Talkeena, an outfitters town for those departing or leaving on flight-seeing, fishing, kayaking, mountain biking, or rafting trips, is a perfect spot for ordinary tourists who want to experience the interior of Alaska on the way to Denali National Park. One peek at the main street and you’ll understand why it has been declared a National Historic Site.
Sarah Birdsall, Alaska author and an owner of the Talkeetna Cabins, met us midday at the Talkeetna train station (see separate blog on Alaska Dome Railway), and after settling us in commodious rooms on the second floor of her home, gave us advice on exploring. Follow the local map for visits to the historic attractions and eat at her favorite places for lunch, dinner and breakfast.
We started right in the middle at Old Dahl’s, decorated just as it was during the gold rush with a pot belly stove, pots, clothes, and snowshoes, and were soon alerted that a lecture on climbing Denali National Park would soon begin at the National Museum. No, you can’t just come here and hike Denali, we quickly learned. It takes twenty-three days, with twenty-four hour stops along the way to adjust to altitude. The lecturer, set to take his last trek up the mountain next year, used a pointer on the large diorama to show how it’s mostly a vertical climb with each person attached to a common rope, and also held up supplies and equipment that are pulled up on By the time we had lunch and walked in and out of the shops such as Nagley’s General Store and the Sustina Salmon Center, which had an excellent video on salmon habitats, and innumerable craft items, it was mid-afternoon. The visit to the Ranger Station, a spacious modern, rustic style building with many meeting rooms and a lounge with comfy couches, was a good segue from the earlier talk on the Mt. Denali hike. Climbers come here for their registration and orientation classes such as getting out of crevices and cooking food in sub-zero weather.
After dinner at a café, we took the trail down to the confluence of three rivers—the Susitna, Chulitna and Talkeetna –and watched the sunset with other travelers. Currents of water swished around the islands in the middle as the sky turned gray and a few canoes and kayaks came by.
“Most folks order half,” said the waitress at the Roadhouse as she stood behind the table of twelve. Good advice, I thought, when she returned and slid the plate of large pancakes in front of me, their sides overlapping the dinner-sized plate.
A young man and his father from Seattle were here because the son was interviewing for a job with a kayak trip company. A group of six at the end of the table had been staying in rooms upstairs, and were about to take a three day canoe trip. Two other groups were on the same train with us to Denali later in the morning. As we exited others were coming in to do laundry, check mail, and have a leisurely breakfast.