Posted April 28, 2023 – Narrated by Carmen
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 …
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.
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.
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.
Time was a’ wastin’ and we had things to do,
places to go
and sled dogs to see.
Hey, what could go wrong?
As we turned onto Portage Glacier Road, heading toward Whittier, the reclusive sun made a rare appearance.
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 …
and discussed what to do with this unexpected gift of a spectacular day in this wonderland of outdoor opportunities.
Should we hike the “Trail of Blue Ice?” Kayak on Portage Lake? Take in the natural wonders of Portage Glacier?
Or, should we just go drink beer at 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.
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.
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.
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 …
and over dale …
to the adorable village of
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 …
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.
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.
The village rolled out the floral carpet,
brought out the hand-crafted folk art,
and fired up the grill.
Visitors fell in love.
A small tourist industry was born.
We stayed in the charming and quiet Talkeenta Camper Park right in the village…
a perfect location for taking short walks for coffee, lunch, dinner, a brew or a snack.
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 …”
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
- Chapter 1 – San Diego to Malibu
- Chapter 2 – Malibu to Morro Bay
- Chapter 3 – Morro Bay to Santa Cruz
- Chapter 4 – Santa Cruz to San Francisco
- Chapter 5 – San Francisco to Eureka
- Chapter 6 – The Oregon Coast
- Chapter 7 – The Strait of Juan de Fuca
- Chapter 8 – Victoria, British Columbia
- Chapter 9 – Victoria to Mackenzie
- Chapter 10 – The Alaska Highway
- Chapter 11 – Yukon
- Chapter 12 – Top of the World Highway to Chicken, Alaska
- Chapter 13 – Tok to Valdez
- Chapter 14 – Glacier View to Anchorage
- Chapter 15 – Kenai Peninsula
- Chapter 16 – Whittier to Talkeetna
- Chapter 17 – Denali
- Chapter 18 – North Pole to Chena Hot Springs – coming soon!
- Chapter 19 – Tok to Haines – coming soon!
- Chapter 20 – Haines Junction to the Lower 48 – coming soon!
- Chapter 21 – Lesson Learned – coming soon!
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.