About Talkeetna From Panoramas (Alaska Railroad) magazine:
“The charming town of Talkeetna began as a trapping and mining outpost. Today it serves as a base station for Mount McKinley climbing expeditions and is the starting point for the Hurricane Turn Train, which provides essential year=round access to off-grid residents.”
What attracted me to visit Talkeetna was memories of Northern Exposure, the 1990s series of a New York doctor living in a fictional Alaskan town that was loosely based on that small town. In the show’s intro, a moose walked down the charming main street. The downtown area is in indeed charming, but the only moose in sight are made of metal or wood. The downtown area is classified as a National Historic Site, with buildings dating from the early 1900s. Nagley’s General Store and the Talkeetna Roadhouse were the two that especially caught our attention. Also notable were the dirt street and wooden “sidewalks.”
Talkteetna is located along the Susitna River. Interestingly, we learned that it is the only town along the entire 300+ miles of that river. Certainly speaks to the wilderness area that is most of Alaska. Many people live “off the grid” (no utilities or running water) in and around the town; a good number live deep in the forests, as much as 50 miles from their nearest neighbor. They are totally self-sufficent, living off the land and venturing into “civilization” infrequently. When they do, their main transportation is the Hurricane Turn Train.
The train has been transporting locals to and from their remote cabins since 1923. The train will stop at a number of locations, and sometimes in between, when flagged down by someone in the wilderness. It can also be used as tourist transportation—one can get off anywhere along the 55-mile stretch then, after hiking or fishing or whatever, stop the train on its return with the wave of a flag. Or one can stay on for the entire route for a one-of-a-kind day trip.
We stayed at a charming lodge on the Susitna River walking distance from town (or it would have been if the weather had not been grey and drizzly). In addition to historical buildings that now house retail establishments, there are a number of outstanding restaurants.
We went to three, all at the recommendation of our hostess—the Wildflower Cafe, the Denali Brewing Company, and the Roadhouse—and had outstanding meals at each.
We had planned to take a “flighttour” on a small plane that lands on a glacier, but the weather was rainy and foggy. Instead we took a river cruise that had a naturalist aboard and included a narrated hike to a trapping camp. She carried a shotgun as a reminder that bears and other wildlife lived there, keeping us from wandering away! We didn’t see any bears or other wildlife during the tour, but did spot about 30 bald eagles along the river, some flying and others perched in trees or bushes.
We have two more events on the trip: taking the Wilderness train to Fairbanks then a shuttle to Chena Hot Springs, then back to Fairbanks from which we will fly home.
[Actually it’s 21 September and we’ve been back for three weeks. Writing this blog helps me to relive the highlights and marvel at everything we’ve seen and done.]