WEDNESDAY, JULY 11, 2012 – DENALI >> FAIRBANKS, AK
We heard about a large fire in Homer on the news this morning before we left for our four-hour, side-by-side Denali ATV Adventure tour on the historic Stampede Trail.
On the shuttle ride from the Denali ATV Adventure office in Healy to the trailhead of the Stampede Trail, we passed the movie replica of the “Magic Bus” in the parking lot of 49th State Brewing Company.
Fairbanks Bus 142, was abandoned on the far side of the treacherous Teklanika River just outside the northern boundary of Denali National Park, after being hauled there in the early 1960s as a backcountry shelter during a short-lived road project near the Stampede Trail. In 1992, Chris McCandless, the subject of the 1996 book and the 2007 movie “Into The Wild”, lived for 114 days and died in the abandoned bus.
Between 2009 and 2017, the state of Alaska conducted 15 search and rescue operations for people trying to reach the iconic bus. On June 18, 2020, the bus was airlifted by the National Guard out of the wilderness for public safety.
We saw marvelous views of Mt. McKinley/Denali and learned that the 20,320 foot-tall mountain – which is the highest mountain in North America – has its own weather system. Only 30% of visitors see the top of Mt. McKinley because it’s usually engulfed in clouds. We were among the lucky ones on this day!
Our guides served us a campfire lunch before we headed back to the park.
At 3:00, the McKinley Chalet shuttle transported us to the train depot. The McKinley Explorer luxury dome train departed at 3:55 pm.
We took our seats, on Car 1058 “Kashwitna” for the 120 mile ride to Fairbanks.
I think we had a snack, but I don’t recall eating dinner in the lower level dining room. We arrived at the U.S. northernmost train station at 8:00 pm.
Fairbanks (population 100,000), the Golden Heart City, is the second largest city in Alaska. It started as a gold-rush boomtown and serves as a gateway to Alaska’s interior. The city sees almost 24 hours of daylight during the summer solstice.
We took the hotel shuttle and checked into the Bridgewater Hotel, a boutique-style hotel overlooking the Chena River, located on First Avenue in the heart of downtown Fairbanks, surrounded by colorful hanging flower baskets and award winning flower gardens.