Day 29: Talkeetna

July 14, 2017

Kay and I woke up about an hour apart. She was up and dressed and made tea and was sitting outside drinking her tea when I stirred and fed Pepper, made coffee, and walked out to join her. I was still in my pajamas, hair a mess, and looking generally disheveled. She apparently woke up like this:

After breakfast we took Pepper for a walk back down to the lake and snapped a couple of photos of the incredible scenery. The lake is in a beautiful valley surrounded by the Chugach mountains on three sides. The morning air was chilly, damp and foggy. We posed for a few photos and snapped a few more of the scenery before leisurely walking back up to the camp to pack up.

The drive out of the campsite was steep downhill (steeper than it seemed driving up to the campground) for about 10 miles. The bus did great, but it was a little nerve wracking. Back on the main highway we headed north toward Wasilla for groceries and diesel, and then on to Talkeetna to see Katie Writer, the daughter of a close friend of Kay’s and the niece to a cousin of mine (don’t ask me to explain that, just run with it).

Wasilla was uneventful. No Sarah Palin sighting. Then it was on to Talkeetna, a small town founded by the railroad as it moved north to Fairbanks. The town has had a renaissance recently as a tourism stop for Jet boats, sightseeing flights, and hunting/fishing trips. It’s also billed itself as the gateway to Denali, so it was an obvious natural choice for our stop over on the way up. Plus we wanted to see Katie and meet her family.

We arrived in town around 1 and found a parking spot for the bus. Kay made us sandwiches and I took Pepper for a quick potty break. Then we walked out to the river front park hoping to find a place to picnic. Unfortunately, there were no benches or picnic tables to be found so we walked back towards town a bit and found a nice park with picnic tables. It was a lovely lunch under a huge cottonwood tree for shade. The day was warming up quickly and we were shedding layers, so it was nice to be in the shade.

After lunch we walked around the cute artsy town of Talkeetna and stopped in at the Talkeetna Historical Society Museum to learn about the founding of the town and the history of hiking Denali peak (formerly called McKinley, it was returned to its native name in 2006). It was a really interesting museum and helped us to get a sense of the history of this small town. After the museum we got a call from Katie that she was back at her house so we decided to head over and see her.

She lives about 3 miles outside of town in this cute area that is between two rivers and heavily forested. They have built their house themselves and several other utility buildings on the property like a shed, two workshops, sauna, and outhouse. It was really cool. We backed the bus into their driveway and found a nice level spot to park for the night. It was great meeting Katie, Todd, and their two children. We hang out for a bit, get the tour of their property and their house and then Kay and I decide to take a break and write some postcards back by the bus to give Katie and Todd (and their kids) some time to do their own thing.

A little while later their son came by and said that they were going fishing. But not any fishing. Katie is a bush pilot. And she’d just put the floats on her plane so that it can land on water. And they were going to fly to Trapper’s Lake and do some fishing for Pike. They’d be back in a bit and meet us for dinner. Perfect! Kay and I are easy and don’t need to be entertained. We go back to writing our postcards.

Dinner time rolls around and we head up to the Talkeetna lodge for a nice dinner out. This is the first nice dinner out I’ve had all trip. And I think only the third dinner out I’ve had at all since leaving Denver. Kay, Katie and I all ordered the wild caught Salmon. It was absolutely delicious.

Side note: there is a lot of public backlash against farmed Salmon here in Alaska. Fish that was caught in the wild is clearly labeled as such in both restaurants and supermarkets.

After dinner we came back to the house. No surprise both of the kids wanted to ride in the bus going home. Back at the house we cleaned the Pike that they had caught on their fishing trip and then it was time for bed.

Tomorrow Kay and I get to take turns going up in the plane with Katy. It’s just a small piper, so we’ll go separately, but I’m excited to get up in the air and do some sightseeing, but also to take off and land on a lake! It’s an awesome experience!

Then in the evening we head to an RV park just outside Denali and Sunday Morning we have a 6am bus all the way into Denali.