Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Land of Oz

It has now been almost a month since we have arrived in Alaska. Time is quickly going by and we are experiencing a plethora of new things.

The land in Alaska is breathtaking. Snow capped mountains everywhere, moose, black bears, caribou, and other critters, as well as the signs of spring surround us as we make our train ride from Anchorage to Fairbanks and back. Excited guests aboard our rail cars are full of anticipation as some are beginning their once in a lifetime vacation. They are happy to hear us tell them about the scenery and most of them are wide eyed looking for any sign of wildlife outside the domed windows. We enjoy talking to our visitors from all over the world - where they are from, telling them our story when asked about it, and sharing their joys that Alaska brings.

We are slowly getting accustomed to the long hours that the rail brings. Most days, we work between 14-16 hours and then we are up the very next morning at 4:30am preparing to work another long day. We look forward to our days off in between runs. Sleep comes easily and our fifty year old bodies have no problems letting us know how out of shape we are. I did break down and purchase an expensive pair of work shoes (most recommended by previous rail guides) and my feet have thanked me by not pounding with pain at the end of the day. Joints, muscles, and our backs seem to creek with each step up and down the spiral staircase in our rail cars. We are grateful for Aleve and hot showers that relieve us temporarily from our aches and pains. Sunday, on one of our days off, we visited the Summer Market in downtown Anchorage and gladly paid for a ten minute massage that was worth way more than what we paid! We both felt like new people afterward.

Memorization of our scripts is a slow process still, but we are associating dialogue with landmarks on each trip we take. We can now name some mountains by sight and are beginning to differentiate the multiple bodies of water we see along the rail. We glean new ways to deliver our tour by spending time with past and present rail guides who have been most helpful in sharing their tips and techniques. We appreciate their willingness to share their knowledge with us because we are extremely "green" and Rennie and I want to do all we can do to make our visitors have a memorable vacation.

The photo in today's post was taken about 46 miles away of Mt. McKinley (also called Denali - the tallest mountain in North America). This grand mountain stands at 20,320 feet and only 30 percent or less of anyone who visits Alaska actually see it in all its grandeur. Most of the time it is partially blocked by cloud coverage because it produces its own weather. It can be bright and sunny on the track, but be cloudy around the mountain, sometimes hiding it completely from sight. We have been told by previous rail guides that last season they only saw the mountain a few times. We have been blessed to see it seven out of eight times so far on our train rides. Sometimes it looks as if it is fake - like a painted background from Universal Studios. It is simply breathtaking each and every time we pass by. Also, in the photo, you can see what looks like big rocks in the water, which in fact it is large blocks of ash and glacier silt covered ice. The ice in the rivers are breaking up, but melting slowly as the warmer days are arriving. The ash is from a volcano, Mt. Redoubt, located south of Anchorage, that erupted in April. We are amazed at how far ash can travel!

Today we're resting, gearing up for the next trip tomorrow. Blessings to all on this Memorial Day weekend!

Until next time...Pamela

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