Finally in Fairbanks

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Man, it takes for-freaking-ever to get to Alaska from State College! It didn't help that the Northwest flight from State College to Detroit was late, causing me to miss all my connections. So I got rerouted onto USAirways and spent 12 hours just getting as far as Seattle. Got to a hotel outside the Seattle airport at 1 a.m. and had to be awake at 4 a.m. in order to catch the first flight out in the morning. That's not enough sleep....

On that Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to Fairbanks (with an intermediate stop in Anchorage), I spent a lot of time talking with a wonderfully friendly flight attendant from Anchorage named Robin. She noticed my cat earrings, asked if I had cats, and returned a few minutes later with pictures of her two Abyssinian cats, Trapper and Keetna. The latter is named for Talkeetna, the Alaska town where she and her husband got the cats. We'll be visiting Talkeetna later in the trip.

Robin told me all about life in Alaska in the winter (the sun rises about 10 a.m. and sets about 2 p.m.!), about the difference between grizzly bears and brown bears (the former live in the interior, the latter along the coast), and how to pronounce some of the places we'll be visiting (Kantishna, the village in Denali National Park, is not "can TEESH nuh," as I've been calling it, but "can TISH nuh"). I had a million questions for her, and she enthusiastically answered every one.

On the second leg of the flight, from Anchorage to Fairbanks, the captain called our attention to a spectacular view of Mount McKinley out the left-hand window. I took a bunch of pictures, and Robin told me that Denali (a term that seems to be used interchangeably with McKinley) is actually made up of a bunch of peaks: the three she told me about were Mount Foraker (pronounced "four acre"), which is about 17,000 feet; Mount Hunter, which is about 14,000; and Mount McKinley, which is the tallest peak on the continent at 20,320. She also said that one of the meanings of "Denali" is "the shy one," which may explain why it's so often hidden by clouds.

The weather for the flight up was just gorgeous—clear and crisp—and I couldn't get over how lucky I was to be able to see Mount McKinley before even setting foot on Alaskan soil. I feel like anything that happens from here will be a bonus. What a great way to start the trip.

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This page contains a single entry by TINA HAY published on August 29, 2007 9:17 PM.

Sandhill cranes—and a Penn State encounter is the next entry in this blog.

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