Now the Denali Star enters The Valley as the locals call it, or just Mat-Su. Its official name is the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, Alaska’s vast and scenic agricultural heartland which is roughly the size of West Virginia. In the 1930s, poor farmers from Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota were allowed to homestead here as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal program. The experiment failed but many farmers did not return to the Midwest but stayed in Alaska. The growing season here is brief but in summer, long hours of daylight make up for this shortcoming. Matthew tells us that a huge 138-pound (62 kg) cabbage has been grown here!
At 9:25 we arrive in WASILLA, a town of approx. 8,000 residents. This is the town where Sarah Palin served two terms as mayor between 1996 and 2002 before she became Governor of Alaska. The train stops on the road crossing creating long car queues. The Alaska Railroad built lines through the town to Fairbanks in 1917.
I decide to go for a walk of the entire length of the swaying train. I walk through the old Dome Car, the Café Car (Wilderness Café) located in the Adventure Class section of this train, and the Dining Car. On our left is Mount Susitna or the Sleeping Lady. And yes, the mountain does resemble a sleeping woman.