How fortunate we are to take the last remaining flag-stop train in North America. The Alaska Railroad for many people, is their only mode of transportation to their wilderness homes. For Bob and I, it is a golden opportunity to talk to locals who use this train on a regular basis. No party boat tourists here!
Most passengers are off for a long holiday weekend of fishing. Their gear is mostly ready in the baggage cars. Their dogs and fishing poles are usually with them.
This trip is out to Hurricane Gulch, about 80 - 90 miles north of Talkeetna and follows the Talkeetna River. Really nice scenery along the way including wild life, none of which stayed around to pose for our camera.
Every so often the train stops to allow passengers to disembark. Bob spoke to one gentleman who gets off and then hikes 5 miles to his house. These Alaskans are tough!
This train uses 2 passenger cars and 1 baggage car. All the passengers can easily fill 1 car, and by our return trip, the train is almost empty. Everyone has gone off for their adventures.
Now on the bridge over Hurricane Gulch, our train stops for 10 - 15 minutes to allow time for everyone (and their dog) to take numerous pictures.
One of the highlights of this trip, totally unexpected, was meeting Shannon Cartwright, artist, illustrator of 23 books, and author and illustrator of her most recent 3 books.
Shown here with one of her dogs, Coda, she took her 4 wheeler down to the train to sell and autograph books for us. I purchased her autobiography.
Now for the interesting part. With a degree in fine art from the University of Michigan (if I recall correctly), after graduation she went to Ann Arbor for a "good job" and was assigned the task of designing boxes for screws.
Instantly realizing this was not her calling as an artist, she moved west with the boyfriend whom she married and eventually arrived in Alaska, where her grandmother had lived for many years.
Her husband decided to go into law, she decided she had enough of city life and wanted to live in the wilderness to devote all her time to her art. She eventually married another artist and wilderness expert.
For the past 30 years she and her husband have lived in a dry cabin 25 miles from the nearest road and has used the railroad for transportation when absolutely necessary. She has become one of my heroes. Someone who really knew what she wants and set out to achieve her goals under the most extreme conditions. I doubt if I'd last 20 minutes. Can you imagine being a successful artist in a remote cabin out in the middle of nowhere without electricity and running water in -40 f degree weather half the year? By the way, I really like her art!
Our round trip lasted about 6 hours and was a real joy. This is one of the experiences in Alaska Bob and I really cherish - the ability to see how real Alaskans live!
For further information: Shannon Cartwright
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