Trains and Packrafts on "Big Sue"

Written by Jerrica

One of my favorite Alaskan adventures was packrafting the Susitna River (called "Big Sue" by locals) with Sunnie while Kevin was climbing Denali.  Sunnie and Daniel are really into packrafting and they each own an Alpacka Raft. Packrafts are small, inflatable rafts that are light enough to be carried on your back and are designed for trips where rivers would typically be hard to reach.  Alaska was the birthplace of the packraft, making it possible for people will bike, fly, or hike into remote locations and raft back out.

Sunnie and I headed into Talkeetna and hopped on the Hurricane Turn, the last flag train in the United States.  That's right, you can wave a white flag anywhere along the Hurricane Turn's route and it'll pick you up.  The Hurricane Turn has a legit conductor who wears overalls and yells "ALL ABOARD!", just the way we always imagined it as kids.  We caught the train in Talkeetna and rode north for about 40 miles, the train traveling alongside the Big Sue the entire time.  We got off, gears up, and started the float back to Talkeetna where our car was parked.

The float to Talkeetna took 2 days, so we slept one night on the river with bear spray close at hand.  We camped on a small island on the river right next to some big, fresh moose tracks.  Luckily we had no encounters.  

We really couldn't have picked 2 better days to float.  There was never a cloud in the sky and I even had a clear view of Denali for about 30 minutes.  It was crazy looking at that giant mountain knowing that Kevin was somewhere up there.  It made me miss him so much.

I am so dang lucky to have a life-long friend in Sunnie.  There were times on the trip when I couldn't believe I was hanging out with her in Alaska... catching flag trains and floating on remote rivers.  The landscape was incredible, the mountains green and lush, and I couldn't have asked for a better trip.