Day 5 – Train to Whittier & Boarding the Cruise Ship!

Woke up, headed to Black Bear Coffee shop, to get a mocha and a blueberry muffin and headed to the train depot.  The train is a two-level, glass-top train.  There is an observation deck, bar and dining room in each car.  The views are very scenic on the train.  We are passing through two different mountain ranges that was carved out by a glacier. The train ride was 9 hours long.  We were told it would be the toughest part of the trip, however, it wasn’t that bad!  We split the time up nicely, writing/reading, walking through the train cars and spending time on the very back observation deck (which was quite a hike since we were in the first car!), we ate two meals in the dining car, spent some time in the lounge area with my laptop plugged in and watched some episodes of Community.

Glass Top Train, Alaska

Credit: Justine, my SIL & Travel Companion :)

Alaska Glass Top Train

One incredibly rare occurrence that happened on the train was our commute time happened to line up perfecting with the Bore Tide during a full moon returning to the Turnagain Arm in Cook Inlet.  A bore tide is huge, and this is  one of the biggest in the world.  It occurs when a high tide collides with an outgoing tide in a narrow channel.  Waves can reach 10 ft tall and move upstream at 10-15 mph. This is the only bore tide in the far north, and the only surrounded by mountains, and its extremely accessible. The main road runs right along its length for 40-50 miles and the train tracks run right next to the road! Surfers sit and wait, ready and perched for their one chance to catch the way and ride as long as possible.  Most fall and are done for the day.  Some have paddles and if they fall can sped forward to try and get in front of the wave again for a second chance. Our train slowed and we were able to watch the failure and success of the surfers as they went for miles alongside us as the bore tide came in.

Bore Tide - Turnagain Arm

After experiencing the bore tide, we entered 2 tunnels to bring us into Whittier, Alaska. The Portage Tunnel cuts through Maynard mountain and is the only land access to town. We heard a story of a police chase where the runaway car went through the tunnel and really made the cops jobs easy because he was now trapped in the small town of Whittier with no other way out.  The Portage tunnel is 13,300 feet long and is the second longest highway tunnel and longest combined rail and highway tunnel in North America. Once we exited the tunnel, we caught the first glimpse of our Cruise Ship, The Crown Princess! 

Crown Princess Cruise Ship

She’s the biggest cruise ship aloud in the Alaskan Inner Passage and holds over 3,000 passengers.  This was the first time T or I had ever been on a cruise, so it was very exciting for both of us! We quickly got check in and made it to our rooms.  H & J had their own room, T & I and our own room, which shared a balcony, and Hob was a floater who sometimes didn’t come back to the room at all.  Parents had their own suite at the very back of the ship.  We made our way to their room where their steward greeted us with champagne, a big bowl of fruit, and a platter of chocolate covered strawberries. It was ridiculous lol.

Our family decided on purchasing the All Inclusive Drink Package.  It was $49 per day, per person, and you had to purchase for the entire trip. I.E, it was roughly $400 a person. This included coffee, tea, juice, milkshakes, water and all alcohol. But OMG did we drink as much as possible!  So that first night included a lot of whiskey! And boy did I feel it the next day on the roughest day at sea.

xo R

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Day 3: Iditarod Sled Dogs, Talkeetna, & Denali Princess Lodge

Day 3’s morning excursion was one of the highlights of the trip. The entire trip was amazing, but this definitely stands out. 

We woke up, grabbed a parfait and some coffee at the lodge coffee shop and boarded the shuttle to the town of Talkeetna. From there we checked in at Kahiltna Bistro and took a smaller van back to Sun Dog Kennels.

The dogs were so high strung.  There was a brief introduction and then our first activity was to get pulled on an ATV by 15 Iditarod Sled Dogs! The owner of the farm, Jerry Sousa, has run in the Iditarod 12 times and is signed up for his 13th this March!  It was amazing to watch the temperament changes as the owners were choosing the 15 dogs to be picked for our short 5-mile ride. They wanted it SO BAD. The barking was boisterous with jealousy as some were picked and others weren’t. There was over 50 dogs there. Almost all of them running in circles on their short tethers around their little houses that had their names on them. Others jumped up to stand on their houses. 1 or 2 were a little scared of people, so they sat quietly in their homes, looking at us suspiciously.

 Sun Dog Kennels Talkeetna Alaska Sled Dogs

The more dogs they chose, the louder the barking got as they were PLEADING to be chosen to pull the ATV.  We weren’t aloud to interact with the dogs during this first bit because of how high strung they were and how unpredictable they can be at this time.  When 14 dogs were chosen and there was only one more, the barking was at its loudest.  It was deafening.  The moment the owner picked the 15th dog, the barking just about seized completely and there were no peeps from the dogs. It was the most bizarre thing. They knew their chance was up and they’d have to wait for the next ride.  The course was split in half to let everyone ride; 2.5 miles each. It was an amazing experience to be right behind them, being pulled through the forest.  My SIL said, “Is this what Santa Claus feels like?” lol.  

Sun Dog Kennels Talkeetna Alaska Sled Dogs

H& J Getting pulled during the first 2.5 miles

When we returned to the farm, The dogs were wiped and covered in water and mud.  We got to pet the dogs and praise them for their good work.  They were absolute dolls; rolling on their backs for tummy rubs, loving all the attention.  Next, we got an explanation of the Iditarod from the runner himself and he shared his experiences with us.  For those of you that don’t know, the Iditarod is a dog sled race, that is appx. 1,100 miles long, and takes about 11 days, therefore, they run about 100 miles a day. 

The training for the dogs is pretty exemplary. Their goal is to get 3000 miles logged on each dog before the Iditarod.  They start training in the late summer, starting with 5 miles, 10 miles, 15 miles per day, all the way up to 100 miles.  They start training the yearlings (the younger pups) and pair them up with the older dogs to learn from their wisdom and experience.  I learned that the dogs race almost their entire lives.  The dogs don’t retire from pulling until they are about 10 years old. Which blows my mind because thoroughbreds will only race until about 5 years old, if that, and their life span can reach 25-30 years. 

We also got to play with husky PUPPIES!! They were soft and adorable and fluffy and it was amazing :) 

After leaving Sun Kennel Farms, we walked around the small town of Talkeetna, which consisted of mostly pubs, bars and gift shops. It didn’t take us more than 30 minutes to walk the entire town and go in most stores. Very small. We made our way back to Kalhitna Bistro for lunch where I had the Reindeer Chili, which was absolute to die for. 

We headed back to Mckinley Princess Lodge, played a game of Farkle, desperately waited to see if Denali would make an appearance from behind the clouds, and boarded a bus to get to Denali Princess Lodge.  Once at Denali Princess Lodge, we did a 12 minute HIIT workout (Which I just posted for this weeks WORK-IT WEDNESDAY!, Read why I LOVE HIIT, HERE!) and the went to a dinner theater show! It was very corny and hokey, but thats what you expect in a dinner theater.  It was a lot of fun and the food was great!  I was just about falling asleep by the end of it from pure exhaustion, so it was straight to bed after that and preparing for the next day in Denali!

xo R