Airstreaming to Alaska – Chapter 16: Whittier to Talkeetna

Posted April 28, 2023 – Narrated by Carmen
To listen to the podcast, click the play button
Airstreaming to Alaska
If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.

After a full year of preparation and months of travel, Alaska was almost finished. For us, at least.

seward highway alaska
Near Lower Trail Lake on the Seward Highway

In Victoria, we left summer comforts behind for a solo North Country expedition. Due to our age and the physical demands of the journey, we knew this would be our first and last road trip to this latitude.

whittier alaska
Pulling out of Whittier. Fourth straight day of 24 hour rain.

Surprising fact: Seniors over-landing to Alaska is rather common. We shared the road with countless people in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, some with disabled/handicapped permits.

girdwood alaska
Near Girdwood

If you’re following our story you know this journey is not a piece o’cake. Nevertheless, the pullouts are full of Olive Garden patrons – some on motorcycles, some with walkers – and they’re not coming all this way for The Bingo Trail.

whittier alaska
Just north of Whittier

Neither old age or the Alaska highway is for sissies. But, all things considered, viewing glaciers from inside a warm and cozy RV helps you to forget about Volkswagen sized pot-holes, wet weather and limp imported lettuce.

It truly is The Great American road trip.

moose pass alaska
North of Moose Pass near Jerome Lake.

At this point, our cold-weather duds were showing wear, our fingers ached from hand-washing socks which took days to dry. And, though Jim fed us like we were on the Orient Express …

Jim’s Hello Sunshine Salmon and Taters recipe substituting with fresh locally sourced whitefish.

we were starving for fresh leafy greens and rejoicing over every scrap of sunshine the tundra mercifully tossed in our direction.

Sunshine and fresh food. These fundamental California comforts, along with our 4-3-2 travel hack, and common sense danger avoidance – took a back seat to the forces of Polarity. We continued north.

moose pass alaska
On the Seward Highway near Moose Pass

The signs were undeniable.

The land extended the last fruits of summer. Winter woodpiles reached porch rafters. Tourist season was winding down and hunting season was ramping up. Still, our hard-earned Alaska ambitions hadn’t run out of steam.

The fireweed – Alaska’s botanic calendar – had bloomed out, signaling last call. The party was winding down.

We were in a strangle-hold with Nature. Cold and wet lay claim to every sanguine hide of man and beast.

Yeah, well, Alaska would have to work for it. We were armed up to the solar panels with tactical defenses.

Habanero Mocha Latte

Time was a’ wastin’ and we had things to do,

Cruisin’ on our Dolphin eBikes

places to go

denali brewing
Denali Brewing Company Tasting Room near Talkeenta

and sled dogs to see.

Hey, what could go wrong?

Jim in the Magic Bus from the film, “Into The Wild


As we turned onto Portage Glacier Road, heading toward Whittier, the reclusive sun made a rare appearance.

girdwood alaska
Near Girdwood

The autumnal fog had lifted. The salmon were running.

And we felt like the only humans in Alaska who actually buy fish.

We settled in at beautiful Williwaw Campground

Williwaw campground

and discussed what to do with this unexpected gift of a spectacular day in this wonderland of outdoor opportunities.

Williwaw campground

Should we hike the “Trail of Blue Ice?” Kayak on Portage Lake? Take in the natural wonders of Portage Glacier?

Portage lake
Portage lake

Or, should we just go drink beer at Girdwood Brewing Company?

Girdwood Brewing Company

It seemed like the right decision until the next morning when we woke to a steady rain which never let up. Over the next four days we desperately tried to claw back lost opportunities, but to no avail.

This was what we had hoped for in Whittier.

This was the reality.

So close.

Portage Glacier, just a 2-mile paddle away 😞

Whittier – named in honor of Quaker abolitionist and poet John Greenleaf Whittier in a nod to his poem Snowbound – is the rainiest place on earth where most residents live in an abandoned military bunker.

Girdwood Brewing Company

At Girdwood Brewing Company, we began to sense the mettle of this unique community. Pico was received like a celebrity. Cute little non-working dogs are a rare sight in Whittier. “There are no veterinarians,” we were warned.

Near Portage lake

Constant rain didn’t cause Whittier-folk to miss a beat.

But when times get tough, we turn to food. Jim made the best of our Bunkering In Beauty time by using our smoked and dried wild Alaska salmon to whomp up the best chowder I have ever laid lips on.

Okay, enough with the regret – it’s just more water under the flooded out bridge. We rinsed the glacier dust out our socks and moved on …

through hill …

Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, at 2 ½ miles, it is the longest tunnel shared by autos and trains in North America.

and over dale …

Seward Highway overlooking Turnagain Arm

to the adorable village of


Stock photo of main street Talkeenta, a mountaineering village near Denali National Park.

This is the traditional land of the Dena’ina Ełnen the Mountain People who have dwelt and hunted here for thousands of years. The name Talkeetna is derived from a word that literally means “food is stored in river” which aptly describes the culture’s idyllic lifestyle and practical nature until …

Talkeetna Alaska

1905 when gold was discovered in Cache Creek in The Dutch Hills triggering the railroad from Anchorage to Fairbanks in 1917, just before the pandemic of 1919 hit, reducing the population to less than 60 souls.

Talkeetna Alaska

Things were rough until the Summer of ’63 when the village was named the perfect spot on the continent to view the total eclipse of the sun by way of the newly developed Talkeetna Spur Road.

Talkeetna Alaska

The village rolled out the floral carpet,

Talkeetna Alaska
Talkeetna Alaska

brought out the hand-crafted folk art,

Talkeetna Alaska
Talkeetna Alaska

and fired up the grill.

Talkeetna Alaska
Salmon burger from The Salmon Spot

Visitors fell in love.

Talkeetna Alaska

A small tourist industry was born.

Talkeetna Alaska

We stayed in the charming and quiet Talkeenta Camper Park right in the village…

Talkeetna camper park

a perfect location for taking short walks for coffee, lunch, dinner, a brew or a snack.

Talkeetna Alaska
Great coffee at Conscious Coffee
Talkeetna Alaska
Our favorite hangout, Denali Brew Pub
Talkeetna Alaska
Talkeetna Alaska
Talkeetna Alaska
Talkeetna Alaska
Talkeetna Alaska
Talkeetna Alaska

Talkeetna is a sanctuary, a place to cozy up and shake off the harsh realities of the wilderness life.

I’m not ashamed to confess that I sang love songs to the electric dryer: “Only you can make these socks feel right … Only you and you alone can can fluff them like you do …”

Talkeetna Alaska

If could have folded and tucked that sweet town into our linen drawer, we would have taken it with us, but for practical purposes we will always hold Talkeetna in our hearts. On to Denali.

Chapters in the “Airstreaming to Alaska” series

If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.

32 thoughts on “Airstreaming to Alaska – Chapter 16: Whittier to Talkeetna

  1. Good one! I always enjoy your posts. Having lived and re-visited Alaska, we totally agree about Talkeenta. A great spot. When we lived there, they were still holding the “Moose Dropping Festival”! Such fun.

      1. Ours was about 1985 – they had a big painted board (like a huge table) painted with rings and scores. Contestants use spray painted moose poop (winter ones as they are nice and firm,😂🙀😂) and toss them on to hig scoring areas on the board. High score wins. I think you bought so many moose pellets for $5 or something. Hysterical when people realize they were actual moose poop! I think the Year of that video, it got so out of hand (one person died – jumped in the river!) that they stopped it. It was a fun small town event that got out of hand.

        1. Thank you for sharing that story. Now, I get why they don’t do the Moose Drop anymore. Too much excitement.

          Best little town ever.

  2. Love your blog! You’re truly living in beauty. Denali has been on my list for many years. Looking forward to reading what you discover. Keep having fun, fun, fun!
    Warm regards,
    Karen Winston, AHF

    1. Hey Karen,

      Yes, I had to put the Denali teaser in there since all that really happened during the two weeks before Denali was cooking and laundry. We do enjoy cocooning and the domestic arts, but we don’t expect others to share our enthusiasm. We were fascinated to see how people carve a life into Alaska and Whittier and Talkeetna are both good places to get a feel for the wilderness life.

      Thank you for being with us Karen!

      funFunFUN to you too!

      Safe & Happy Travels!


    1. Hey Lori!

      We loved Seward, too! Hey, we probably saw you up there!

      Unfortunately, we missed Hyder which was my mom and dad’s favorite Alaska location. Jim and I had our bear and salmon run experience in Haines. I will get that story up soon. We’ve been traveling kind of fast and furiously lately and I’m behind, but I’m on it!

      Thanks for being with us, Lori

      Safe & Happy Travels!


  3. As always beautiful pictures — Carmen you are as lovely as ever, and Jim — well you look good in a hat. Off to play pickleball this morning. Give us a call when you get WiFi.
    Sam sends love as do Harpo and Groucho.
    J and S

    1. Hey Funniest Man In San Diego!

      Hey! We’re looking forward to hitting the pickle ball court with you two. We’re really bad at the game, but we like running around and trying to hit the ball and laughing at each other. Good exercise.

      We miss you and Sam. You know where we are and we will be there for two months. Let’s talk soon!

      Hugs to Harpo & Groucho 😽💕🐈💕

      Safe & Happy Travels!


    1. Hey Kate!

      Honestly, we could spend the entire season in Talkeetna and Denali.

      Great to hear from you!

      Safe & Happy Travels!


      1. Not sure if you are a fan, but the show Northern Exposure is supposedly based on Talkeetna. And if you are a fan, you can visit Roslyn in Washington where it was filmed, most of the downtown sets are still there. Enjoy the northern lights and the pie! Happy travels!

        1. Yes!!! We are huge fans of Northern Exposure. We own the DVD set of the entire show and have watched it several times. We loved the show so much that when it was cancelled we threw out our television and never got another one.

          We visited Roslyn on our return trip, but Talkeetna felt more like the real thing. I’m not surprised it that it provided inspiration for that great series.

          Thanks so much for sharing that!

  4. Your blog is so inspiring! I read the whole thing as soon as it comes each time. thank you for all the work that goes into sharing your adventures with us all.

    1. Hey Donna!

      Jim and I are so delighted to know that you are Living In Beauty with us 💕 This makes the ride so much better!

      Safe & Happy Travels!


    1. Hey Linda!

      That ice cream is now my favorite flavor! It’s kind of marshmallow and honeysuckle together. My two favorite flavors – spruce and fireweed – can’t be found below the Canada border. I guess I am now a woman of distinctive tastes 😌

      Great to hear from you!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

  5. Dear Carmen,
    Thank you for sharing the beauty of America with us. I have been reading your cheerful, colorful posts for years. Your gratitude for nature and your joy for life are fortifying. We are southern Californians, too, with a vintage Airstream Safari, and though we travel quite a bit, the Airstream enjoys her retirement at home. So I live vicariously through your photos and writing, and enjoy every minute.

    1. Hey Joanne!

      Welcome to Living in Beauty. Mi casa es su casa. Someday we will be traveling vicariously too, so thank you for your warm greeting. Wow! a vintage Safari! That is a highly prized Airstream.

      I like to think that this blog is an extension of a long history of women who journaled while traveling with their families across the ocean or continent to places they have never been before – leaving Certainty (whether real or imaginary) of a secure existance with assurances of normal days – to head out toward something entirely new. I don’t think that genre is purely American, but it has a strong foothold in America. It’s an old colonial idea that is growing a new skin for this present era motivated by a multitude of influences (technology, economy, work-from-home, housing crises, road expansion …) We do it because we find it exciting to NOT know what is around the next bend.

      Safe & Happy Travels!


  6. Well, your post made me hungry! You two have a way with food and drinks. 🙂 The Magic Bus must have been moved. In 2004, my then boyfriend hiked out to it in the Alaskan wilderness, while I stayed behind in our camper with our dog for three days. Pico looks so cute with the husky. I have many photos of Maya making new friends in Colombia as well.

    Sorry the weather wasn’t better and about the missed opportunity to kayak to the glacier on that one nice day. It would have been nice and special. But chilly!

    What did the fireweed ice cream taste like?

    1. Hey Liesbet!

      I hope you and Mark and Maya are having a wonderful day in Columbia!

      Yes, the Army National Guard moved the bus in 2020.

      Fireweed blossoms tasted a bit bitter and slightly peppery but mostly the flavor reminded me of marshmallow with a hint of honeysuckle. The color is amazing. Fireweed honey is highly prized up north and it’s very good but I’m still partial to tupelo honey. The article below says fireweed is a remedy for headaches and other maladies.

      Safe & Happy Travels!


  7. That pizza alone would have made that town a winner for me! It all looks delightful, and just the ticket for getting you through a rough patch. WelI, that and the tune-worthy laundry machines!

    Now…. fingers crossed that the weather gods were a bit kinder in Denali!

    1. Hey Laura! Yes, the baked goods and pizza were top-notch every place we went. Bakery hopping through Alaska for pie, pizza and donuts is a good strategy and we should have done that more often.

      The hard times were always rewarded. Every day had some wonderful unexpected thrill – but glacier country is a crap shoot in terms of weather and visibility due to low clouds and smoke from wildfires. Staying longer is the logical solution but the longer you stay the more your challenges increase. Just had to keep reminding ourselves that we were on an adventure.

      Jim and I hope you’re having a glorious day!

      Abraço to Thor 🐾💕

      Safe & Happy Travels!


  8. Talkeenta looks charming and colorful and so welcoming! A road trip to Alaska is definitely not for wimps, which may be why we’ve never attempted it, LOL. I’ve enjoyed reading (and listening to) your tales of your journey, and I love ALL of the details, including the challenges you encountered along the way. You guys have such great attitudes and live so well, no matter where you are and no matter how slim the pickings. I’m looking forward to Jim’s cookbook. :-))

    1. Laurel, Talkeenta is a very charming little village. A bit focused on tourism, but still a fun place to hang out for awhile. We are glad we drove to Alaska since the scenery was so spectacular and was a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience for us. Many folks have had better luck with weather than we did. That would have changed our experience quite a bit if it hadn’t rained so much that we couldn’t hike and kayak as much as we wanted. Still, we are so glad we did it. I am working on that cookbook. Here is the beginning of it: Thank you for following Living in Beauty. Stay safe out there Laurel. Jim

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