21 June 2009

Alaska Railroad

Today's four hour ride was absolutely worth the price of the entire trip for me. From early memory, with National Geographic article photos and those from my grandmother's scenic America picture books etched in my mind, one of the images I have most romanticized, probably beyond reason actually, over the years is the long train snaking its way along a river through a mountain pass. Photographs aside, I've only gazed on that sight in person a few times -- trains along the Hudson (NY) and Columbia (OR) Rivers, specifically. In both cases, in person and in photographs, every time I have experienced a severe longing and have found myself wishing I were not always, it seemed, the one doing the watching. I probably need to analyze that persistent arrangement of thought, but not today.

Today I sat in a dome car with Tal and new friends from Alaska, Massachusetts and Maryland, travelling from Fairbanks to the depot at the entrance to Denali National Park and Preserve. I thrilled at crossing narrow brides, at the sight of the rail cars ahead and behind us on long curves, at mournful whistle and slow pace. And, as we began the long grade between the Healy coalfields and the park, I felt an unexpected satisfaction. Those people in overlook parking areas on the other side of the Nenana River stood taking in the scenery and watching our slow, deliberate, sinuous progress.

I liked, after all these years, being watched. I liked, after all those years, being on that train.

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