Alaska is the anti-Namibia – wet, green and mountainous. But like Namibia, there are lots of animals – moose, caribou, seals, sea otters, eagles, black bear, and of course grizzlies, the “lion” of Alaska.
Just three weeks ago Namibia, now Alaska. I am one happy Geezer.
A few days ago, Katherine and I flew to Anchorage, picked up a rental car, and drove about two hours north to Talkeetna, passing through Wasila on the way, the town made famous by former mayor, Sarah Palin. We looked for her, but apparently she spends most of her time these days in Arizona. I didn’t get the impression that anybody misses her.
Talkeetna is charming (sorry for the cliché but it fits). One street lined with eateries and quirky Alaska-themed gift shops. That’s pretty much it. There is a local brewery so I was able to get a pretty good IPA to accompany my Alaskan cod sandwich at Twister Creek, the restaurant owned by the brewery.
We stayed at the Denali View Lodge. As its name implies, there is a great view of Denali from the lodge when it isn’t covered with clouds, which is most of the time. Unfortunately the probabilities didn’t work in our favor this time.
It’s a 2.5 hour drive from Talkeetna to Denali NP, not including delays for road repairs, which are as ubiquitous in Alaska in the summer as rush hour traffic jams in Los Angeles pretty much any time of the year. It took us almost 3.5 hours.
Private vehicles are not allowed to drive more than a few miles into the park, so the best alternative is to catch one of the frequent shuttles that run deep into the park. You can get off at any point, hike as long as you want, then flag down the next shuttle. We chose to stay on since we had a long drive back to Talkeetna at the end of the day. Besides we didn’t have any bear spray with us. We saw several grizzlies along the way, all close enough to run us down and eat us if they had been so inclined, so staying on the shuttle was probably a good idea. We also saw caribou, pretty close, and a moose at some distance. The scenery was beautiful — vast, brooding, and intimidating — but it was too cloudy to see Denali. The ride back to Talkeetna was spectacular. It was late in the evening but the sun was still up and bathed the mountains in vivid green and gold (no photos — I was intent on getting back to the lodge while I was still awake). And the construction crews were done for the day, so we made it back to Talkeetna in 2.5 hours.
All restaurants were closed but we did manage to find a bar that was still open. Everybody smoked, two heavily tattooed guys at the bar swapped war stories about their time in Iraq in loud drunken voices, and a tweeker sitting next to us at the bar (also smoking) with her young daughter recommended the bread pudding, the only food that was left. I thought about asking them if Sarah was around but wisely decided otherwise. Besides the bread pudding was excellent and the IPA was well chilled, so I really didn’t care.