Dec 102008

We touched on Talkeetn in “Daily Lifebecause it’s where Sister-in-Law spends her long weekends, but I just had to give it one more post because I loved the town.  Talkeetna isn’t a large place —Wikipedia says the population is 772, and downtown is about 3 blocks long.  But something about the place is so welcoming and charming.

The town’s airstrip (below) may not look like much.  But Talkeetna actually gets a steady stream of visitors traveling between Anchorage and Denali.  Rafting, hunting, fishing, and flight-seeing also make Talkeetna a destination in its own right.

We had several good meals while visiting Talkeetna, including some tasty Caribou Chili at the restaurant behind this sign. Another local favorite is the 
Talkeetna Roadhouse, which has not-to-be-missed breakfast and bakery goods (and also well-priced guest rooms), if you’re ever in town.
But the best thing to come out of Talkeetna? Future brothers-in-law! My sister-in-law first visited Talkeetna on a whim, to check out their yearly Wilderness Woman Contest and Bachelor Auction. She walked off with a bachelor of her own, and this year, after the auction, he proposed.  We’re all thrilled about the new addition to the family and wish them both the very best.
The happy couple at our wedding.  (Photo byPunam Bean.)
Dec 082008

Our major tourist adventure in Alaska was an overnight visit to Denali National Park— an amazing 6 million acres of largely untouched wilderness.  To preserve that “largely untouched” quality, there is only one road through most of the park, and visitors must ride tour buses.  We took one of the shorter trips, but still I was worried about 6+ hours in a school bus for a nauseated pregnant lady who needed to pee every hour.  Turns out it was totally worth it!

Our drive from Talkeetna up to Denali was scenic in and of itself.  (Here’s Mr T trying to capture some of the great, majestic glory via point-and-shoot.  I gave that up as hopeless early on, and decided it was more fun just to capture Mr T.)

The weather was a bit iffy, and any far-away views of Mount McKinley were obscured by clouds.  But the drizzly weather did offer up one glorious rainbow:

We spent the night in an inexpensive motel near the park, then hopped the Denali tour bus early the next morning.  Most people visit Denali National Park with the goal of seeing Mount McKinley (now more often known as “Denali”), the highest mountain in North America.  The mountain rises over 18,000 feet from base to summit, giving it a greater vertical rise than even Everest.  Unfortunately, Denali is a “shy mountain” that frequently hides behind clouds.  Only 30-40% of park visitors actually get a glimpse of the famous mountain.

But we were in luck the day of our visit — matchless Denali views both coming and going.  In some ways, this is a sad view of Denali — through a bus window many, many miles away — and yet we felt so blessed to see it!

The other special sighting opportunity in Denali National Park is the park’s wildlife.  Because human visits are so carefully controlled, bears, moose, caribou, and other native Alaskan animals roam in their natural state with little interference from humans.  Unfortunately, our bus didn’t have as much luck with wild animals as we did with wild mountains.  We saw bears, Dall sheep, and moose, but they were all quite far away.  Far enough that you couldn’t see much without binoculars — when reminiscing, Mr T and I fondly remember our sightings of “bear dots”, “sheep dots”, etc.

I did spot one odd, orange-coated moose.  Wildlife experts have expressed an interest in learning more about this mysterious creature:

Next up is our final installment: more views of Talkeetna!
Dec 032008

Hello, all!  Sorry to disappear for a bit — turns out Internet access during my travels was more difficult than expected.  I’m flying home tonight, and meanwhile am at a wi-fi coffee shop long enough to share more Alaska photos….

Was going to add some pics of our travels to the Kenai Peninsula, including the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, a 4-hour glacier cruise, and some close encounters with bears and moose at a private wildlife refuge along the Seward Highway. But then I realized the photos just weren’t that exciting.  So let’s just skip to the real reason for our trip — a visit to my sister-in-law’s house:

My sister-in-law has an amazing life.  She works as a specialty surgeon (urology) in Anchorage.  But every weekend is a long weekend, and she spends them in the charming town of Talkeetna (rumored inspiration for the 80s TV show Northern Exposure), jam-packed with outdoor activities.  Example: we sometimes throw sticks for Zoe to chase at our local dog park. But when Sis heads out to throw sticks for her dogs, the surroundings look like the above!

Sis has a white German Shepard (she has occasionally convinced gullible tourists that there’s Polar Bear in his lineage), and when he chases a stick, he chases a STICK.  This one was almost as tall as I am:

Our original plan was to stay in Sister-in-Law’s “guest suite”, an Airstream trailer that’s adorable inside (everything so perfectly compact!):

But the plumbing wasn’t hooked up, and Pregnant Lady wasn’t looking forward to multiple nightly trips to the alternative bathroom option:

So we stayed in their beautiful home, which exists “off the grid” on mostly solar power.  Their home is set in woods, and everywhere you turn are lovely nature sights.  The back deck looks onto a hill and a stream (just out of sight in the first photo), where a young bear often visits to snag fresh salmon:

Because we visited in early September, fall colors were everywhere.

And even a rusted pickup near the drive was a photo just waiting to happen:

Next stop: Denali National Park.  (Stay tuned!)
Nov 262008

These are only … er … three months overdue, but at last I have Alaska photos to share with you all. Alaska is absolutely beautiful, and it’s impossible to capture its large-scale grandeur in photos (at least, it’s impossible for my level of photographic skill), but it’s always fun to share a peek at life in a different place….

We spent our first day in Alaska at the State Fair. There were giant vegetables!

There were vegetables that looked like little people:

There was one whole building that existed only to torment me with beautiful foods we couldn’t eat (a/k/a, the prize-winning baked-good building):

And that finally drove us to the Fairway. There weren’t as many food-on-a-stick items as I might have hoped. (We did have scallops on a stick, but I’m not sure scallops really count.) But we did have our share of other Fair classics, including: fried food in a paper boat (fresh potato chips with garlic and parmesan), greasy food in a paper bag (mini donuts), and of course food in a cone (frozen cheesecake). We ate so much there was no room left for caribou-based products, but luckily there was time to make up for that one later in the trip!

And also? I got to hold a baby chick. PEEP!