A Train Trip in Alaska and an Ice Carving Contest… The Wednesday Photo Essay: Part 1

Our train trip from Anchorage to Fairbanks took place on a clear day, allowing us to enjoy the beauty of the passing countryside. Even the reflection was stunning. They had an open window between two of the cars that I leaned out of to catch this photo.

There is great beauty in Alaska. I worked there from 1983 to 1986 as the Executive Director of the Alaska Lung Association. One of my jobs had been to lead 100-mile backpack trips as fundraisers to support the organization’s activities. (Not many executive director do that.) In addition to raising money, the treks provided me with an opportunity to explore some of the state’s more remote corners and vast wilderness areas.

 In March of 2016, Peggy and I returned to ride the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage with our son Tony and his family to attend the world championship ice carving contest in Fairbanks. Tony was flying helicopters for the Coast Guard out of Kodiak at the time. The train trip reminded me of just how beautiful and wild Alaska is. We were fortunate to travel on a clear day that provided great views, including Mt. Denali. In Fairbanks, it was exciting to watch some of the world’s greatest ice carvers at work and see their completed sculptures. Today’s photo essay will reflect the train trip. On Friday, I will show you the ice carving contest.

Of course not all of our time was spent looking out the window enjoying the scenery. Our grandson Cooper made sure of that as he climbed onto Peggy’s back.
And decided to take a snooze on my head. That can give you a neck cramp! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Folks live along the railroad and use it for transportation. They can flag the train down whenever they need to go to town. It’s Alaska!
This stream made me long for my kayak. Note how crystal clear the water is.
The snow enhanced the look of trees along the railroad. Or maybe it was the other way around.
Another example.
I rendered these skinny birch trees in black and white.
Time for another family photo. This is Tony and his boys.
I mentioned that Tony flies helicopters for the Coast Guard. I had to include this photo of him giving his wife, Cammie, a ride in an ice copter. They had a hard time getting off the ground. (Grin)
One thing Alaska has is impressive mountains. Lots of them. And there were dozens of great views on our trip.
Another example.
And another!
The grand-daddy of them all is Mt. Denali, the highest mountain in North America. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
We also saw some impressive canyons along the way. This one had a family of moose making its way through the snow. During heavy snow years, the moose use the railway as a path. Encounters with trains don’t go well, at least for the moose. One of the years I was in Alaska was a particularly bad snow year and a number of moose had been killed. I awoke one morning and discovered that the top headline in the Anchorage Daily News proclaimed “Railroad 50, Moose 1.” Apparently, the train had hit a moose and been derailed.
We thought this canyon was gorgeous with its ice-covered, meandering river making its way around the trees in the top center of the photo.
We flew back to Anchorage after our trip and I snapped this photo of the Alaska Range. I thought it would be an appropriate picture to end today’s blog.

NEXT POST: On Friday I will show you photos of the world championship ice carving contest in Fairbanks. The sculptures were amazing. You won’t want to miss them.

33 thoughts on “A Train Trip in Alaska and an Ice Carving Contest… The Wednesday Photo Essay: Part 1

  1. Some of these photos seem familiar, especially the first one, with reflections on the side of the train, which I particularly love. Have you showed us any of these already? Oh I do love the beauty of Alaska, and I’m filled with memories when I see these shots. It’s appropriate to see all that snow too, since it’s 26 degrees out right now. Brrrr!!

    • Yes Crystal, I have. One of the things I am doing with my Photo Essays is scrolling back through history with my 90,000 photos and picking out favorites. If folks have been hanging out with me for a while, they are bound to recognize some of the photos. I’m approaching a thousand blogs. 🙂 –Curt

  2. Curt, your post is beautiful on so many levels. The story you tell us is enchanting and filled with descriptions of wonderful landscape.
    The pictures are beautiful and fun. I love the ones of Peggy and you with your little grandson. You are all three cute.
    As to the trees against the snow, don’t you think they both enhance each other.

    Those train rides really seem like something else.


    • Thanks, Miriam. it was a magical trip, for sure. And fun to relive. I fell in love with the Alaska wilderness when I lived in the state and the train trip gave me an opportunity its to revisit it. The family was frosting on the cake, so to speak. 🙂 –Curt

  3. Despite the wealth of beauty in your photos, and my general preference for color, I really liked the monochrom of the trees the best of the photos. I think it’s because it’s so Ansel Adams-ish. Sights like that would make the trip worthwhile even without the added pleasures of family and the destination to look forward to.

    • It was definitely a case, Linda, where the journey was equal to the arrival. The train trip was a real treat for me considering my years in Alaska. And it was a rare day given the beautiful weather.
      The birches seem to lend themselves to black and white treatment. –Curt

  4. Somehow it doesn’t look all that cold. Has anyone noticed too that at least in the northern part of Europe the winters are not what they used to be? Helsinki, in Finland barely had below zero this winter.
    When I was there in 1965, we had below -35C for a number of days.
    You were there in March, so, perhaps spring had started.
    Each time I see snow and ice I feel like visiting a cold and snowy region again. Of course I can open the deep-freeze of my fridge and look at that, but it is not the same.
    Great photos, Curt and fine story.

    • It really varies here, Gerard. North Dakota and Minnesota still get ‘polar expresses the drop the temperature to the minus 50 level. When I was in Alaska I slept outside on ski treks where it got down to a minus 30. But you are right about Fairbanks. I’ve been there in minus 50 degree weather and the temperature at the ice carving contest was barely below freezing.And thanks! –Curt

  5. Oh my, Curt, the scenery is breathtaking and it looks so pure and I’m sure I could sense the crisp of winter from the photos! Thank you so much for sharing and what an amazing trip for all the family! I can’t wait to see the ice carving sculptures … I take the helicopter was one! It looks great! A perfect finale photo … heavenly!

    • I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Alaska over the years, Annika. And I have always enjoyed the beauty. But that train trip was special.
      The helicopter was at the park where the contest took place but not part of the contest. They had several other fun sculptures there as well, including ice slides you could slide down. Fast! –Curt

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