Right from the start, from meeting Todd Rust of Rust’s Flying Services, to getting on the classic WWII Beaver plane, I knew the next part of the trip was going to be special!
Of course landing in my new favorite town of all times was the icing on the cake!
Last week’s story on Anchorage and the first part of the Iditarod was going to continue with a trip to Finger Lake, to catch the second day of the dog sled race. However, the big story in Alaska this year is the snow, and it continued to fall daily while I was there (all ten days!) causing the cancellation of the flight to Finger Lake. I talked to Todd Rust, who inherited Rust’s Flying Services from his dad, and was among one of the first flightseeing operations in Anchorage, and decided it was safe to go north – to Talkeetna, at the gateway of Denali National Park. Rust’s has an exceptional safety record.
Our pilot Jeff, a former Alaska State Trooper and originally from my home state Connecticut, entertained us while our low flying plane flew north, and we were able to see hundreds of moose. They were just embedded in deep snow, sleeping, and waiting for the snow to melt.
They have had their worst year with the record snowfall (to learn more and how to help, check out www.growmoremoose.com ). I loved wearing the noise-canceling headset which enabled us to hear our pilot as he pointed out the interesting scenes below; Sarah Palin’s house in Wasilla, moose, more moose, and the “birdhouse” an original piece of Americana architecture!
We arrived safely at K2 Aviation in Talkeetna, but first, Jeff had to stop to pick up his lunch in Wasilla! We met the friendliest people, who even offered to drive us to downtown Talkeetna (the entire town has a total of about 3 roads!). When we got to Talkeetna, we were scheduled to see the majestic Mt. McKinley in Denali with flightseeing company Talkeetna Air Taxi, but same story – too much snow!
Instead, we were dropped off at The Talkeetna Roadhouse, and from the minute I walked in the front door of the warm café, I felt like I was home! Tricia Costello, the “lady of the house” as she likes to call herself, has owned The Roadhouse for fourteen years.
Immediately she was there to greet us and offer us a seat at one of the homey antique tables with mismatched chairs and benches. It was lunchtime, after all! In the winter, there are few tourists so her menu choices are smaller. I ordered the quiche, someone else ordered up the reindeer chili, and there was an order of Mac and cheese. Hearty foods are served here, to beat the cold temperatures. Later on, I had a slice of homemade blackberry pie – the best I have ever had!
Tea and coffee is offered continuously in the cozy dining room. We were signed up to take her pie-making class the next day, with the promise that our pies would taste the same (and they did under Tricia’s tutelage and infinite patience!).
The Talkeetna Roadhouse has seven rooms inside the “house” and a private cabin out back – which I was lucky to have been given. None of the rooms have private bathrooms, (except for two apartments a bit down the road) and they are kept spotlessly clean. The Lil Cabin in the back was so romantic and snug. A gaslight fireplace heated the tiny cabin and there was a staircase leading to the loft with two queen-size mattresses. An old VCR player offered movies and I had a chance to watch the Breakfast Club one night.
Talkeetna is sleepy in winter, but, I am told, busy during summer days with cruise ship guests and mountain climbers. The town is reminiscent of old time Alaska and the 1960’s because it has a liberal, hippy vibe, where many people in town don’t even have running water and like it that way! They sometimes take showers at The Roadhouse and do their laundry in her mini Laundromat. I was happy to have the opportunity to wash my clothes!
Mountainside Pizza across the road serves local Alaskan beers and delicious organic crust pizzas. We settled on the Greek with feta cheese and Kalamata olives.
Denali Brewery is also across the street. We toured the brewery and had beer samples at lunch. A “flight” offers four choices in mini four ounce glasses. The waitress told us the place is packed in spring and summer with smelly climbers who have just returned from the three week McKinley climb, dying to devour a burger!
Fairview Pub is a throwback to the 192o’s and reminded me of pubs I used to go to in the Australian outback when I was engaged to a gold miner. We walked into the dark bar, which had a huge grizzly skin on the ceiling and a cute bartender. The crowd was mostly young locals. We ordered the Glacier City IPA, and other Alaskan brand beers. We savored the hoppy brews were enjoyed as we played shuffleboard in the back and soaked in the retro atmosphere. I especially liked the sign on the front (see picture)! It is also infamous for being President Harding’s last stop before he died on a presidential visit which included his mistress and wife!
Wildflower Café is open on weekends in the winter and serves a choice of meat or fish, with salads, chowders, and wonderful desserts. The family-run restaurant is also a very popular place in the summer.
The Ranger Station in Talkeetna is where climbers register to do the big climb. It has fun artifacts and a thrilling ½ hour video of what it is like to summit the mountain. In the summer you can visit the cemetery which houses the remains of the ones that survive the journey. It is very sad, but if I were younger, I still would be tempted to try it.
Alaska Nature Guide’s owner Howard Carbone has done the climb. He is so laid back and humble that I had to pry it out of him. He took several of us on a winter snowshoe along the Susitna River.
Howard pointed out signs of moose and was there to make sure we didn’t fall in the frozen river! In the summer he and his wife offer hikes in Denali and Talkeetna. I can’t wait to go back and hike with him and stay at The Talkeetna Roadhouse! I just loved it!
About the Author: Hi, I am Georgette, a writer, and artist based in Connecticut and Vermont. I am also Johnny Jet’s older sister, who quite possibly ignited his first spark of interest in traveling to exotic places when at the impressionable age of 14, he saw my two-week trip to Australia last four years! Whether skiing in the mountains, snorkeling in the tropics, or exploring faraway cities, I am always game for traveling and the privilege of writing for my baby brother’s website JohnnyJet.com. Of course, coming home to my husband Cam, our dog Baci, and my cat Ace – is great, too! Visit my website at www.georgettepaintings.com.
Sponsored by Travel Alaska and the State of Alaska.