Alaska Interlude: Sunset on a Train

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It was late afternoon on Friday, August 21, and our time in Seward had come to an end. After our visit to the Alaska SeaLife Center, we returned to Hotel Seward, from which we were ferried via van to the train depot just north of the Small Boat Harbor. We checked in, and waited until boarding began at 5pm for our 6pm evening train back to Anchorage.

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We strolled along the harbor one last time while we waited, stopping to watch fishermen cleaning their catch.

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Seward Depot

Soon, though, we had boarded. Again we were in Goldstar class, and this time we were in the front passenger car.

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As fans of Doctor Who, we were amused by this sign as the train pulled out of Seward.

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This Friday evening train was a bit more crowded than our Wednesday morning train had been. Nearly every seat was taken, and we were somewhat surrounded by a large, excited extended family on the vacation of their lives.

The great thing, though, about traveling on the Alaska Railroad is that everyone is so distracted by how gorgeous the views are that there is little room for boredom or crankiness.

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C. Otter, a new friend from the Alaska SeaLife Center gift shop, representing Kenai Fjords National Park.

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Kenai Lake

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We had the same conductor as we’d had on the way to Seward. And our bartender was a tiny, fun, older woman liked to laugh and chat as she mixed drinks. All the staff we encountered on the railroad seemed to be having as much fun as the passengers. And often they would pause to take in a particularly inspiring vista.

Our dining companions were Roger and Michelle, a couple heading to Anchorage at the end of their Alaska cruise. Like us, they had been out on the water in Seward the day before and marveled at how spectacularly gorgeous the weather had been. They were now beginning their journey home to Hawaii.

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It was no longer raining, and the sky would steadily become clearer, but in the southern reaches of the journey, the clouds made everything seem moody.

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What is this glowing, pulsing red light? It is a mystery fit for Eva Marie Saint or Jessica Fletcher.

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Image: Sean M. Santos

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Image: Sean M. Santos

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Image: Sean M. Santos

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Image: Sean M. Santos

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Image: Sean M. Santos

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North American Beaver, Image: Sean M. Santos

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Image: Sean M. Santos

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Near Portage, we passed through marshy areas that were created by the upheavals of the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake, including ghost trees that had drowned in seawater after the area had been inundated from the Turnagain Arm.

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We reached the shores of the Turnagain Arm and Cook Inlet beyond. Anchorage was not too much further now, and the final portion of the trip would treat us to one spectacular setting sun vista after another as the train wound its way between the Chugach Mountains and the inlet toward Alaska’s largest city. Southbound traffic on the Seward Highway was relatively heavy as Anchoragites headed toward Seward for what promised to be a gorgeous weekend on the coast.

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About twenty minutes after ten we had arrived in Anchorage and disembarked. We were sad to see the railroad portion of our trip come to an end, but there was so much more to come. It was only the end of day four of our twenty-one day trip.

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We hailed a taxi and were whisked to the Best Western Golden Lion Hotel for our second overnight in Anchorage. But it was not yet time to really engage in the city. Tomorrow we’d be on the move again, to Denali National Park.

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