July 1-3: The other day we hit the road again, destination Talkeetna.This small town is off the beaten path somewhat, 14 miles north on the Talkeetna Spur Road off the Parks Highway, 100 miles north of Anchorage. Situated at the confluence of three wild rivers and serving as a busy railroad depot, it was a gold mining supply town from 1896 to the 1940s. Now the influx of people is flightseers, sightseers, fishermen, rafters and mountaineers from around the world who come to tackle Mt. McKinley. The shops and restaurants on Main Street cater to groups who come daily on the train from Anchorage, on busses from lodges in the area and individuals like us that meander up the highway. But the signs of the historic old town are still evident in the National Historic Site buildings, such as the Roadhouse and Nagley’s General Store. Most are still in use, just serving a different type of public than they did 100 years ago.
We found a new home at the Talkeetna Boat Launch Campground just outside town. It’s a little pricey at $20 for no hookups, but the convenience suited us and we thought it best to stay put as the July 4th weekend was about to begin. We’ve been happy overall. Mind you, we’ve had a few over-energetic (loud) neighbors. But all is well. After all, we were entertained by people doing wheelies on their atvs at 1:00 a.m. Now wait a minute, remember that day does not become night until maybe 2 or 3 in the morning. They survived and so did we. Things are calm as I write this post.
Our first day in town, we did the usual investigation, driving around the area first to get familiar and then taking a walk. After a quick browse in the general store and learning some history from the museum, Jerry was ready to sample the Denali Brewing Company beer at Twister Creek. After all, we do want a flavor of the town overall. He was very pleased with their Chuli Stout. I actually heard him say out loud to someone that is was quite close to Guinness. Yes, he did!
The next day I took the assignment of examining the shops more thoroughly. What sacrifices I make. I was pleased to find a considerable percentage of Alaska-made products, with the right amount of shirts and hats to please everyone, too. Also, this July 4 weekend there is a market of local artisans at the community center. While I was browsing around, I struck up a few conversations. I talked to wait staff, shop clerks, town employees and vendors about how they came to be in Talkeetna. Now after this very scientific study, I have concluded that most people living in this Alaskan town with a population of 800 are transplants from the lower 48. The majority chose to move here for the slower-paced life with sense of freedom and independence. More than one mentioned that economic status is less important. Everyone I asked was happy to share their story. They came from California to Florida to Colorado, men and women, various stages of their lives. But universally, they all are glad they came. They love their simpler life. I’m sure there are those that came and went, but it was still fun to get the feel for those who stayed.
We had our own reasons to come to Talkeetna, other than curiosity. One reason is flight seeing. It involves a goal for our Alaska trip, to take an airplane ride to see Mt. McKinley up close as well as land on a glacier. Well, we quickly learned that we should have called ahead. In order to use our 2-for-1 coupon we needed to make a reservation two weeks out. Thinking we were staying in town for four or five days and preferred to talk about the arrangements in person, we didn’t call ahead. Oh well. Judging from talking to others who have experienced the ride, it will be worth it to swing back this way later. We’ll let you know how that works out.
But then there’s another reason why we were curious about Talkeetna. It involves Chris, Maggie, Joel, Holling, Shelly, Ruth Ann, Marilyn and Maurice and more. Some of you are nodding your heads because you enjoyed Northern Exposure as much as we did. But those that weren’t aware, it’s a 1990s TV series that took place in the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska. The characters were both simple and complicated, humorous and wise. The local KTNA radio station broadcasts do make you believe the rumors about Talkeetna being the inspiration for Cicely. We’ve enjoyed the local announcements and the discussions about issues of importance to the citizens. The historic Fairview Inn definitely conjures up images of The Brick, if you can relate. After talking to townsfolk and looking around, I choose to believe those characters could have come from here.
Stay tuned for more from Talkeetna.