When we awoke at 6:00 the Westerdam was docked in Seward and bustling with early activity. We were scheduled to disembark at 7:45 so we had time to go for breakfast first and Majella even found time to add some more pieces to the jigsaw puzzle she had been working on. Sadly though she and her friends did not succeed in finishing it. Obviously life aboard the Westerdam held too many other distractions.
Our checked baggage had gone last night so we had just our carry on gear to take with us as we went to the assembly area and then were dispatched to the waiting motor coach. By 8:00 am we were on the road and Bob, our driver was giving us his personal history and pointing out interesting sights along the way.
A day of travelling by sea yesterday had seemed less than exciting after the previous few days but we found plenty to do. Sitting in a motor coach from 8:00 am until almost 6:00 pm with a few chances to get out and stretch is probably even less exciting but necessary to get us to Denali. Around 10:30 we had our first comfort stop at a bird sanctuary outside Anchorage. The next scheduled stop was for lunch at 12:30 but we were making good time so Bob took a side trip for a stop at the Iditarod dog sled racing centre. We saw some dogs and looked briefly at the gift store before going on to our lunch stop. We had an hour at a roadhouse where we had lunch provided. It was well organised with buffet lines from which we could select the makings of sandwiches with bread, cold meat, salad, and condiments. It was all fresh and tasty.
We had another unscheduled stop as we crested a hill with a view to Denali mountain. Apparently the weather at Denali is such that only about 30% of visitors see the mountain so Bob suggested we take advantage of what might be the best view we would get. He pulled up on a wide shoulder and those who wanted photos got out on the roadside. Our final stop was at the veteran memorial in the state park. It also had a view of Denali but by then the cloud was closing in.
By 6:00 pm we had checked our hotel room and were out to explore the resort area. Majella wanted to be put on the list for a call if the northern lights appeared so we arranged that with guest services. Majella decided that she needed hot chocolate by a fire pit so she went for the chocolate and I took the required photo.
Then we went to search out what we could find for breakfast tomorrow before our 7:30 am walk and to get dinner tonight. Across the road we found a small general store and picked up some cereal and yoghurt for breakfast along with muesli bars for snacks on the walk. We dropped those items in our room and then headed back to the centre of the resort to check on details of the tundra excursion that we had not realised was part of our package. That is set for 2:20 pm tomorrow and we had heard from somebody that it was 8 hours in a bus through the park. We confirmed that with guest services and that we would need to arrange to take food.
Majella had looked in the window of the pub and spotted our Canadian friends, Ray and Judy. We went in and joined them. They had already eaten and were unimpressed with the food but opted to stay and chat with us while we ordered and ate. I think they wanted to see if we had better luck. Majella had a ‘caribou’ burger though there was no claim that the meat was actually caribou. I had a pulled pork sandwich. Both were tasty enough so perhaps the Canadians were just unlucky. We exchanged contact details with them and look forward to meeting them again some day, either in Australia or Canada. We also learned that Ray is an Irish folk singer.
After dinner we headed back to our room to prepare for the exertions of tomorrow and to listen to a few of Ray’s songs on iTunes. A few hours of walking and a long bus ride should fill tomorrow.
The scenery along our route today was brightened by the fall foliage. The fall colours on the trees here, at least to this point, have been shades of yellow, without the reds and other colours that can be seen in other places where the species are different. As always the end of summer, cooler days, and autumn leaves remind us of mortality. We had another reminder of mortality today when I received an email to say that Glen Postle had died early this morning in Australia. That was expected as Glen has been very open over the past year or so in talking about his cancer and its inevitable conclusion but it still came as a shock and with sadness. Glen has done a lot of good for so many people over the years and he will be missed.