Sitting humbly in the great shadows of Mt McKinley is Talkeetna, a rather quaint little settlement just over three hours north when on board the Denali Star from Anchorage. This is another lovely Alaskan rail journey and I can’t imagine there to be a train I would not take somewhere……..
The rhythm of train travel always feels good and on this trip the vastness of such poetically lonely but beautiful scenery just slips by your carriage window. You will see moose, bear and untouched wilderness and you will also stop in at a couple of little historic townships along the way. What I fondly remember too of this trip, was the beading of raindrops on the glass and of how pretty it was and of how those big clouded skies just seemed to go on forever.
‘From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere’…….Dr Seuss. During this rail journey, and between the townships of Willow and Talkeetna, stands a gorgeously whimsical house. This house is so odd but so wondrously eccentric that I just fell in love with it. The house, after 15 years is still incomplete and it remains uninhabited, but it really looks as though Dr Seuss himself built it. This remarkable and very narrow 185 foot tall house is right in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. How perfectly wonderful…….
From the train, the house can be seen but it is difficult to photograph. This stunning image was taken by ‘Nice Gaffs’………
Talkeetna is a great little place to stroll around plus it is the convergence point of three major glacial rivers. From the centre of town, you can easily walk to the pebble and mud lined banks of these wild and raging torrents. Large runs of salmon are known to inhabit these waters too and Talkeetna is also renowned as a great fishing destination. Lucky is the angler who casts his line here.
And ever so interestingly, since 1977 the Mayor of Talkeetna has been a cat. That is correct! The honorary Mayor is a cat and in my book, that’s a pretty darn good choice of a public official. Unopposed since her first birthday, ‘Stubbs’ the current Mayor, is a beautiful aging-gracefully ginger feline who has held office for the past 20 years and she does it seems, have nine lives.
Dear Stubbs has survived a serious mauling during a dog attack, survived an ‘assassination attempt’ – a gun and very stupid young men are never a good mix, survived an encounter with a truck and when younger poor Stubbs fell into a restaurant fryer. Very thankfully, the fryer had been turned off and the fat was cooling at the time.
Although Talkeetna is small you will find plenty to occupy your time. Fossick around to discover quirky little stores, walking tracks and trails, very friendly and welcoming locals who are all up for a chat, a brewery, great places to eat and there is much history to learn given Talkeetna’s past roots are entrenched in gold, aviation and the railroad.
And the best food tip for what and where to eat when in Talkeetna! Well that would be the spinach bread served out of the silver air-stream and trust me, it is far more appealing than it sounds. This is a slab of toasted thick home-made spelt grain bread slathered with roasted garlic, chopped spinach and a mix of several cheeses all melted to blissful perfection. This simplistic dish would make any true food lover swoon……
Our last days in Alaska were spent in simple appreciation. This is such an easy place to ‘just be’ and the tranquil beauty will stop you in your tracks. Alaska is a pretty casual place to hang out for a while too and it is also where checkered flannel has become a formal fashion wardrobe statement……..as well it should! I’m quite partial to a bit of flannelette but in Alaska you will also need polar fleece and thermals, gloves, the odd scarf, a beanie and the warmest of coats and pants…..and a little fringe trimmed buckskin for good measure, which I happen to find very desirable on a man.
I also picked up a couple of useful tips while in Alaska with the first being about socks. Apparently in this climate, ‘cotton is rotten’ so you need to wear wool or a wool and synthetic blend of sock. And the next tip. Keep a hanky handy! Your nose will run in Alaska and in the midst of the harshest and bleakest of winters you will be required to ‘break’ snot from your face as it will have frozen. Oh come on, its not as bad as it sounds and there are far worse things you could be required to do in your lifetime!
I really loved every moment of being in Alaska and I am surprised at the affection I developed for this beautiful American state. I savor the heat and I have a passion for the ocean but due to some strange alchemy, I know in my heart I will return. My homeland, a beautiful island continent, simply infatuates me but I am drawn to those soaring snowcapped alps, the moose and the harshly romanticised and remote landscape of Alaska regardless the frigid temperatures. I know too that I could easily live in Alaska, for a while at least, and perhaps they will allow a peaceful settlement in the Dr Seuss house. ‘You’re off to great places, today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way’……..Dr Seuss.
It was a wrench to leave but sometimes you need to leave somewhere in order to discover how much you really don’t want to. I will always adore travelling as I am so welcoming of the idea of those great horizons unfurling before me, the guaranteed adventures along the way and the fact that most travel involves an amazing experience filled with beauty and wonderment, fascinating people, architecture and food.
Travel pushes you and it challenges you and it opens your mind and your heart to so much more. Maybe too, it also allows one to find that somewhere special they could perhaps one day call home………
Be bold. Be brave. Travel well……….xx
Next stop, Hawaii 🙂