Discovering the frontier spirit in Talkeetna AlaskaIt’s the place to go flightseeing over Denali from, it has great restaurants, attractive historic buildings and a whole bunch of characters that live there. There are many reasons to visit Talkeetna Alaska, but the reason I wanted to visit wasn’t any of the above.

I wanted to visit Talkeetna Alaska because they have a cat for a Mayor.

Stubbs, an 18 year old ginger cat was elected the Mayor of Talkeetna back when he was a kitten. I thought that was just about the coolest thing I have ever heard. Apparently when Sarah Palin was the mayor of the neighbouring town of Wasilla, her and Stubbs used to rub shoulders at mayoral events. Wonder which one of them was the better mayor (my money is on Stubbs).

I loved the sound of this quirky little Alaskan town and I knew that I just had to go there.

Nagley's Store in Talkeetna Alaska

I ended up spending two nights in Talkeetna Alaska and apart from flightseeing around Denali (which was freaken incredible) I didn’t do a whole lot.

Talkeetna Alaska is the perfect little town to just wander around. I ate, I wandered, I browsed. It was perfect.

Talkeetna Alaska moose

Where I stayed in Talkeetna Alaska

My hostel in Talkeetna Alaska was also incredible. At first I didn’t find anything particularly special about it but the cosy little place grew on me, and fast. Nestled in a shady spot about ten minutes walk from town, the Talkeetna International Hostel felt like home by the time I left.

I have never felt so attached to a place in such a short space of time before. A lot of it had to do with the super welcoming Manager Colleen and one of the guys that worked there, Wylie. These two were so friendly and such genuinely good people that the whole vibe of the place was infected with their positivity.

Talkeetna International Hostel

On my first evening they very kindly cooked me a delicious dinner of salmon that Colleen had caught the day before. We ate under the fairy lights out on the covered deck while the rain poured down around us.

Salmon dinner at the hostel in Talkeetna Alaska

It rained most of my only full day in Talkeetna but it didn’t matter. Hot chocolate on the well-worn hostel couch while I listened to it coming down outside is something that epitomised comfort for me. But I braved the weather too – armed with my umbrella and dressed in my warmest clothes.

Where I Ate in Talkeetna Alaska

One great rainy day activity is sampling local cuisine and all of my meals while I was in Talkeetna Alaska were well above average. The Spinach Bread Airstream food truck parked in a permanent spot on the main street serves up massive hunks of grilled spinach and cheese bread and although it looked delicious, I went for their meal of the day which was a black bean dish with fluffy rice, fresh coriander, homemade salsa and crushed peanuts – so good.

Talkeetna Spinach Bread food truck in Talkeetna Alaska

My favourite meal in Talkeetna Alaska was at the iconic Talkeetna Roadhouse where I breakfasted at a long communal table. I originally heard about the Talkeetna Roadhouse when Adam Richman went there on Man v Food. It is kitschy as hell with walls covered in flags, photos and signs but that’s why I loved it.

It was at the Talkeetna Roadhouse that I had one of the most unusual and delicious breakfasts ever – the super decadent Nick’s Way which consisted of scrambled eggs, bacon, hash brown potatoes, a buttery soft homemade biscuit and reindeer sausage gravy – simply incredible and I didn’t need to eat again until dinner.

If you only have time for one meal in Talkeetna Alaska – make it at the Talkeetna Roadhouse!

Talkeetna Roadhouse breakfast The Roadhouse in Talkeetna Alaska

I enjoyed a local craft beer on the covered deck at the Wildflower Cafe. I went for the Denali Mother Ale and it was fantastic. The Wildflower has so many choices of Alaskan craft beer from all over the State and super friendly staff. I heard the food is good too but I never did try it.

Craft beer selection at Wildflower Cafe in Talkeetna Alaska

What to see in Talkeetna Alaska

There are a couple of Historic cabins dotted in the back streets of Talkeetna that are set up to show what they would have looked like when the original owners who built them in the late 19th century/early 20th century lived there. One of them still has its original Sitka strawberry patch. I picked a few and they were delicious.

Historic cabin in Talkeetna Alaska

Visiting the river during a short sunny interval, I watched the rafters pushing out into its swift current. I would have liked to go for a longer walk along it had the sun hung around for a while.

Talkeetna Alaska river

I visited most of the town’s points of interest that were inside to escape the cold and rain. The Salmon Centre was interesting with baby salmon in tanks and information about their life cycle, and I enjoyed browsing the many tasteful gift shops scattered through town. But my favourite attraction was the Talkeetna Historical Society Museum which is spread out over three historic buildings behind the main street of town.

Talkeetna Alaska Historical Society Museum

It was a higgledy-piggle of exhibitions crammed into every nook and cranny, lots of old photos and all kinds of randomness: exactly the way I like my local museums to be. I learnt about the homesteading act that bought a lot of people who wanted a better life up to Alaska from the lower 48 and about the history of Talkeetna as a town.

Talkeetna Alaska is listed on the national register of historic places and was originally inhabited by the Athabascan Indians before gold prospectors and railroad men started settling the area from the late 19th century through the beginning of the 20th century.

Talkeetna was established as a town in 1919 once it was linked by railway to Anchorage. These days it is popular with climbers that are aiming to summit Denali, and during late spring/early summer they pretty much take over the town.

Nagley's Store in Talkeetna Alaska

One of the buildings housed an exhibit about Denali and I somehow perfectly timed my visit with a  detailed talk by a ranger about summiting the mountain. The exhibit also touched on the many people that have died trying to summit.

After learning more about climbing Denali and the danger in attempting it, I visited the Ranger Station to watch the film that all mountaineers have to watch before attempting a climb. The film went through the climb step by step which was very interesting. 

There is a quiet little cemetery tucked away near the airfield that has a memorial to all of the people who have died trying to summit Denali. There are a lot of names on there. When the weather is bad on Denali it can be more dangerous than Everest.

Memorial wall to Denali climbers in Talkeetna AlaskaI popped into Nagley’s Store and the adjoining West Rib Pub and Grill to look for Stubbs numerous times but unfortunately I never did get to see him.

I learnt a lot during my short time in Talkeetna Alaska and there were so many reasons why I ended up loving that small frontier town. I may not have seen the cat Mayor that brought me there but I couldn’t imagine not experiencing Talkeetna – Stubbs or no Stubbs.

Have you been to Talkeetna Alaska? Would you go?

10 comments on “Discovering the Frontier Spirit in Talkeetna Alaska”

  1. That sounds like such a wonderful little place.
    I’ve wanted to go to Alaska for ages now. I should really have gone there when I was in North America this summer :/ Maybe next year! 🙂

  2. Sounds wonderful! I’ve never understood the concept of ‘biscuits and gravy’ though – it always looks to me like someone threw up on the plate (apologies for that mental image!). I suppose it must taste better than it looks.

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