I had the unusual opportunity to go to Alaska for 5 days earlier in October. It really was for work but it was the craziest situation. I had posted an idea on a national disability discussion board and literally got NO feedback on my idea. Expect from Lizette. She does disability work in Alaska and wrote back "this is a great idea - you should come to our Catalyst event in early October". I did a bit of research, assuming that I'd never be able to afford it but ... not so! The tickets were only $400 and when I told her I was seriously considering coming, she got me into the event for free. Yeah!! (Turns out there is a reason that Alaska in October is a great deal. Everything is shut down. Summer season is over and winter season hasn't started so many of the tour companies take vacation.)
Considering that its a big trip, I headed up a few days early to acclimate and see a bit of Alaska. I was dead set on taking a train so that I could really enjoy the scenery but ... all the trains were shut down for the season. So, instead of heading south to the peninsula (where all the cruise ships go), I decided to head north towards Denali.
Its a 5 1/2 hour flight and I was gifted with a middle seat. The guy next to me literally slept the whole way (I even checked to see if he was breathing at one point) so I got caught up on movies Hidden Figures and Oceans 8, two great women power movies.
After a late arrival, I got up the next day and took the train up to Talkeetna. Talkeetna is a quirky weird little town at the base of Denali. In fact, the TV show Northern Exposure is based on this town and I'd say that it was a fairly accurate description of the town. Almost anyone that wants to climb Denali comes through this town to get organized. They have a rich artist community, a micro brew (Denali Brew Company) and a long history of frontier adventures and myths (brothels, railroad work, gold mining, etc). Its located at the juncture of 3 rivers so there is a ton of fishing and hunting as well.
The ride up was wet and rainy but very pretty views. Most of the trees are birch or black spruce and it reminded me of northern MN. When I arrived I quickly made friends with the people at the hotel I was staying at and got some good advice for my 2 days. Dog sled training run, museum, hikes, Bean-a-fit, art show and ... a local open mic comedy hour. It was looking to be a good 2 days!
It also turned into a very small world visit. Almost everyone I met was from MN, WI or MI. One of the guys ex-wife lives in MPLS and his kids go to SouthWest. One woman was from Mankato. The bike shop guy coaches the Alexandria Hight School Mountain Bike Team. The 2 couples I walked home with on Saturday night were from Dodgeville. The woman who picked me up for my dog sled ride went to Hope College in Michigan. It was surreal! So many connections!
Sunday was a much sunnier day and the train ride was gorgeous. Only 30% of the visitors actually get to see Denali so we were certainly blessed. I arrived back in Anchorage with time for a late dinner. The next morning I had time for a hike on one of the many bike paths that runs through the city and was rested and ready for my conference.
The conference was great, everything I expected. We used Human Design Thinking tools and really talked about the future of disability services. The people were smart, from a variety of backgrounds and really open to new ideas.
I flew home on the red eye and really did manage to sleep the whole way. (another middle seat)
All in all, it was the perfect little trip to Alaska - I'm definitely going back!!
They converted the old airplane hanger into a small theater - thats where I saw open mic comedy night - the jokes focused on dating in Talkeetna, breaking up in Talkeetna and tourists. I felt a bit conspicuous.
At the local bar/grill/liquor store/market/VFW - The West Rib. seriously, I dont know how you eat this without getting sick. My bartender turned out to be Heather, who was taking me dog sledding the next day so she introduced me to everyone at the bar. Most of whom then were either in the open mic show or working at the open mic show. This is a very very small town.
Heather has done the Iditarod 4 times and has a dog sled team of 20 dogs. She answered every single one of my questions and it was so cool to get an insider view of this sport.
She trains the dogs in the off season by having them pull this 4 wheeler, it was my seat for the training ride
2 of these dogs are still around and retired. Her dogs can live to be 17 and can race until about 13. Her current favorite, Eddie, is deaf, 17 and the father of 5 of her other dogs that are all 13.
The signature Roesti - so so good but I couldn't eat any more. I had a 1/2 order and my plate was overflowing
This place is closing and is a landmark. Reminded me of Captains Steak Joint. and seriously - another MN connection?!