Today we took a ride through the wilderness on the Hurricane Turn, a 5+ hour trip on one of the last flag stop trains in America. The Alaska Rail Road train carried about 30 round-trip tourists and maybe 15-20 folks who were dropped off or picked up in the wilderness north of Talkeetna.
The train, which runs Thursday through Sunday in the summer and one day a month over the winter, is the only way of traveling into this wilderness area. There are no roads. I guess you could get in by boat or helicopter, as well. The scenery was great as we followed the Susitna River and surrounding wetlands.
We saw the Skokum Glacier.
The conductor (left) looks out from the baggage car with a river rafter to determine the best place for the rafting group to get off. Notice the gun on the rafter in the second photo. In a wilderness filled with bears, a pistol or rifle are very useful. The rafting group will float back down to Talkeetna.
I talked to the woman you see in the photo. She was returning from a vacation in Illinois to the bush cabin she shares with her husband. They have lived up in this wilderness for at least 17 years and came to Alaska in 1981. Notice, her husband lost his left arm. They must be very tough and very brave. They survive off the land with a garden and greenhouse. The moose they hunt provide their meat. Somethings they have to buy, like flour and sugar. But she told me a friend had found a plant they could use to make sugar. Soon, they may not have to go to town--by train-- to buy that.
Lots of people bring all sorts of baggage and equipment on the train. Here you can see three bikes, as well as other luggage and supplies.
We couldn't believe how much stuff the three guys with the bikes unloaded. They don't travel light! We wondered where they would ride the bikes in the wilderness.
This fellow, who is visiting Alaska from Singapore, got off at a lovely little stream--to camp for two weeks! The conductor recommended the spot, saying it was his favorite place to camp in this area. We saw the visitor and his tent when we passed by again on our way back to Talkeetna.
These folks were traveling much lighter. They and their dog were dropped off near a cabin.
One group of people got off with all sorts of equipment, including heavy chains and long metal beams. Apparently they have a fish wheel in the river, but aren't catching enough fish so they are going to put nets out to catch more. The chains are to hold down the nets. I'm not sure if this is their fish wheel or another on the river.
We saw this helicopter on a gravel bar in the river. Soon it took off and flew south. We have no idea what is was doing.
We saw this pair of trumpeter swans, as well as their young. We also spotted a cow moose and her twin calves. They were far across the river, so the photos aren't very good.
This bridge across the Hurricane Gorge marks where the train turns and returns to Talkeetna. The bridge is 296 feet above the river. The train has engines at both ends and the engineer moves from one end to the other at this point.
Nearby is Hurricane, a stop on the railroad and a place where railroad work crew members can park their RVs. The conductor says their contract requires that any place crews are stationed include hookups for RVs.
This is the Sherman City Hall, the smallest town in Alaska according to our conductor. Actually, it is the cabin where someone lives. Eight years ago when we rode this train, the woman at this house flagged down the train and gave the conductor a box of warm, freshly baked cookies to share with everyone on the train.