Sunday, July 14, 2013

The 30% - Summer Edition

Day 2 started REALLY early in Fairbanks. At least, really early for holidays. We had to put our bags out for pick-up at 6am and be ready to roll at 7:30am. 

Found today's shirt at the Denali National Park Gift Shop.

(Less true when one is on a strict schedule but a lovely sentiment, very typically reflective of the environment)

The bus took us to our train (the tour guide, Kate, delineated the difference between caribou and reindeer - "Reindeer can be domesticated. Caribou can't. Reindeer can fly. Caribou can't") which brought us to Denali National Park. I always appreciate good merchandising and the US National Parks Gift Shops have some of the most engaging marketing incentives around. There's a National Park Passport and a collectible tokens booklet. And Denali has two DIFFERENT stamps for the passport at its two centres. Colour me a happy tourist.

From the Visitor Centre, Jeff and I boarded this bus:

NOT this bus:

... which took us on a four and a half hour tour of the park, through the "front woods" into, you guessed it, the "back woods" with Tour Guide Steve who may be my ultimate trivia god. (The green bus which we did NOT board would've taken us on an EIGHT HOUR TOUR and after sitting on a train for three hours already, that wouldn't have been happy-making at all)

Our tour was INCREDIBLY informative. Steve covered topics ranging from Alaskan's Native Peoples to climate change to local herbology (I can now identify three plants that can kill or, at least, incapacitate a person. And one that can make you itch and turn you photosensitive for MONTHS). I used the good camera to capture the wildlife we encountered - a few singleton caribou and some ground squirrels - but managed to grab the iPhone for a couple of what the Denali Visitor Centre refers to as "Alaskan Fast Food"

Speaking of dinner, for the second night in a row, our hotel's restaurant is booked and closed to the public (in Fairbanks, it was a wedding) so we're foraging in Denali Village, a one street business strip Jeff likened to Chase or Blind Bau.

After some consideration, dinner tonight is NOT here:
 (but I had to take a picture)

Nor is it here:

(reportedly the most expensive Subway we will ever find)

Tonight's dinner greeter is this awesome chair:

at Prospectors Pizzeria (recommended by our guide) where I ordered spag and elk meatballs and Jeff ordered a pulled pork Hawaiian-esque pizza called the Maui Wowie (also recommended). Ordering a Hawaiian pizza in Alaska while "Hotel California" is playing (seriously) made for a really odd snapshot moment. Prospectors doesn't serve mozzarella "sticks". They serve mozzarella "bricks" 

They also serve the most expensive pizza I've ever seen on a menu.

(I've heard of the Steveston Pizza specialty pizzas but have yet to physically see it on a menu and besides, those are custom orders where this is orderable at any time)

Regarding the titular 30%, we weren't lucky enough to see Mt. McKinley today but hope that tomorrow's trek to Talkeetna will be rewarded with that 1 in 3 viewing.