On the McKinley Explorer Rail Train every seat was a good seat. Designed for sightseeing, the upper deck’s glass windows curved overhead providing nearly 360 degrees of viewing pleasure.
For fresh air, we tried the open-air platform. It also offered a different perspective of the view.
We took many photos as the train clicked along, but twice the engineer stopped for the best photo opportunity. The mountains were out. The train staff told us we were treated to some of the best views available. One worker who had worked this tour route for several years told us, “I’ve never seen them this clearly before.”
At our second photo-op of the mountains the clouds rolled in. Apparently Mt. Denali (alias Mt. McKinley) makes its own weather. Nice of it to give us a show before it closed the curtains.Beauty surrounded us. Our train criss-crossed the river numerous times or trekked along beside it. I couldn’t help but think of what it took to construct the tracks.
The train slowed for a look at Sherman City Hall. Homesteaders, Clyde and Mary Lovel depended on the train for everything—mail, groceries, building supplies, machinery, a ride to town, and most importantly access to emergency health care in this roadless wilderness.
Clyde waved to our train from his doorway. His health problems a few years ago forced the couple to move away for a time, but they missed their beloved homestead and moved back.
Mary T. Lovel wrote two books about their struggles and triumphs: Journey to a Dream and Suddenly Spring. Their homestead stories and that of their four children are all told from Mary’s perspective. I purchased my copies on the train. You’ll have to buy yours to read the story of how Sherman City Hall got its name.
A full course lunch is offered in the dining car. However, you can choose à la carte. If you’re familiar with train travel you already know you may share your table with strangers. So expect it. Make an effort to be social—you might even make a new friend.
Travel Light Humor
Russians were the first Europeans to see these subarctic trees between the arctic tundra and the more temperate forests. They called these woods: Taiga from a Russian word roughly translated, untraversable forest.
Our guide pointed out a few trees tilted crazily in different directions. “Those trees are part of the Drunken Forest. It’s not alcohol causing their drunken behavior. Although the ground may look solid, it’s not. The trees of the Taiga have very shallow roots. When the permafrost layers in the soil thaw, the ground sags and the nearby trees lean toward the depressions.”
So, maybe they should be called Tipsy Timber.
Until next time…Travel Light,
©2016 SuZan Klassen