Sunday, November 15, 2015

Curry, my first Alaska Ghost Town

We were still riding the Hurricane Train.  Still no bears, but some pretty gorgeous scenery presented itself.  We didn't see any more wildlife, but I am certain that as soon as the loud, clattering train passed, some moose or bear (with an adorable nub of a tail that I would have loved to photograph) breathed a sigh of relief and went back to enjoying the tranquility of this mostly human free zone.
They probably waded though this pool as soon as we were gone.

The turnaround point for the train (and by turnaround I mean reverse) was Hurricane Gulch.  Hurricane Gulch was one of the most challenging sections of the Alaska Railroad.  The Gulch spans a distand of 900 feet.  The dept?  300 feet.

Definitely wouldn't want to fall.  Although one poor guy tried to commit suicide here a few years back.  He jumped, fell 300 feet, and lived long enough for rescuers to reach him, load him in an ambulance, and almost get to the hospital.

Shadow of the train on top of the bridge on the moutainside.  The bridge is an arch -- the whole project was completed back in 1921 in the unbelievable time frame of 60 days, start to finish.

At are rare stop, we got some photos for Shibby's Alaska scrapbook.

Pretty little river, pity we didn't stop for a bit longer.

I think Fireweed is going to mean Alaska summer to me from now on.  Since this is my first summer in Alaska, I didn't realize how short a season it would be for this plant.  It comes with the warmth of summer, and in the long Alaska days, it feels like summer is going to last forever.  But it doesn't.  It's just a few weeks later that you start to spot yellow leaves, and then the fireweed dies, and winter comes.  But I didn't know that when I took another picture of Alaska framed by my favorite purple weed.

I did find a few other tiny wildflowers.

But soon we were on our way back to Talkeetna.  I was determined to catch a picture of Curry on the way back.  We passed it so quickly on the way out that I missed it.  And it wasn't until they started talking about the history along the train line that I learned what Curry was.

Zooming very quickly past the Curry trainstop.  Population of Curry now...0 it seems.

There it is! Curry Alaska.  This story was probably the most interesting one for me on the train.  I was dismayed when I tried to find it on Wikipedia and found no mention of it, so I had to do my own research and make my first Wiki entry and make sure the story got its rightful place in the archives of the internet.

The old townsite of Curry is now an uninhabited stop along the Alaska Railroad, about 22 miles north of Talkeetna. In 1922, this remote train station in the Alaska wilderness became a briefly popular luxury resort destination. Located halfway between Seward and Fairbanks and alongside the Sustina River, Curry was billed "a wilderness palace' when the Railroad opened the first hotel in 1923. Curry was the perfect overnight stop for rail passengers, and with the hotel and renowned fishing, became a destination spot of its own. The little town blossomed, and the resort became more popular as it expanded to include a golf course, a suspension bridge, and boasted magnificent views of Mount Denali.
Curry was plagued by a series of unfortunate events leading to its ultimate demise. A fire in 1926 destroyed the engine house and power plant. The engine house was again destroyed by fire in 1933. The construction of a larger hotel in Denali National Park in 1939 drew visitors away from Curry, but the Railroad continued investing in the town, housing employees there in 1945. Disaster came again in the way of a boiler explosion in 1946, completely destroying the power plant. Curry rebuilt, and added a ski area, which would be popular for years to come. The final disaster, however, was a fire in April 1957, in which fire burned down the town's lifeblood, the 75 room hotel. Three people were killed in the blaze. The hotel was never rebuilt, and Curry faded away.
Today you can get off and explore the site on the Alaska Railroad's Hurricane Train, or take one of the rafting expeditions from Talkeetna that go up the Sustina River.

It seems hard to imagine this little spot as a thriving resort, but it's also true that one cannot tell what the woods open up to beyond the train.  At the very least, it seems like there is an area worth exploring beyond that train stop....but I think I might want to go with a group of several people.  It's pretty remote.  I would be less excited about seeing a bear once the train pulled away, that's for sure.

A little white later we passed this train stop sign, indicating more hiking paths.  And an answer to the age old question that every stumped every Canadian kid for the past 40 years..."Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?"  Not a bad way to finish off the train ride.