A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.
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TALKEETNA: Great food, fests, mckinley are town's signatures.
When Suzy Kellard arrived in Talkeetna in the summer of 1959, the population hovered around 80, and there were only a half dozen houses in the town's center.
Today the population has grown nearly tenfold and Main Street has blossomed with eateries, gift shops and lodges. Yet its spirit really hasn't changed, Kellard said, and she still proudly calls Talkeetna home.
"It's like old-time Alaska," said Kellard, who has owned and operated Talkeetna Gifts and Collectibles with her husband, Jim, for the past 26 years. "It's a community that does have a downtown so you can walk around it easily, and most of the businesses are owner-operated so you have much more of a sense of connection to the people."
This independent community, on the National Register of Historic Places, gives visitors a glimpse of frontier living just a two-hour drive from Anchorage. It began as a mining town and trading post in 1896, and by 1910, the town added a riverboat-steamer station. Talkeetna also served as the headquarters for the Alaska Engineering Commission, which built the Alaska Railroad.
Today, that railroad brings visitors by the hundreds, and local guides ply the Susitna and Talkeetna rivers, showing guests the area by boat.
"The train is an important part of our visitor industry," Kellard said. It also brings in modern-day pioneers who live on the outskirts of Talkeetna and come into town via train to resupply, she said.
Come late spring, Talkeetna changes from a sleepy little outpost of locals to a melting pot of international guests who've set their sights on Mount McKinley, the premier mountaineering destination in North America. These climbers launch their expeditions from the airstrip in Talkeetna, and from May to July, their accents and languages can be heard from the local saloon to the community mercantile. Area bush pilots fly the climbers to the mountain, and visitors can sample a taste of their world by taking a flightseeing tour to the base camp.
"Our climbing season ... adds a real international flavor," Kellard said. "At the (Talkeetna) Roadhouse, they still have the big tables where everybody sits together, so you could be talking to a dog musher, to someone who is climbing the mountain, to another international visitor who's come in from the cruise ships. It's such a neat informalness."
Sheldon Community Arts Hangar
This community art center houses work from area artists. The center also hosts plays, concerts, workshops, readings and classes and, in December, the unforgettable Talkeetna Bachelor Auction fundraiser.
WHEN: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday, with event openings varying by season
WHERE: 22249 S. D St.
COST: Free for some events, fees for others; see online calendar
Talkeetna Historical Society Museum
Located in the old town schoolhouse and packed with artifacts from the area's Native people, aviators, climbing history, gold seekers and trappers. Be sure to ask for the walking tour brochure, which will guide you through the town's other historic buildings.
WHEN: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily in summer, by appointment in winter
WHERE: In the little red schoolhouse, downtown Talkeetna
COST: $3 for adults, free for children
Mount McKinley Climbers Memorial
Granite plaques and a small garden of monuments to honor climbers who have perished on Mount McKinley and other nearby peaks. Propellers in the memorial mark the graves of bush pilots.
WHEN: Open year-round
Where: Talkeetna town cemetery, near the airstrip
Talkeetna Ranger Station
Expeditions to Mount McKinley and Mount Foraker must check in with the rangers at this station, but visitors can stop in and learn more about climbing from informational displays, park information and interpretive programs throughout the summer.
WHEN: 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily mid-April to Labor Day; 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday in winter
WHERE: Corner of First and B Street
Live at 5
Bring a picnic or stop by the local shops to grab a snack, and spread out on the lawn to listen to live music.
WHEN: 5-7 p.m. Fridays, Memorial Day to Labor Day
WHERE: Talkeetna Village Park, downtown
PHONE: 907-733-7929 (or 907-733-2330)
Second Saturday Art Openings
Denali Arts Council's Talkeetna Artists Guild hosts a monthly event featuring Alaskan artists. Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe and Dancing Leaf Gallery's art openings coincide, so visitors can hit both shows on the same day. Featured artists are on-site at both events.
WHEN: DAC 5-7 p.m., Flying Squirrel 3-5 p.m. and Dancing Leaf 4-7 p.m. year-round
WHERE: Sheldon Community Arts Hangar and Dancing Leaf in downtown Talkeetna; Flying Squirrel, Mile 11 Talkeetna Spur
COST: Free for show and reception
PHONE: 907-733-7929 (DAC), 907-733-6887 (Flying Squirrel) and 907-733-5323 (Dancing Leaf)
Artisans Open-air Market
Local in-season produce and work from local artists and craftsmen.
WHEN: 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Saturdays through Mondays in the summer
WHERE: Next to the Sheldon Community Arts Hangar
COST: Free to browse
Moose Dropping Festival
The 38th annual event is back after organizers took a break for a couple of years. This year's event is smaller and condensed to one area of town but promises a lot of the same fun -- including the moose-dropping contest.
WHEN: June 2
WHERE: On Talkeetna Historical Society Museum grounds and the adjacent Upper Susitna Softball Association softball field.
VFW Fourth of July Parade
The highlight of this annual event is the Moose on Parade auction, in which 4-foot plywood moose cutouts are decorated by local artists and sold to the highest bidder. Come early to stake out your favorite ungulate.
WHEN: Noon, July 4
WHERE: Main Street, with the moose stationed around town for pre-auction viewing.
COST: Free; moose go to highest bidder