Alaska’21: Day 4 – Talkeetna, Denali (almost)

It feels like there are a lot of photos here, and there are; but many of them are of the same essential shot over and over again since we spent a good 5 hours throughout the day on Denali watch. At a height of 20,310 feet, clouds are often in the way. In fact, it’s a thing here to be able to say “we’re in the 30% club”: you can only actually see it about 30% of the time. We were really hoping today would be one of those days.

But at least the weather was better than the day before – it didn’t rain at all after almost 2 days of nothing but. That not only improved the chances of seeing the mountain, but motivated us to get out more than we did on Saturday. I was up before Ash as usual, and got the blog up before he got out of bed.

I looked out the window the first time about 5:15am and you could just barely see the mountains in the distance, but it was So Much Clearer than the day before I was pretty excited. The above shot is with a 5x camera zoom, as many of them are today, so not perfect clarity. But 5x provides the same perspective in the photo as we had in real life so I decided to stick with it for some of them.

This was 6:25am, a little more clearer than before.

This is the 5x zoom at the same time.

We decided to become part of the rocking chair row sitting on the other side of those windows for the better part of 4 hours, between 7am-11am. When we weren’t there we were outside on this great deck, getting more coffee, or using the restroom 🙂

Above and below are the views left and right from the deck.

This was 9:51am. You can actually see some blue sky now and everyone was pretty excited.

This is just what you do here 🙂 – watch the mountain. See Paul on the floor dead center. You can’t see Ash sitting in front of him because the 3rd person in is blocking him but he’s there.

10:29am. The map below shows where the mountain is at the top, and where we are at the bottom. You can see the little Google map direction indicator pointing straight at it. It’s 60 miles away.

There’s a little landing strip out there for planes that give aerial tours of the area. Running every 20 minutes, we saw this plane land a bunch of times.

Finally, a break in those persistent low clouds. 10:40am.

10:52am. You can see it a tiny but more in that same break in the clouds, but this was as good as it got. Just to give you an idea of what we missed, I found the photo below on the Facebook page of the lodge, posted by a guest in March of 2020.

I tried to give the photographer credit but couldn’t find that review again! So sorry. Nice photo though. Maybe next time we’ll see it.

The sign says "Latitude 62 - booze, beds & burgers"

We gave up around 11am because we were hungry but didn’t want to eat in the hotel. We decided the Denali view was as good as it was going to get that day so we made our way into town, about 2 miles away. Latitude 62 is the first thing you come across, and it was #3 on TripAdivsor so why not. “Booze, beds & burgers” is perfectly reflective of the whole scene here. And by scene I mean the town, not just the restaurant.

A cozy cabin, lots of interesting stuff on the walls. And a good thing, too, because the food took forever.

Ash had eggs and ham, I had blueberry pancakes and reindeer sausage.

A big wooden sign says "Entering Talkeetna Historic District"

Get excited!

The whole thing is maybe 2 blocks long, at least of anything worth looking at. Lots of people out, we kept forgetting it’s a holiday weekend. But we enjoy cute little towns like this so it was fun to look around.

Restaurant sign: Thai, Chinese, Sushi, Indian Cuisine.

One of the first things you see as you enter. Looks pretty authentic to me, what do you think?

Sign looks like an ice cream cone: "Shirley's Northern Lights Handmade Gourmet Ice Cream" on the ice cream part, "& bakery" on the cone.

Shirley’s is #5 on TripAdvisor. We came into town today knowing we’d stop here for dessert first thing.

This was probably 1pm or so and quite a crowd.

That’s Shirley on the left, with her daughter. They’re from Oklahoma and everything here is made by them. Super friendly.

They even gave Paul a tiny bowl of strawberry cheesecake and vanilla ice cream on the house!

bumper sticker on the window: Make American Grateful Again.

Not necessarily the prevailing attitude in these parts but we appreciated seeing it here.

A wooden blue moose decorated in flowers.

This state loves its moose. And blue moose are better apparently….

….because that wasn’t even related to the “Once in a Blue Moose Alaskan Gifts” shop we saw a few steps later.

“High Expedition.” My first thought was pot store. But then I saw the clothing out front and thought sports place, like mountain climbing. Then I saw the “tomatoes, herbs” etc sign on the left and was confused. So when I went in and caught the overwhelming aroma and was asked for an ID, I realized my first hunch was correct. Nice people though! The woman at the herb tables said “yea, different kind of herbs here.” She was just using the porch.

Dancing Leaf art gallery and gift shop. There was some nice stuff in there but we didn’t buy anything.

My attempts to get a decent selfie of us never quite worked out so you get to see several of them….

We took those while waiting for the lodge shuttle. The mountain view was actually worse than we left it so we hung out in the room the rest of the afternoon and finished watching Halston. (Great acting on Ewan McG’s part but wow, what an unlikeable guy.) We kept checking the view out the window but weren’t missing anything.

We went back into town around 6pm for dinner.

Mountain High Pizza Pie is #2 on TripAdvisor. (Denali Brewpub is #1 and was next door, but I’m not wild about pub food so maybe we’ll try it next time!)

They had a festive patio….

…and lots of covered seating as well, see Ash on the left….

…with live entertainment that was pretty good! Think Eagles.

We shared an order of chicken tenders and a spinach salad with a creamy balsamic dressing, walnuts, cranberries, and blue cheese.

We split a small pizza of pepperoni, anchovy, basil.

And went back to Shirley’s to share a chocolate cream pie for dessert.

The live entertainment theme continued back at the hotel with a duo that plays there regularly apparently. Seems like much of the crowd weren’t even guests of the hotel but had come here just for the music, including the two whose backs are to you in the photo, who we encountered on our way in.

Denali watch continued and we saw a tiny bit of it for a few minutes.

A group of women not staying at the hotel had shanghaied all the rocking chairs so we sat outside. The weather was actually beautiful – about 61 degrees at this point – so very pleasant. Until the mosquitoes started eating away at Ash and it was time to go in.

And that, my friends, is our trip. This morning we drive back to Anchorage for a 1pm flight to Seattle, then on home. This was my first trip to Alaska. I had no idea what to expect but thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a different lifestyle for sure and everyone we’ve encountered has been super friendly. While I would never want to live here, it’s worth a visit and I would come back. And a good thing, too, since Ash wants to come back in March since we learned that’s the best time to see the Northern Lights. That’s supposed to be one of the best times to see Denali so we’ll see how that goes then. But brrr. Better than January I guess.

Our next trip will be 8/27 – 9/11. It’s looking like 5 nights in Paris and the rest of the time in various spots around Switzerland. We bought our airline tickets a week or two ago and Ash started to book some of the Swiss stay on Airbnb last night. Having another trip to look forward to feels both normal and exciting after a year of not knowing when we’d be able to travel again. Hope to see you there.

1 thought on “Alaska’21: Day 4 – Talkeetna, Denali (almost)”

  1. Man has this ever intensified my itch to fly! I know I’ll be coming to Sacramento in August but that really doesn’t count. Thanks for posting your European dates. I have never been to Alaska either and I could see myself chilling in those scenes.

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