Northern Exposure – Talkeetna

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Talkeetna

While  roaming around Denali National Park, we hoped that we would not be one of the 30% of visitors who won’t see Denali. It turns out all we had to do was move on to the next destination, and viola! Her magnificent beauty appeared behind the clouds.

Mt Mckinley or Denali

Mt Mckinley or Denali a rare appearance

Denali showed its awesome beauty with just a few cloud cover. We were on the Parks highway when it revealed to us and we saw lots of it when we arrived in Talkeetna.

Mt Mckinley or Denali

Mt Mckinley or Denali

We arrived in Talkeetna, the town which Cicely was modeled after. Cicely is the  the town in the tv series “Northern Exposure” and Janine Turner was my favorite actress on this series.  Talkeetna is the mountain town of Mt Mckinley where all its climbers begin as a jumping off point.This little town is bustling with climbers and tourists alike wanting to climb Mt Mckinley or just do active stuff such as boat rides, hiking, fishing,  biking or glacier landing. With our glacier landing out of the way we ventured around town and checked it out.

Nagleys, one of the original/oldest store in Talkeetna

All About the Moose store

Local micro-brewery, Denali Brewery

At the tasting bar inside the Denali Brewery

Gift Shop

Kiss the Moose

On our third day here the sun came out beautifully. Since the highlight of our stay here has been satisfied we followed the town’s biking trail. On this bike ride we met a very nice couple from North Carolina, Joe and Judy. We first met them during our long Arctic Circle tour. Then we encountered them again along the Alpine trail in Denali park, then we crossed paths again on the main street of Talkeetna. Then on this bright sunny morning as we were admiring Denali without any cloud cover, we heard someone calling Steve’s name. And there were the Grubbs’ again, Joe and Judy. We hung out for a while and exchanged stories about the awesome views that we have been experiencing.

We met initially at the Arctic circle tour, Joe and Judy

Hanging out with Joe and Judy with Mt. McKinley as our backdrop.

Then we moved on with our biking and hit the road. We stopped by a coffee shop and a Salmon Smoke House.

At the Salmon Smoke House, they were removing bones and salmon skin.  This is the tedious part of creating high-quality smoked salmon.

Bakery where we stopped for coffee and a scone

In the coffee shop

The biking trail provided us with excellent clear views of Denali, beautiful daisies and of the river.

Biking along beautiful daises

Hey look, over there! Is that a………oh, never mind – that’s not a moose!

Pose with Mckinley in the background

Denali

River view of Mt. McKinley

Denali

Another beautiful day to admire Denali.

Oh, that hill is too steep, time to walk the bike.

We thought we had enough of the mountain views but when we got back to the viewpoint later in the afternoon, we saw another perspective of the mountain with the sun shining on it creating shadows. Obviously when you are here you can never get enough of Mt Mckinley or Denali when the clouds are not hiding it.

Mt Mckinley

Another perspective of the mountain except that she is behind the clouds

We stayed at Talkeetna RV Camper  Park, a small but nice campground walking distance to town and near a train station.  One interesting note  is that they advertise as Full Service RV park yet there was no sewer on any site, just power and water. Our site was wide and we were able to park our CRV next to Betsy.

Next stop: Anchorage

Glacier Landing on Mt. McKinley – what a rush!

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Talkeetna

On July 10th we were able to complete the most exciting excursion of our trip so far – flying to Mt. McKinley and landing on a glacier at the base camp.  Wow, this was definitely an “e-ticket” ride for us, and we were excited to actually land on that massive mountain that we will probably never climb.

Mt Mckinley

Panoramic view of Climber’s base camp

Mt Mckinley

Pilots chatting

Mt Mckinley

The base camp looked like a small airport, there were 5 planes at one point!

Mt Mckinley

A happy smile from a little woman on a big mountain!

We took off from Talkeetna airport, which was cheaper than flying out of the airport in Denali park.  The airplane was a DeHavilland DHC-3 Turbine Otter (for our pilot buddies reading this).  Although the weather wasn’t perfect, the pictures show that it was good enough to make for an incredible flight.

We landed at the 7,300 ft. elevation on the glacier, which is where the climbers begin their attempts to reach the summit.  The climb takes at least three weeks to complete, and we learned that it’s an amazing journey that’s probably too intense for us to try.  But this trip was a close second!

Mt Mckinley

Climber’s stuff left behind for retrieval when they return from their attempt on the summit

Wickersham wall

Wickersham Wall—at 14,000 ft. it is one of the steepest vertical rises on earth

The Grand Denali Tour offered by Talkeetna Air Taxi is a flight to and around Mt. McKinley, with a glacier landing for an extra fee.  The trip lasts about 2.5 hours and will likely be the most beautiful mountain flying you’ve ever experienced.  Our photos cannot do it justice. There are also other flights around and to the summit of Mt. McKinley, if you are not insistent on the glacier landing as we were.

Kahiltna Glacier

Kahiltna Glacier, the superhighway of Mt Denali.

Mt Hunter

Mt Hunter.

MT Mckinley

Close up of glacier where earth and ice meet

Cache Creek.

a little mining site at Cache Creek. Note the plane there as the only transportation out, and the school buses where the workers live. Hard life…

Homes in the wilderness

Homes in the wilderness, note no road leading in or out.

This was an incredible experience, not to be missed if you are an adventurous person visiting the area.  The sense of scale you feel in this place is indefinable, inexplicable and incomparable to any other place.  It’s not so much about “the glacier” as it is about the place, the beauty and the sense of scale you begin to comprehend when you’re here.

Denali

A ski affixed to the tail wheel on the plane

Goretex booties

Goretex booties helped keep our shoes dry

Glacier Landing, Mt Mckinley

Anyone traveling into Denali National Park or to the town of Talkeetna should take this flight if at all possible.  What an awesome experience!