Quest to the Pacific Northwest - Talkeetna, Alaska
August 4, 2015 - Day 6
Monday we departed from Anchorage to head north via bus to the Princess Lodge at McKinley, just outside the town of Talkeetna. On this trip, Princess handles all the luggage for you, which is fantastic, but it means that you have to put your bag outside the door for pickup at 6 or 7 am each day of travel. That essentially means that you pack the night before and put your bags out before you turn in and have to carry any toiletries you need for the morning in your day bag. Not ideal, but we have all managed. Today, we had to put bags out by 6 am.
In this crew, I am the only early riser, so I have been waking up around 640 and reading, eating breakfast, and walking around the grounds. In Anchorage, I walked down to Resolution Park which overlooks the Cook Inlet. Pretty views of the surrounding mountain range, and a huge tide that leaves miles of mud flats at low tide. Met up with the rest of the crew as we boarded the bus for 3 hr drive North. Tom and I listened to an audio book so we could keep our eyes on the scenery. Our driver told some great stories about his encounters with bears and moose.
We arrived at the lodge and grabbed a quick to go lunch before hopping on the shuttle for an hour long ride to the town of Talkeetna, where all of the excursions are based. It was frustrating because we had driven near Talkeetna on the way in, and had we been in our own car, not the group tour, transport would be much more efficient. The views of the mountains from the lodge were outstanding and there are several hiking trails around the property.
We got to town and scouted a place for dinner, then walked about 15 minutes to the Talkeetna Air Taxi offices near the airport. We had arranged a 2.5 hr flight that went all around the mountain and landed on the Ruth Glacier halfway through. The flight was outstanding! We all loved getting to see the jagged peaks and snow capped mountains up close. My dad, who has a private pilot's license, would love flying up here.
It was fascinating to watch us circle, looking for lift to be able to climb high enough to fly out of the low spots. Everyone keeps telling us how lucky we are that the mountain is showing all the way from the base to the tip. It only happens a few days a year. We saw all 20,430 ft, and landed near base camp at 12,000 ft.
After the flight, we went to Denali Brewing Co for dinner where we enjoyed local microbrews, fresh fish, and reindeer meatloaf. John who has been in Australia all summer where the drinking age is 18, is slightly frustrated that he cannot enjoy the beers with us as he turns 21 in October. After a nice evening on the stone patio, we caught the 730 shuttle back to the lodge.
Before we turned in, we reviewed our plans for Tuesday and figured out that Princess had booked us on an excursion that returned after our bus left for the next town! We talked to the front desk and unfortunately the only option they could offer was to cancel our kayaking trip and give us a refund. It was disappointing, since the train to Denali did not leave until 1230, so there was plenty of time to do everything but we did not have a way to get from the lodge to the town to catch the train. Princess should have caught that! Oh well...it gave everyone an excuse to sleep in the next morning. I did some things for work on the patio as we watched the sun set (not until 11 pm here). Tuesday morning we take a train across the backwoods to the entrance of Denali National Park.