The historic town of Talkeetna is nestled at the base of North America’s tallest peak, Mt. McKinley- also known as Denali, meaning “The Great One”. Talkeetna also has an outstanding panoramic view of the Alaska Range that can be enjoyed and photographed from several places as you wander through the town. This fortunate location with its breathtaking views of Denali and the Alaskan Range combined with the colorful, quaint town and the mystique of the mountain climbing community explains its enormous popularity.
Talkeetna is the jumping off point for the majority of climbing expeditions to Denali. The Denali National Park Rangers present an outstanding program on preparing and climbing Denali. We were fascinated by the presentation and left in awe of such an undertaking. The ranger related that most expeditions fly to the Kahiltna Glacier at about 7200 ft. to begin their climb to the summit of the South Peak at 20,320 ft. The climb itself takes approximately 3 weeks and only 2 or 3 days to descend! Each year, 9-12 climbers on average lose their lives on this majestic mountain. The day of our talk, the rangers aboard a helicopter were rescuing 3 Danish climbers who had become injured from an avalanche.
Talkeetna has the last flag-stop train in Alaska, called the Hurricane Turn. This train runs between the Talkeetna depot and Hurricane. People who live in the Bush, as well as hunters, hikers, fishermen and tourists use this 115 mile train which runs parallel to the Susitna River. Our ride on the Hurricane Turn afforded us the opportunity to meet and to talk with true locals that use this train for their everyday life. One woman uses the train on week-ends to go to her cabin that has been in her family for many years and after she “jumped” off of the train she was going to hike 4 or 5 miles and then inflate her kayak and go down the river the remaining 5 miles to her cabin! Helping her with her gear was a man that was her “neighbor”- meaning they would hike the first 5 miles together and then he would split off and hike to his cabin while she kayaked to hers! The train also gave us our best view of Denali as we were blessed with a clear, sunny day. The conductor stopped the train for everyone to get their photos and we were told this was the first day this season that all of Denali was visible and that it only happens about every 3 weeks in the summer; as all of the locals were also taking photos it must have been true. This was a truly interesting train trip and was a great way to end our stay in Talkeetna.