Talkeetna: In The Shadow of Denali

The westward turn along the Glenn Highway skirts the Chugach Mountains and then heads into the fertile MatSu valley. I’d spent many days in these parts, following Robert Hansen’s tracks into the bush, where murder was just another day in the life. But as we hit the Parks Highway in Wasilla, that memory started to fade. We were now going up country, back into the wilderness that Talkeetna landmarks, where Denali reigns as a benevolent dictator.

I would like to say that we lingered on Talkeetna’s lone main street, with its funky bars and roadhouses. That we took in its back country grit. That we caught glimpses of Denali and decided a back country hike was in order. But we didn’t. We headed straight for Maggie’s house, just off the town’s center; this started as a business trip and it would end that way (1).

Nagley’s Store, downtown Talkeetna

I was not disappointed. Maggie herself was no-nonsense Alaska in the best sense of the word. She was outgoing but unassuming and cut-to-the-chase as she offered us beer, food and good company. Over the course of the evening several of her friends dropped by, providing lively chat and an abiding sense of community.

For some reason, though, I curled up like a puppy and fell asleep, the friendly voices rocking me in my private cradle.

At least I was ready to hit the road bright and shiny the next morning. The skipper backed his truck up to Maggie’s trailer and, with considerable assistance from her boyfriend, fussed with the nets until we were convinced they wouldn’t slide off during the 332 mile return journey.

“We’re going fishing,” I thought, as Talkeetna faded in the rear view mirror. “Nothing can stop us now.”

Chulitna and Talkeetna Rivers converge at the Susitna River in Talkeetna, Alaska (Leland E. Hale)

Chulitna River, Talkeetna, Alaska – Denali covered by clouds (video by Leland E. Hale)

(1) I didn’t return to Talkeetna until 2017, in the company of Lorrie Miller and her daughter, Carolynn. We did some of the things I missed the first time around, including a thrilling jet boat ride on the Chulitna River. This time I was a tourist.

Copyright Leland E. Hale (2018). All rights reserved.


Order “What Happened In Craig,” HERE and HERE, true crime from Epicenter Press about Alaska’s Worst Unsolved Mass Murder.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *