I was sure it was some kind of religious cult. I looked it up this morning. Turns out it's about finding a Civil War submarine that mysteriously disappeared.

Next up. Two nights at the Princess McKinley Lodge, then head home.

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