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Alaska RR Whistle Stop Train Page 3

Alaska Railroad Whistle Stop

Southcentral Alaska
June 27, 2008

Story and photographs copyright 2008 by Richard Elgenson
RailNews Network writer

The Whistle Stop tour is led by a U.S. Forest Service naturalist.  This particular day, the walk was led by Farrah, a nice young woman from Wisconsin.  We were the only Whistle Stop walkers this day.

The trail leads away from the Alaska Railroad track.  To begin our conversation, Farrah explained how glaciation works.  The Spencer Glacier has receeded over a mile away from the rails.  Once the glacer opens up the ground, the first life to take hold is lichens.   Lichens grow on bare rock at varying rates.  Measuring the lichen size can help determine how long the rock has been exposed after glacier retreat.
The lichen shown below right is called Reindeer lichen for its similarity to antlers.
Small plant life succeeds the lichens.  From almost everywhere on the trail, there is some view of mountains, snow and glaciers.
The trail heads towards the river with a view of the Placer River bridge.
The sign says "1928" which equates to the glacier location 80 years ago!

The trail plan includes several rest stops along the way.
Eventually we reached a trail intersection.  Forward takes hikers to the viewing platform, while left is the group campsite.  We visited the campsite later.

Whistle Stop Page 4