From McKinley Princess Lodge in Talkeetna, we took a double-decker train, the McKinley Explorer, north to Denali National Park. (The President had visited Alaska less than a month before we did, and at that time he officially announced that the name of the mountain would revert from Mount McKinley to the original Native American name, "Denali," or "Great One.")
|We rode upstairs in these cars and ate lunch on the lower level.|
|The conical structure is a beaver lodge.|
|This is Hurricane Gulch, the most dramatic view we had, since it was too cloudy to see Denali from the train.|
|Hurricane Gulch again|
|Beaver dam in progress|
|Completed beaver dam|
|The highest point of our rail journey, approximately half a mile above sea level|
|Not in Texas anymore!|
|Home away from home for two nights|
In one of those unexpectedly lovely travel serendipities, we went to the pizza place on the lodge property for supper after checking in and unpacking. It was Sunday evening, and the Dallas Cowboys were playing their season opener against New York back home. We asked a waiter if he minded changing one of the televisions to that channel so we could see the last quarter of the game. (Ironically, if we had actually been in Dallas, the last quarter of a Sunday night game would have been past our bedtime, so we'd have had to record it and watch it the next day.) Romo led the team in one of his signature eleventh-hour comebacks, and the Cowboys won in the final play of the game. It later proved to be the most exhilarating game of the whole season.
We were surprised to hear one other family in the restaurant cheering and celebrating, too. It turned out they were from San Antonio, and the common sports allegiance led to a pleasant conversation about places back home.
It wasn't a dramatic photo op or an amazing glimpse of wildlife, but it was a sweet little gem of a moment all the same. Coming as it did in the final days of our journey, we welcomed the connection with home and an opportunity to share an experience with our family members there watching the same game at the same time.