Horse Drawn Wagon & Finally Seeing Mt. Denali

Hello from sea! As I write this, I’ve gotten onto the cruise ship and we’re sailing through the Gulf of Alaska for the week. I’m writing this ahead of time, so when this post goes live I’ll have just a few days left to the cruise. Ok, I’m going to be honest with you guys. When I got onto the ship amidst the crowds of people, went to my state room briefly, and then headed to the muster drill in our assigned area (the safety meeting about what to do if there’s an emergency on the ship or if we have to abandon ship etc.) I started to panic at little inside. At the drill, I looked around the theater surrounded by hundreds of people, I started to feel claustrophobic and was thinking 7 days at sea seems like a long freakin’ time!!

I had a good night’s sleep and I’m feeling a little less trapped today, so hopefully it just gets better as the days go on.

Onto a happier highlight of the trip, let me go back to last week when I went on a horse drawn wagon. Last Thursday, we left the Denali Princess Lodge and went 3 hours south to the McKinley Princess Lodge. This lodge was definitely the most rustic of the 3 we stayed at. My family and I (party of 10) booked a horse drawn wagon excursion. They picked us up in the wagon from the front of our lodge and we went on a short trip off road sort of simulating how the pioneers and gold miners traveled back in the day. We had a driver who guided the horses and another guy in the back with us who told us a little about the area, Alaska in general, and performed for us by playing his guitar and singing. The wagon stopped at a point where we could take some good pictures of a very distance glacier and what was supposed to be a view of Mt. Denali, but the clouds were covering it. It is a well-known statistic in the area that only 30% of visitors get to see Denali.

Mckinley - Horse Drawn Wagon
Mckinley - Horse Drawn Wagon 1
Denali

After that, we went back in the wagon and got to their little camp where we saw and fed reindeer (fun fact: reindeer and caribou are the same but reindeer are domesticated). I fed one of the reindeer a graham cracker which they supposedly love – he/she ate the reindeer out of my hand so quick! You could also hold the cracker in your teeth and have the reindeer take it that way and it’s called “kissing a reindeer”! I chose to feed the reindeer by hand.

Feeding Reindeer

Next, we panned for gold! This was a little difficult and Lee, the driver, helped me out. I’m not good at swooshing the water around to get the larger rocks out. But I did find a few little flakes of gold. Though, they guarantee everyone will find something, I’m sure they plant a few flakes in each pan, but I found gold nonetheless so just appease me and go with it!

Gold Panning - Denali
Gold Panning - Denali 1

Then, we sat around the campfire and roasted marshmallows to make smores. I love campfires. I love the smell of campfires and the sound of the crackling. I’m not a fan of camping, but campfires – yes. While other people try to get away from the smoke and hate the smell, you can find me wafting it towards me and breathing it all in. Not to sound lame, but with the chill in the air, the campfire going, being surrounded by Alaska’s natural beauty, and listening to Leo (our guide on this excursion) play the guitar and sing for us really made me feel at peace.

Roasting Marshmallows - Denali
Mckinley - Horse Drawn Carriage 1

All in all, it was a relaxing and fun experience!

To make this day even better, it was our last night we’d be able to see Mt. Denali which still hadn’t shown its face yet. However, that night at dinner, at Mountain View Restaurant of all places, the peak finally came out from behind the clouds. Destiny! I got up from the dinner table to go out to the restaurant deck multiple times to take pictures of the increasing visibility of this awesome view.

Mt Denali
Mt Denali 1
Mt Denali 2
Mt Denali 3

There she is! The tallest mountain in North America. Guess I made it into the 30%!

I think I mentioned this in a previous post, but in the summer Alaska gets 22 hours of daylight. It’s so disorienting and bizarre but cool at the same time. I don’t think I want to experience their winters with their 20+ hours of darkness. Also the extreme cold temperatures. Anyway, these pictures of the mountain peak were taken between 9:30 and 10:30 PM! Can you believe it’s that bright still? I even had to wear sunglasses because the sunlight was actually pretty blinding.

IMG_7701
Yes, this picture was taken at almost 11pm! 

Tomorrow I’ll be back with a post about the scenic train ride from the McKinley Princess Lodge to the cruise ship. And hopefully I start to feel better, less claustrophobic, and less queasy or else the rest of these blog posts of my time on the cruise are going to be pretty depressing to read!

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