To our Alaska traveling friends, many of you are currently in (or just left) Talkeetna, seeing and doing most of the things I’ll be reporting on in this blog.
Talkeetna qualifies as a “funky” laid-back tourist town that has plenty of shops, eateries, and activities to keep you busy for a few days. The TV series Northern Exposure was supposedly partly modeled on Talkeetna.
The officially elected mayor is Mr. Stubbs. (Yes, the cat)
A fun stop while strolling “historic downtown Talkeetna” was the “Traveler’s Tripod” made from tree branches where you are invited to “add a token of your passing… creative things, found objects, poems, or messages…” In the spirit of geocaching, they ask that if you take something from the tripod that you “fill the void with something of equal or greater value.” If you look closely at the photo, you can see the “pathtag” representing our Escapee RV Club Geocaching group that I added just above the sign. (In Geocaching language, took nothing and there was no log to sign.)
Camped by the River
Our campground was the Talkeetna RV and Marina where we paid $20 a night to drycamp along the Talkeetna River. Our section was really a large gravel lot near the boat launch area but was actually very quiet. We had plenty of space to choose from and lots of tables to use if we wanted to. (The popular full-hook-up campground in town had RVs tightly parked next to each other and those sites backed-up to the Alaska Railroad tracks and the local, busy airport for flight-seeing aircraft.) We were a 5-minute walk to town but we took the car or truck each trip because we would explore beyond town during our trips out.
As our Alaska traveling friends have discovered, eating out is expensive and the food is generally just okay. We did have a very filling breakfast at the Roadhouse where the seating is family style, the menu board is limited but the quantities of food enormous. No one tackled the “full” breakfast plate (8 eggs, hash browns, 4 extra thick peppered bacon strips, toast, juice and a hot drink). Frank and I each had a half-order of regular pancakes -- one 12” pancake that hung over the side of the plate and excellent crispy thick bacon. Luke and Gloria had the half-order of the “daily special” mixed berry pancakes. (On another trip into town we also picked up huge cinnamon rolls “to go” from their bakery counter for breakfast another morning.)
Lunches and dinners were a mixed bag. After touring the local museum it started to rain so we decided on an inside lunch spot, the West Rib Pub and Grill. Their banner proclaimed it had been featured on the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food” program. The guys chose fish ‘n chips and Gloria and I had burgers (I think). Nothing to write home about. (Our friends traveling as the “Loosey Goosey Last Frontier Gang” had a very bad experience you can read about in Dennis Hill’s blog.)
Our other big meal out was at the Wildflower Restaurant, a recommendation from a tour bus driver. Just “okay” and very expensive (even for Alaska.)
Three Rivers Jet Boat Trip
Our major adventure activity during our stay was a 3.5 hour, “3 Rivers” jet boat trip along the Talkeetna, Chulitna, and Susitna Rivers. [Another use of our 2-for-1 TourSaver Coupon Book which has now paid for itself twice.] The seating was comfortable and the cabin of the jet boat was enclosed but we were able to open windows or step out onto the rear deck for photos.
Luke inside the jet boat, Frank and Gloria King and our jet boat during an on-shore visit to a native culture village.
Our pilot grew up on the river and told the story of how his parents homesteaded 5-acres in a 12’ x 14’ one-room cabin like the one they showed us on the tour. His mother lasted 5 years in the cabin until she got pregnant and refused to live off the land any longer. (We were amazed she hadn’t gotten pregnant sooner being out there during those long Alaska winters!) We did go ashore for a short walk to a cultural exhibit showing how the natives used fish and trapping camps along the rivers. Our naturalist guide, decked out with a 12-gauge shotgun, did warn us what to do in case we encountered an unfriendly bear.
The rivers our jet boat traveled went from shallow, broad, gravel bars to a narrow, steep-walled gorge. We even passed a paid adventure “float” trip down the calm part of the river that had only one paddler. Those folks, decked out in rubber rain suits and goulashes, looked mighty cold. (They also did not have a “head” on board during their trip. I wonder if they were also issued Depends.)
We also had a chance to pause by a beaver’s den and bald eagle nest (see wildlife section below).
On our return trip, the pilot had fun and opened up the engines while he navigated in and out of the shallows. At one point we passed another jet boat from their company and, in typical jet-boat style, he brought the boat in on a hard turn to give everyone a thrill. (The photo below on the right does not do it justice.)
National Parks Visitor’s Center
The Talkeetna NP office is the official check-in point for Mt. McKinley mountain climbers. While a group of climbers met with rangers in one room for an orientation, we went into another room to watch a very good 17-minute video showing how the climbers strategically tackle the mountain. Because of the elevation changes and the weeks that it takes them to reach the summit, each climber actually takes part of their gear to the next level of “mountain camp”, returns to their previous camp, and then takes their next load up, all the while acclimating their bodies to the higher elevation and reduced oxygen levels on the mountain. The center also features flags, banners, and sample gear donated over the years.
Gloria checks out the exhibits while Luke compares cold weather boots
I was fascinated with the size of those grizzly and black bear paw molds compared to my hand
Today’s wildlife report starts with a moose spotted along the road while driving from Denali to Talkeetna. She was pretty far away so I was pleased I at least got an image through my side window as we passed her.
This bald eagle sat majestically on a branch waiting for our jet boat tour guides to point him out. Nearby was his nest where mama and a couple of chicks were also waiting for all of our cameras to click away. The babies were there but were camera shy while I was clicking.
NEXT: Anchorage, Alaska