As we wander around Alaska, I don’t always get to blog from each place we stop at. Sometimes it’s for one night, sometimes it’s for a whole week. Some places are more memorable than others, as are all life experiences-right? I want to share these places with you because they might be stops you want to make along the way too. We like to stop in small towns and little villages. We avoid large cities like the plague. We tell ourselves when we are too old to hike and kayak and sit outside on a cold night around a campfire, then we will head to the cities and discover all we may have missed along the way. Or maybe, and much more likely, we will be camping until our minds no longer can grasp the memories of what we love.
“Every place is a goldmine. You have only to give yourself time, sit in a teahouse watching the passers-by, stand in a corner of the market, go for a haircut. You pick up a thread – a word, a meeting, a friend of a friend of someone you have just met – and soon the most insipid, most insignificant place becomes a mirror of the world, a window on life, a theatre of humanity.”
— Tiziano Terzani / A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East
When we left Denali we were headed to Talkeetna. We had heard it was a funky little town and what we were told was true. Just a few blocks loaded with outdoor adventure shops; art galleries; restaurants; a food truck; an old inn; dressed to the nines cruise ship folks and dusty backpackers all mingled on the sidewalks as they explored the town.
Our reason for being in Talkeetna was K2 AIR– they were the company we were entrusting our lives to for a flyover Denali in one of their bright red Otters.
I highly recommend the experience. When you make reservations try and watch the weather and time for one of those blue sky white puffy cloud kind of days . That’s what we thought we had done but a forest fire along the Cassiar Highway had different plans. In town the skies were beautifully clear but around THE MOUNTAIN, Denali, the haze from the smoke obliterated some of the splendor and majesty, but definitely not all !
It wasn’t until we were right up next to Denali that the haze cleared and we were stunned by the massive beauty of the mountain. Tip here, if you fly over, go for the glacier landing too. And when boarding try to sit on the same side of the plane as the pilot and take the seat right near the exit. That’s the best view out of the plane no matter what you are flying over!
It was an exciting flight-I was first to raise my hand to sit in the co pilots chair-studiously watching every move he made-then I thought to myself, seriously if he passes out what am I going to do ? I couldn’t even figure out the radio . While it was very cool to pretend to be a co pilot the view wasn’t the best-through bug spotted windows and propeller spinning like crazy. Remember take the seat by the exit.!
After the flight and a good nights sleep we took off again for parts unknown. Our only course was south. I picked up the map and mentioned to Jim that a fellow blogger mentioned we shouldn’t miss Hatcher Pass. So glad for that piece of information. We turned off the Parks highway, near milepost 72, eastbound on the Willow Fishhook Rd. The paved road quickly turned to gravel and sometimes hard tamped dirt-but it was in decent condition. We started out heading through a birch, aspen and cottonwood forest and as we slowly climbed the trees changed to willow and spruce.
Once we got through the inhabited area (by people not bears !) we came upon so much gloriously beautiful scenery-we couldn’t believe it. We were also fortunate to have a sunny blue sky day overhead. Our first stop at this creek and old bridge was going to be our boon-docking spot for the night. But we decided to venture a little further since it was so early in the day. We would stop along the way and dip our toes into the cold glacial water of the stream we were following.
Sometimes I would don my wading boots and hike through a bog to take photos . It was such a beautiful day. The road eventually opened up into tall mountains with a valley that looked like it had been created by glaciers thousands of years ago. We were hoping we didn’t miss a turn off as their were no signs to indicate how far to the next stop or what the next stop was. And we were still climbing. We hit the summit, at Summit Lake of course ! A beautiful small turquoise lake. A sweet surprise after the drive to the top. From the lake we started a slow descent past the Independence Mine Historical site- 140,000 ounces of gold were dug out of the mine shortly before it shut down just prior to WW II.
The rest of our descent followed along the beautiful glacial river, until we arrived in Wasilla. And the Sarah Palin references began and were shut down as quickly as they started as we had both agreed at the beginning of this journey that it would be a politics free journey. Our destination actually turned out to be a vet in Wasilla since we discovered that Hailey had somehow gotten a scratch on her cornea. After the vet treated her we discovered we needed to stick around town for a follow up visit 5 days later. We really didn’t want to spend 5 days in Wasilla-sounds like a bad B movie !
So we headed out of town to what looked promising just outside of Butte, Alaska-the Knik Recreation area. Described as gravel bar camping on the Knik River Public Use Area. I should have done better research and I would have discovered that the weekend spent here, unless you love gunning your ATV and drinking lots of beer and shooting of lots of fireworks, could be the weekend from hell. Fortunately we had one good night to enjoy it and that was Thursday before the weekend warriors showed up.
Once they showed up we spent Friday night there with all windows closed to keep out the noise and the dust. Finally at about 1230 am we moved across the river and found a pullout alongside the highway where we could still enjoy the view but didn’t have to put up with the noise and dust.
We were kind of happy when Monday morning arrived and the Vet gave Hailey the all clear-good bye Wasilla. Next destination-Anchorage.
Our plan was to do a Costco run and a stop at a fly fishing shop for Jim. When we hit the traffic and congestion our plan to spend 3-4 days in Anchorage exploring turned into how quick can we get everything done and get the heck out Dodge ? Not quick enough, we stopped at Costco, Fred Meyer, Mossy Fly Shop, and Moose’s Tooth for a pizza to go.
It smelled so good and felt so welcoming we passed on the take out and decided to stay and have dinner. Definitely put Moose’s Tooth on your restaurant list-wood fired pizza all crispy bubbly crust-and oh so good. After a few Broken Tooth Fairweather Ales we decided we didn’t want to drive any longer. Lucky for us a Cabella’s was just down the road and they welcome RV’ers with open arms aka lots of open parking for RV’s !
We spent the night, met a fabulous couple from East of Brisbane, Australia-Kim and Norman. Had a few laughs about trying to caravan with friends while still maintaining the friendship when everyone has a different agenda! We laughed until we almost cried. We exchanged emails and agreed to stay in touch-Australia has just risen to the top of our places to return to list !
We had no idea where our next stop was going to be, all we knew was that we were heading to Seward, eventually. So I will catch up with you later and update you on Turnagain Arm, the Portage Glacier and many more beautiful spots along the way.
Until then, Happy Trails and Safe Travels my friends and make your own special moments in the places you pass through.