Continuing Day 3... The jet boats then deposited us at an old trapper's cabin. We saw actual reindeer there (apparently brought from Russia years ago) and had a talk about the trappers' life. The reindeer ate out of our hands (or, actually, slobbered out of our hands!) We then panned for gold (the one other overlap with my previous trip). They didn't really explain to us how to do it, and even having done it before, I found it difficult. Luckily, our motorcoach driver, Billy, had done it many times before, and helped us out. My "take" (magnified many times!): This is the gorgeous view around the trapper's cabin. (The tent was the original cabin. The additional cabin was built when the trapper's wife refused to move into the old one!) Autumn colors were really out in the Denali area... We then went to the Murie Science and Learning Center in Denali National Park. As you can see, the fall colors were really out here, too! We had a nice box lunch there (wraps, fruit, snacks, juice (or water for me) cookies, chips, etc). It was like being a kid and swapping lunches as people swapped & shared what had been packed. We then joined a naturalist (I've forgotten all their names! Bad Sayhello!) who took us on a hike through the park, and explained to us how they track the wolf population of the park (the wolves were pretty much killed off as a nuisance, and they are now working to re-populate them in the park). It was very interesting, and the area we walked & hiked through was just GORGEOUS, with all sorts of Fall colors out. That's the Grande Denali Lodge on the hillside, in the center of the picture. We didn't find any wolves, but it was SUCH a fabulous walk! Betzy & Paul had opted out of the hike, and joined Rae in exploring the Visitor's Center and all it had to offer. We were given the rest of the of the afternoon & evening on our own. We had the option to return to the Lodge, stay at the Visitor's Center, hike, or go see the sled dog demonstration in the park, or whatever combination thereof that we wanted. I opted to go see the sled dog demo. We were bused to the demo area. They actually still use sled dogs to monitor and patrol the perimeter of the Park during the winters. It's the easiest way to get around, and the dogs even create paths for the cross-country skiers. The dogs were very friendly (although a bit sleepy!) and came when you called their names (which were listed on their houses). The rangers who worked there told us about the dogs, and hooked them up to a sled to show us how they worked together. It was fun & informative. As I walked back towards the visitor's center afterwards, I suddenly realized I didn't have my camera case (I had the camera, but no case, which also had the spare battery!) I ran back, but the bus (the last bus!) was just pulling away. I went over to the luggage check area that was right there, and asked if they could contact the bus driver. He tried, but couldn't. Turned out he was also the Lost & Found, so he took my information, and said if they found it, I could come get it the next day. I told him we were leaving the area 7am the next morning. He told me to check with the folks at the desk of the Grande Denali Lodge (which was also owned by Aramark, who runs all the concessions & transportation at the Park) and see if, maybe, security could drop the case at the Lodge rather than taking it to Lost & Found. I tried not to feel too bad. It was just the case & the spare battery. I still had the camera. I was mostly doing OK, but was still kind of bummed. So I went to the desk when we got back to the Lodge, and they called over to the bus dispatch folks. They'd already found the case, and taken it to the bus barn! The desk sent someone down to the bus barn and fetched it for me! I was so happy, and so relieved! As Rae commented, there are a LOT of places where I would never have seen that case again, and this place went out of their way to get it for me. I was really grateful & impressed! After that, I took the shuttle down to the shopping area to look for souvenirs and get some dinner (the road up/down to the Lodge is STEEP! *So* not walking it!) It was kind of silly. A couple of days before this trip, I went to the movies with a friend, and saw Sandra Bullock's movie "The Proposal". I'd forgotten, but most of it takes place in Alaska (Sitka)! I kept going to my friend "2 days! In 2 days I'll be there!" Sandra ends up wearing this big, cowled, corny Alaska sweater with Huskies and the word Alaska all over it. For some reason, I found I really wanted one. Of course, I didn't find anything even close. I didn't really find much at all, but came across Matt, Mary, Tom & Patty at the shops at the Chalet Lodge. Patty invited me to join them for dinner at the Salmon Bake restaurant. It was a fun, rustic decor restaurant, and the food was GREAT! Some of the best of the trip. I had a really fabulous salad with all sorts of fresh seafood on it, and a King Crab quesadilla. I also got a Caribou slider from Matt, and it was one of the tastiest burgers I've ever eaten! Patty & Mary had King Crab legs, Matt had ribs and Tom had a seafood burrito. Everyone really seemed to enjoy their food, and the company was great and a lot of fun! Fabulous ice cream was had on the way back to the shuttle, and then we returned to the lodge. Day 4 -- Southern Migration Early wakeup this morning after a VERY full day yesterday! This was our "southern migration" day -- spent mostly heading down from Denali to the Kenai Peninsula. There was mist all over the place, very cool & dramatic looking. [FONT="] [/FONT] Then, as we were driving down, I saw it... Rae saw the look on my face, and turned around and verified that the fabulous, sparkling clear mountain I saw out the window was, indeed, Denali -- Mt. McKinley. It was SPECTACULAR, FABULOUS and GORGEOUS. I snapped a few pictures from the motorcoach, and then we hit a clear spot where Billy pulled the motorcoach to the side of the road. We all got out and had an orgy of picture taking. This spot was just MADE for viewing the Mountain, but it was just a turnout on the highway. I was in ecstasy! I never thought I'd see Denali like this, and there it was, just perfect and crystal clear. The pictures are a bit deceiving, as Denali is 40 miles away, and the other mountains in the foreground are only a few miles. Denali is just SO huge that the perspective is off. [FONT="][/FONT] [FONT="][/FONT] [FONT="][/FONT] But it was GORGEOUS, and WONDERFUL, and totally made my trip. I'm now a member of the 10% Club!!! :-D (Some folks had seen Denali the day before from helicopter rides they'd taken, and thought that was impressive. It was! But this was beyond what they'd already seen.) [FONT="] [/FONT]Once Rae & Jesse finally managed to get us back in the motorcoach, we headed further down the Parks road, to the Alaska Veteran's Memorial. It's a lovely area, with monuments to the different branches of the military that Alaskans have served in. It has a statue of 2 children, viewing & pointing at the fabulous view there of -- Denali!!! We had another picture taking orgy, got some refreshments, and took a look at the Memorial. Spectacular place, spectacular weather, spectacular views (yep, DEFINITELY a pattern here!) From there, we continued on south, very happy, excited and content. When we hit Anchorage, we took the one "divergence" from the Family itinerary. Jesse & Rae decided that, rather than going to the Alaska Wildberry Products, and the Sourdough Mining Company for lunch, that we were going for a more "Adult" lunch. We went to a local Brewpub (The Snow Goose Restaurant at the Sleeping Lady Brewing Co. Pub). They gave us a tour of the Brewery and an in depth idea of how they made their beer different from others'. Then we had a beer tasting of the various types of ales, and a yummy lunch (different fish, chops or chicken that we'd pre-chosen on Day 2). Very tasty! [FONT="] [/FONT]Continued in Part 4: Continuation of Day 4.