A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.
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The "Welcome to Beautiful Downtown Talkeetna" sign is a community icon and usually has tourists gathered around it snapping photos.
The thing about Talkeetna is, you don't get there by accident. Travelers on their way between Anchorage and Denali National Park have to make a conscious decision to head into Talkeetna.
-- Julia March Crocetto, Talkeetna resident
-- Julia March Crocetto, Talkeetna resident
It's a 14-mile trip up the Talkeetna Spur Road from the Parks Highway. On a trip north to Denali State Park (a neighbor of Denali National Park) last summer, my wife and I took the side trip to Talkeetna to walk around and grab some lunch. We had so much fun, we stopped again on the way home.
Talkeetna's that kind of town. It's not big on size, but it is big on character. There are about 850 residents.
What else would you expect from a town that's main tourist attraction is the old wheelbarrow full of flowers with a sign that says "Welcome to Beautiful Downtown Talkeetna"?
People use a variety of adjectives when trying to describe Talkeetna: funky, fun, quaint, old-time, "real Alaska." They all seem to fit.
"It's kind of a 'Northern Exposure' kind of place," said Julia March Crocetto, a Talkeetna resident who works at the Talkeetna Roadhouse. "We've got all sorts of unusual characters living in the same town together. We laugh with each other, cry with each other and sometimes fight with each other.
"Really, we live together beautifully. That's what makes Talkeetna so great."
Talkeetna has long been connected with the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska, from the 1990s TV show "Northern Exposure." The TV show was actually filmed in Washington, but many say the town was based on Talkeetna.
And Talkeetna offers some of the best about Alaska.
"We are off the beaten path, but we're accessible at the same time," March Crocetto said. "It feels remote while still being fairly easy to get to. It's like a Bush town on the road system.
"I've lived in places all over -- I grew up in Kansas, lived in a funky little town in Arizona and in a big city in Portland. I've kind of seen everything. The community of Talkeetna is what held me here. It's an appealing place to live."
March Crocetto spent some time working at Denali National Park before moving to Talkeetna. In fact, a lot of people in Talkeetna have a connection with the park or Mount McKinley.
On clear days, the 20,320-foot mountain dominates the horizon. Talkeetna is about 60 miles from McKinley.
And many flightseeing and air-taxi companies operate out of Talkeetna. In April, Gore-Tex-clad mountain climbers start to descend on Talkeetna from around the world. After registering with the National Park Service in Talkeetna, most fly to the Kahiltna Base Camp at 7,200 feet on the Kahiltna Glacier.
As summer progresses, tourists arrive and enjoy the flightseeing. Most companies offer trips of one to two hours. Many trips can be combined with glacier landings. Highlights include the Kahiltna Glacier, Ruth Glacier, Sheldon Amphitheater, Wickersham Wall and Great Gorge.
The mountain isn't the only natural wonder in the Talkeetna area.
The town, which was a mining settlement in 1896 and got a boost in 1915 when it was selected as the site for the Engineering Commission Headquarters for the construction of the Alaska Railroad, is near where the Talkeetna and Chulitna rivers join the Susitna River. That makes it a great place for fishing or for riverboat tours.
Sandi Mischenko, manager of the sightseeing office for Mahay's Riverboat Service, said a riverboat tour takes visitors beyond the ordinary.
"One of the things I tell people is, it's a chance to get off the beaten path," she said. "Get off the road system and get onto the river system. You can see what the real Alaska is like."
The company offers three tours: the McKinley Jetboat Safari, the Deluxe Wilderness Safari and the Talkeetna Canyon Tour. Each of the tours makes a stop at a trapper's cabin with original furnishings. The guide will display furs and demonstrate trapping methods.
The McKinley tour is two hours and covers about 10 miles on the Susitna River. The Deluxe tour spends time on all three local rivers, lasts about 3 1/2 hours and covers 50 river miles. The Talkeetna Canyon tour covers 60 miles and includes Class III and IV white water. The trip takes guests past a bald eagle nest and beaver lodges.
"From the river there are excellent views of the mountain, and we often see wildlife," Mischenko said. "A lot of times we see eaglets jumping on the side of the eagle nest."
Special sections editor Steve Edwards can be reached at email@example.com.