Talkeetna, Alaska–the Top of the World

Long time, no see? Well today–most glorious of days–is the First Day of School which means I have time to take a shower without being interrupted. I can finally eat breakfast sitting down and possibly find some time to do a bit of writing here and there.

We’ve had a nice summer–Grace worked for the Parks and Rec department again. She now has a motor scooter (I should post pictures) and I even have a new nephew.

The men took a 50+ mile kayak trip on Lake Louise, they also hiked to Gull Rock and I’ve been reading lots of great books while they’re out sleeping in their tents.  And today–officially–Grace is a senior, Spencer a freshman, David hits middle school and Lillian is in fourth grade. Zowee! Time flies!

In celebration of the event we spent Sunday night at my parents’ cabin and Monday morning we drove into Talkeetna–that coolest of cool Alaskan cities where climbers start their journey up Denali.

There are probably more airplanes in town than cars–in fact, I’d be willing to bet money on it–because that’s where people go to either take flight tours of the mountain or to fly to base camp for the climb. 

Did you realize that Denali (Mt. McKinley) is not only the tallest mountain in North America but it is also taller than Everest? At least in overall height.  Everest sits in its boosted grandeur on the Tibetan plateau so it’s got a cheater advantage. Denali is taller from base to summit and has a bigger bulk. Take that Tibet.

We started our day with a hike around Y Lake–which is, of course, in between X and Z Lakes. As if you had to ask.  And no, I’m not making that up.  Andrew and I went to Talkeenta for our anniversary back in June (happy 19 years!) and we read up on the hikes that might be good for a family trip and this one was at the top of the list for a good reason. 

It’s an easy 3 mile hike around the lake, completely flat at the beginning and at the end, with a slight rise around the far side, but beautifully wooded with lake views as you clump along.  Not only that, but we brought our buckets and picked high bush cranberries along the way which were in such abundance that the kids of course began to throw them at each other and I finally had to break it up with a “If I catch you throwing any more of those at your brother I’m going to leave you here to walk back to Anchorage! Do you hear me? Do you?

To get there take the Parks Highway to Talkeetna Spurr Road, then take a right on Comsat Road and you’ll see the turnoff and parking a hundred yards or so farther on the right. There are outhouses and a small parking lot though you can also drive a little farther in along the trail if you need to.

Beaver dams, moose tracks (though we saw no moose), lots of birds and sunshine–we had all the elements for a great hike.  And for those of you interested in trying it for yourself, there are two docks with public use canoes–one on either side of the lake–so bring your paddles and PFDs and enjoy time on the water as well.

Once we’d made it around the lake with our berries in tact we headed toward town. Back on Talkeenta Spurr Road heading north you come around a bend in the road and there . . . BAM!!!!

You see it–The Mountain.

Of course on a clear day you can see Denali from Anchorage, but you forget how big it really is and 100 miles closer it is truly amazing. Denali is the one in the middle and to the left is Mt. Foraker, also an amazing peak. In fact, it’s hard for me to think much about mountains like Ranier and such when you’ve got gals like these nearby.  I hope that doesn’t sound too snotty because I’m sure those other mountains are very nice too. Very.

There is a turnoff just there at the bend where you can pull off and take pictures (as you see here–and even on a Monday afternoon in August you can see that there are going to be tourists–and this picture only has a few of those who were there).  Andrew let me grab a picture for you good folks and then we were off again.

We drove on into Talkeetna proper, parking downtown (heh–“downtown”) which is made up of a park slightly smaller than a football field with a covered picnic area and a few picnic benches and about 20 parking spots around the perimeter. One hundred yards or so down main street we stopped for lunch at Mile High Pizza for a gorgeous lunch on the covered terrace where live music serenaded us while we munched great food.  It really could not have been a better afternoon.

You can definitely tell who is local and who is from out of town.  Out of town? Look for older, graying, slightly portly (isn’t that the nice way to put it?), windbreakers and camera equipment. Local? That would be those with tie-dye t-shirts, dreadlocks, dusty flip flops and a general air of waiting until September to worry about a shower. Although, in my post-hiking condition you can probably see how a casual observer might wonder about my own most recent attempt at personal hygiene.  I’m just trying to fit in and hang with the locals.

Anyone with expensive sunglasses?  Tourist for sure. Anyone on a four wheeler? Definitely a local. You get your fishing guides, your restaurant workers and the summer employees with Princess cruises and the Alaska Railroad there and everyone is really friendly, especially considering that their town gets completed invaded every June to August with retirees who have dreamed of seeing Alaska. You really couldn’t get a greater difference between natives and visitors than you get in Talkeetna.

But as for us, we packaged our leftover pizza and headed for the river where we could walk across the bridge (dodging locals on four-wheelers carrying supplies to their cabins in the back woods) and watch the fishing boats go up and down the river. 

A very, very good day and for the kids it nearly made up for the fact that the next day was school. 

Wow–now I’ll have to see about writing another post.  Who knows where this could end?

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