TALKEETNA, Alaska -This is a train trip that can hardly rival the Siberian Railway, the Orient Express or any of the world’s other great rail journeys. After all, this is a trip that’s only 54.7 miles long.
But incredible scenery is the attraction on the Alaska Railroad’s local flag stop service that will carry people, luggage, camping supplies, building materials and most anything else you can haul aboard through some of this nation’s most isolated, rugged and beautiful land.
Alaska’s flag stop service is the only one in the country. Tell the engineer where you want to get off, and he’ll stop there – anywhere. Flag him down with a white cloth and he’ll pick you up on the return trip. It’s more like an intracity bus than a train.
But for people living in this area of Alaska, where there are no roads, no trails, no flat spots big enough to land a plane, it’s the only way in or out.
Tourists are welcome, but the flag stop service is mostly for locals and visitors who want to get completely away from it all for a few days. Ask conductor Gary Knutson if there will be any narration along the way, and he says, ”Once in a while someone will yell, ‘Bear!’ but that’s about it.”
The route starts in Talkeetna, a funky town of about 600 people (think Bisbee hauled about 2,900 miles north) that is the jumping-off spot for climbers determined to scale Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America. The train turns around less than 60 miles north at Hurricane, nothing more than a train maintenance building.
The flag stop train is a one-car, self-contained, selfpropelled unit – a combination locomotive, passenger and baggage car in one.
Three-quarters of the trip parallels the broad Susitna River, which provides unlimited opportunities for hiking, camping and fishing.
Many of the visitors that ride the flag stop, hauling aboard enough stuff to equip a good-size sporting goods store, don’t really know where they want to go. ”They’ll ask us to drop them off at a good spot for fishing or whatever, and we usually have some suggestions,” said Knutson.
High school ROTC students disembark to live off the land.
On this trip, a squadron of Junior ROTC cadets from a high school in Hawaii were aboard with their leader, heading for a five-day wilderness experience. The leader had some idea where he wanted to go, and engineer Pete Hackenberger accommodated their request, stopping the train in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere as the cadets unloaded their gear and hiked into the thick forest growing right up to the tracks.
Hunter and guide Gary Prichard watches Alaska slip by the window as his dog Ginger enjoys the dry ride. Dropped off in the middle of nowhere, two Alaskan schoolkids (below) prepare to float 40 miles down the Susenta River to Talkeetna.
Despite ominous signs warning of federal laws forbidding passengers from entering the engineer’s compartment, operation of the flag stop train is pretty casual. Hackenberger usually runs the train in a ”uniform” of T-shirt and shorts during the summer, frequently bringing his dog, Bear, with him for company.
Hackenberger and Knutson know everyone who lives along the Talkeetna-Hurricane route. Several people who have built cabins far from any sign of civilization have used the train and another larger freight that plies the same tracks to haul in their homes, piece by piece.
Engineer Pete Hackenberger says the Talkeetna-to-Hurricane run is the best job on Alaska’s rails.
At one point along this run, Hackenberger slowed the train and sounded the whistle. A man emerged from the underbrush and Hackenberger waved and tossed him a pack of cigarettes as he went by, fulfilling a request from the day before.
”People are really nice along here,” Knutson said. ”You really get to know them. One guy flagged us down and gave us a covered skillet. It was filled with blueberry pie. So we ate the pie and dropped off the skillet on the next trip.”
On the way back to Talkeetna, three fishermen with their dog flagged down the train for a lift back to town. Hackenberger and Knutson climbed down to help them lift their equipment into the train.
‘No fish and you still have beer?” Hackenberger asked as he lifted a heavy cooler. ”You didn’t read the manual. We might not let you on.”
It is not unusual to see eagles, bear and other wildlife. On this trip, a large moose and her two calves bounded away from the tracks as the train approached. If the weather is good, there are spectacular views of Mount McKinley from the train.
”There certainly are worse jobs,” said Hackenberger. ”I think this is some of the most specular scenery anywhere.”
by MARK KIMBLE
MORE ALASKA PHOTOS … SOUTHWESTPHOTOBANK ALASKA GALLERY
TALKEETNA, ALASKA TO HURRICANE GULCH
THE BEST WAY TO SEE ALASKA – IS BY ALASKA RAILROAD…
Flag Stop Service Schedule: During the summer, the train runs Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Runs are far less frequent during the winter. The train leaves Talkeetna about noon and returns about 6 p.m.
Fares: The Talkeetna-Hurricane 55 mile route is $100 for adults roundtrip More info: 1 (800) 544-0552 or 907-277-4321 for trip planning expert
Much has been said about the upcoming end of the World on December 21st! During the election driving through north central Arizona I heard a Christian talk show blame it om Obama, since then Conservative are convinced a black president is truly the end of us all. FEAR…seems to be the message coming from a broad segment of the population, 24 hour cable news keep the most pressing world events center-stage. Right vs Left battles over your health care. Christian folks stabbing people after provoking them in the first place, all in the name of saving newborn. Mass shootings are on a record track and we have just experienced one of the worst in our country’s history, twenty innocent children gunned down. In a sense we find our World tilting out of alignment. In my view it is less a gun control problem than one Ronald Regan began when he mainstreamed the mentally ill, reducing services and forcing a new homeless revolution, mainly by people who can not exist within the framework of society as we know it. This is no small number and because the government and state’s have no funding to provide services for the mentally ill and homeless a terrible stigma has grown up around both the person who lives on the street and those Americans battling their inner demons.
Universal health care is the beginning! In the decades to come it will make a difference. Still we are bedeviled by Global Warming and in some places steps are being taken to battle our changing world. New York and New Jersey is trying to rebuild in a way that protects the regions worst hit by Hurricane Sandy, the Gulf of Mexico has received some expensive first aid from the BP Oil Spill and the gulf is mending slowly and is being watched, studied closely.
Banks, lobbyists have run rampant, like the money changers in the Temples, they have corrupted everything they touched. Mostly law makers and their staffs, their money has bought influence at the expense of the public welfare and still they battle for de-regulation–it is one constant attack on all fronts, whittling down laws and clawing regs in place to protect the health and best interests of all Americans. Collective bargaining is a thing of the past.
WHY THE WORLD WILL NOT END IN DECEMBER 2012
Join us in person at SETI Institute in Mountain View. David Morrison, Ed Krupp and Andrew Fraknoi will discuss the topic of the end of the Mayan Calendar in 2012 and how this has been treated by the media. The negative effect on the public of this millennial memo will also be explored, Speakers: David Morrison, NASA Ames Research Center. Ed Krupp, Griffith Observatory, Southern California. Andrew Fraknoi, Foothill College.
The SETI Institute is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to “explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe”. SETI stands for the “search for extraterrestrial intelligence”. One program is the use of both radio and optical telescopes to search for deliberate signals from extraterrestrial intelligence. Other research, pursued within the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe, includes the discovery of extrasolar planets, potentials for life on Mars and other bodies within the Solar System, and the habitability of the galaxy. Photo taken near Socorro, New Mexico.
So why in this time of all these horrible pressures on our way of life do we possibly believe America and the rest of the World, Europe, Africa, the Middle East can pull out of this deadly spiral, pull up and level off. For beginners, the Mayan calendar says so it goes on and besides what is reported, it continues. Secondly, there is now a level of optimism across our country that conveys a hopefulness, in spite of all the Republicans, acting as if the world in going to end. Mitts dog will get more road trips, besides, the price of gas has been dropping ever since they started investigating why it was so high. It wouldn’t be fair if the world can to an end now. NORAD, the folks that track space junk, satellites, incoming asteroids, comets, Death stars, like in Independence Day they already had a picture. NORAD says there is nothing on the horizon that would bring an end our world! So with the world tilting off its axis and when many believe it is spinning out of control and when some believe it is all over. I’m here to say — wait a minute. Yes, this World has lost some of its beauty, it is an ugly world and many people I know say the future will not be nearly as prosperous and promising for their children, as their generation enjoyed. Maybe or maybe not, my view that has always depended upon the individual and what they were willing to work for.
So besides all the hopeful reasons I have already conveyed to you, I have two words more for you White Buffaloes!
ARIZONA’S BEARIZONA HAS WHITE BUFFALO
News of the calf spread quickly through the Native American community because its birth fulfilled a 2,000 year old prophecy of northern Plains Indians. Joseph Chasing Horse, traditional leader of the Lakota nation, explains that 2,000 years ago a young woman who first appeared in the shape of a white buffalo gave the Lakota’s ancestors a sacred pipe and sacred ceremonies and made them guardians of the Black Hills. Before leaving, WHITE BUFFALO WOMEN prophesied that one day she would return to purify the world, bringing back spiritual balance and harmony; the birth of a white buffalo calf would be a sign that her return was at hand.
“The White Buffalo is a blessing from the Great Spirit. “It’s a sign”. These white buffaloes are showing us that everything is going to be okay.”
The White Buffalo Woman showed the people the right way to pray, the right words and the right gestures. She taught them how to sing the pipe-filling song and how to lift the pipe up to the sky, toward Grandfather, and down toward Grandmother Earth, to Uncie, and then to the four directions of the universe. “With this holy pipe,” she said, “you will walk like a living prayer. With your feet resting upon the earth and the pipestem reaching into the sky, your body forms a living bridge between the Sacred Beneath and the Sacred Above. Wakan Tanka smiles upon us, because now we are as one: earth, sky, all living things, the two-legged, the four-legged, the winged ones, the trees, the grasses. Together with the people, they are all related, one family. The pipe holds them all together.”
“Look at this bowl,” said the White Buffalo Woman. “Its stone represents the buffalo, but also the flesh and blood of the red man. The buffalo represents the universe and the four directions, because he stands on four legs, for the four ages of man. The buffalo was put in the west by Wakan Tanka at the making of the world, to hold back the waters. Every year he loses one hair, and in every one of the four ages he loses a leg. The Sacred Hoop will end when all the hair and legs of the great buffalo are gone, and the water comes back to cover the Earth.
The wooden stem of this chanunpa stands for all that grows on the earth. Twelve feathers hanging from where the stem the backbone joins the bowl the skull are from Wanblee Galeshka, the spotted eagle, the very sacred who is the Great Spirit’s messenger and the wisest of all cry out to Tunkashila . Look at the bowl: engraved in it are seven circles of various sizes. They stand for the seven ceremonies you will practice with this pipe, and for the Ocheti Shakowin , the seven sacred campfires of our Lakota nation.”
The White Buffalo Woman then spoke to the women, telling them that it was the work of their hands and the fruit of their bodies which kept the people alive. “You are from the mother earth,” she told them. “What you are doing is as great as what warriors do.” And therefore the sacred pipe is also something that binds men and women together in a circle of love. It is the one holy object in the making of which both men and women have a hand. The men carve the bowl and make the stem; the women decorate it with bands of colored porcupine quills. When a man takes a wife, they both hold the pipe at the same time and red cloth is wound around their hands, thus tying them together for life.
And when she promised to return again, she made some prophesies at that time ….One of those prophesies was that the birth of a white buffalo calf would be a sign that it would be near the time when she would return again to purify the world. What she meant by that was that she would bring back harmony again and balance, spiritually.
The woman gave the people a sacred pipe, taught them how to use it to pray and told the Sioux about the value of the buffalo. Before she left them, the woman said she would return, the legend says.
As she walked away she turned into a young white buffalo.
The return of White Buffalo Calf Woman marks the arrival of a new era of reconciliation among races and respect for the Earth. (excerpts borrowed from an article in the Chicago Tribune by Richard Wronski)
SEE BIRTH OF WHITE BUFFALO http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LteJdKp54yg
BIRTH OF WHITE BUFFALO FULFILLS TRIBAL PROPHESY…CLICK HERE
“It’s more of a blessing from the Great Spirit.” “It’s a sign. This white buffalo is showing us that everything is going to be okay.”
WHITE BUFFALO WOMEN
SACRED NINE COMMANDMENTS FROM THE CREATOR TO NATIVE PEOPLE AT THE TIME OF CREATION
1. Take care of Mother Earth and the other colors of man.
2. Respect this Mother Earth and creation.
3. Honor all life, and support that honor.
4. Be grateful from the heart for all life. It is through life that there is survival. Thank the Creator at all times for all life.
5. Love, and express that love.
6. Be humble. Humility is the gift of wisdom and understanding.
7. Be kind with one’s self and with others.
8. Share feelings and personal concerns and commitments.
9. Be honest with one’s self and with others. Be responsible for these sacred instructions and share them with other nations.
NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR CIVIL DISCOURSE…CLICK HERE
SAINT KATERI TEKAKWITHA
WORDS TO LIVE BY …. IT’S A NEW YEAR ! WHY NOT A NEW WORLD !
WHITE BUFFALO WOMEN HAS SHOWN THE WORLD HOW TO LOAD THE PIPE THAT BRINGS HARMONY TO THE WORLD. AFTER WASHINGTON AND COLORADO PASSED NEW MARIJUANA LAWS RELAXING THE STIGMA OF POSSESSION AND SMOKING THE WEED THERE IS LITTLE DOUBT IN MY MIND WHAT THEY WILL BURNING IN THAT PIPE.
This summer the Vatican ordained its first Native American Saint, Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, was canonized on 10/21/2012 by Pope Benedict XVI, two months to the day before the World Ends. In his remarks the Pope said he hoped the love of Saint Tekakwitha would bring together all Native Americans and all people. He “hoped she would be the great unifier”
SEE PHOTO GALLERY ON CELEBRATION OF SAINT KATERI TEKAKWITHA AT SAN XAVIER CLICK HERE….
SEE THIS END OF THE WORLD BLOG ON PROTECTING YOUR FAMILY FROM ZOMBIES….CLICK HERE
WHY THE WORLD DIDN’T END from the National Geographic Society who studies and reports on Maya traditions…
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