Alaska — Talkeetna

After cruising College Fjord, the Grand Princess continued on to Whittier where we would transfer onto an Alaska Railroad train and travel to Talkeetna. The train travels through two fairly long tunnels shortly after departing Whittier. Soon after going through these tunnels were saw our first moose.

Talkeetna was established in 1916 and is a small town at the confluence of three rivers: the Talkeetna, the Susitna, and Chulitna. The town is best described as “authentic” with many structures in town dating from the early 1900s and most businesses being owned by locals. Talkeetna is the preferred starting off point for most climbing expeditions seeking to summit Denali.

Our first expedition out of Talkeetna was a jet-boat tour on the Susitna River. The trip began with a short ride on the “local” Alaska Railroad train to the abandoned resort town of Curry. The “local” train would pick up or drop off local residents at any point along the rail line (just flag the train down!); as a result, the “local” ran on an uncertain schedule and was forced to go on sidings whenever the scheduled trains needed to pass.

Our guide, Alice, was originally born in Germany and came to Alaska as part of a research project. She never left. Note that she has a shotgun in one of the photos. If she were alone, Alice said she would not have brought the shotgun as bears aren’t really a concern; moose, on the other hand, need to be given a wide birth as they will charge with little provocation. Alice brought the shotgun (unloaded and stored by the train’s conductor for safety) with her onto the train. Bringing firearms and boxes of provisions onto the “local” train was apparently a common thing.

The town of Curry was established as a resting point for travelers going from Seward to Fairbanks. The steam locomotives of the age were not able to complete the entire journey without refueling at some point in between, so the town of Curry was established. The railroad built a hotel on the site, appropriately called the Curry Hotel, that was quite luxurious given its remoteness. The hotel had a pool, central heating, a suspension bridge across the Susitna River and many other modern amenities. Modern diesel-electric locomotives were able to make the Seward to Fairbanks trip without stopping, making the Curry Hotel superfluous. Today there is little that remains of the hotel besides some foundations and a pair of boilers borrowed from retired steam engines used in the hotel’s heating plant.

A few old railcars remain on a siding at Curry, including a rotary snowplow which made for some interesting photos. On the jetboard ride down the Susitna River, we stopped to visit a replica native American village and frontier cabin. While on that hike I photographed ferns (not sure of the specific variety) that were already 6 feet tall, some High Bush Cranberries, Devils Club, and other flowers.

Due to the presence of the Alaska Range (which includes Denali) and the Chugach Mountains, the weather in Talkeetna is more often cloudy than not making one’s odds of seeing Denali less than 50/50. We were lucky to have good weather and views of Denali from Talkeetna.

On another excursion from Talkeetna we enjoyed “tundra golf” at the 9-hole Black Diamond Golf Course:

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