Wow, when I started writing this, I had no idea it would go into four parts. Needless to say, five wasn't even a glimmer. Oh well, moving forward, it is now February 1st and the next step of the journey is about to begin. The evening before I caught up with a friend who was also now in town after enjoying several days on her own in a wild adventure.
After checking out of our respective hotels, we made our way to the Alaska Railroad for our 12 hour train ride to Fairbanks where we would spend the next several days before the trip home. It was here that another strange event took place.
Over the previous months, each of us had planned several things individually but one thing that we would do together was this train ride. It only runs north on Saturdays during the winter so we each booked our ticket. What we didn't expect upon our arrival was that tickets were by assigned seating. As she had likely booked her ticket weeks before I booked my own, we visited the ticket area to request seating together. Upon retrieving our individual tickets, it turned out that by pure coincidence, we did in fact already have seats together. Very strange but a great result.
As the train left the station, we were informed by the on board tour guide that we would undoubtedly see animals along the journey and they would often be pointed out as we traveled. There was also an added perk that between the cars on either side of the train, there was a door which opened both at the top and bottom. With this, it was possible to have access to fresh air and by extension, the ability to photograph the scenery outdoors without any window obstructions. Naturally this was a feature I took full advantage of. As the trip went on, you got to know the familiar faces of those with cameras, and also who simply wanted to experience it.
Although I don't have many shots of the sun posted, this shot was taken shortly after 11:00 a.m. The sun doesn't rise too much higher than it is here. In January/February, you have to appreciate that what you are visiting is a place of a long sunrise followed by a long sunset. There is no "high noon" and long shadows are what you should expect which suits me just fine. The sky is much more beautiful during sunrise and sunset.
The Alaska Railroad provides another service that is fairly rare in 2014. Flag Stops are unscheduled stops between stations, typically used for people who have built a cabin in the middle of nowhere and survive in relative seclusion. Our ride made two stops for such folks and there were times where we did see footprints in the snow either coming to the tracks or leading away. It takes a special kind of person to live this sort of life - well beyond me.
Beautiful views are everywhere. Even shot out the window of the train, there's plenty of opportunities for to cover your walls.
As the train ride drew to a close, it had been dark for well over an hour. We did see some moose in the distance on a few occasions but aside from them, it was mountains, trees, snow and vast expanse of emptiness, largely untouched by man. I highly recommend the train to anyone.
I will make a note of one thing however after having said that. Upon stepping off the train and waiting inside for luggage to be brought in, I was nearly overcome by the feeling of dizziness. I don't know if it was the 12 hours of being on a moving train that did it or having so much time sitting down in a chair. It didn't really pass until I was in bed though so if I were to do it again, maybe something for motion sickness would be a good plan.
My final installment will include shots from my trip to the Arctic Circle and some more time-lapse movies of the Northern Lights which I'm thrilled to say I did see. Until then...