I regularly count myself fortunate to experience so much of the 49th state, all in the name of family travel. Somebody's gotta do it. Every trip is an adventure, every person we meet considered one more character in the realm of Alaskana. We dig it, all of it, and most of the time I keep my work writing separate from my personal musings just so I can keep it all straight and not confuse anyone. This time, however, I just can't keep my mouth shut or my fingers still.
Bear has been working hard on his Nordic (xc) skiing this year, and although he would rather die than admit he likes it as much or better than the faster-paced alpine style, had advanced to the point where Yukon and I agreed he could handle a day-long trip aboard the Alaska Railroad for the annual Ski Train. Sponsored by the Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage, the Ski Train is a tradition dating back to 1972 and is an epic day of choo-chooing, skiing, and all-out eating or partying, depending upon one's age and or inclination.
We boarded the train in Anchorage at 6 a.m. Saturday morning, and traveled four hours to Curry, 22 miles north of Talkeetna, where the train stopped, spit out 730 skiers and snowshoers, then sat in the warm Alaskan sunshine until 4 p.m., when it again collected us for the ride home. It was, my friends, a blast. No roads, no technology, nothing but our own power to propel us around the historic town site and birch forests along the Susitna river.
Bear did a great job of navigating the non-groomed trails and crusty spring snow, enjoying the atta-boys from grownups as he sidestepped, climbed, and schussed a number of tricky hills.
His favorite part, however, was his unfettered access to the train, which sat, engines off, all day, allowing him to go on, off, on, and off the train for at least an hour. He was (gasp) even allowe
d to touch the shiny springs and wheels of our car and talked in person to the engineer who sat, puffing on a cigar (of course) in his high-up post, surveying the territory around him.
We dined on smoked salmon, crackers, cheddar cheese, and beer for happy hour, then moved on to a gourmet dinner of barbeque and salad for the ride home. Denali, the Great One, stood watch over our train as we lumbered home, and at least ten moose were equally silent sentries to our forested haven for a day.
I feel as if we were gone an entire weekend instead of only one day. Epic, I tell you.