Talkeetna, Base of Denali National Park

Talkeetna, Alaska is nestled at the base of Denali National Park. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Kinley in all it’s glory on the drive up to Talkeetna but sadly, that was not the case for us. Jackie has heard that McKinley/Denali (I will refer to the mountain as McKinley from here on out) is only visible 20% of the time and we fell into the 80% that did not see McKinley on our journey to Talkeetna.

We specifically chose that day to go to Talkeetna because the weather was forecasted to cooperate between the hours of 12pm to 2pm. Jackie took up to the top of the mountain by her house to see if we could see McKinley but the clouds were just too dense. McKinley should be to our right in the picture above.

This picture was taken just outside of Talkeetna, about two hours up the road from Anchorage. Again, McKinley should be visible but the clouds were just too much. I thought I could make out a peak, but it was probably just more clouds.

Talkeetna is a quaint little town that caters to tourist wishing to fish, raft, and flightsee around McKinley. According to Wikipedia, the population is 772 and the town is thought to be the inspiration for Cicely, Alaska, the fictional town in Northern Exposure.

One example of the quirkiness of Talkeetna – a shop owner told us all about the controversy surrounding The Moose Dropping Festival, an event that involves betting on varnished pieces of moose poop that are then dropped from a helicopter onto a target. It seems like PETA took the name Moose Dropping too literal and wanted to start a campaign to cancel the festival due to the misconception that the residents of Talkeetna were dropping moose from a helicopter. The shop owner said it took hours upon hours of phone conversation to clear up the matter. Sadly, the festival was cancelled in 2009 but there is hope to resurrect it in the future.

We ate lunch at The Roadhouse, a charming restaurant and lodge. I will go into more detail about our meal in the Alaskan food blog post I have planned. The Roadhouse is one of the oldest buildings on Main Street and President Harding is said to have stopped by in 1923, when Alaska was still a territory.

The tables are long and you eat surrounded by strangers who will become friends by the end of the meal. We ate lunch with a lovely couple who are from Alaska and were just visiting Talkeetna for the day. They were both children of military fathers who were stationed in Alaska during the 60s and decided to stay because Alaska is just that special. The couple enjoyed hearing about how Jackie and I became friends at Ft. Drum and appreciated how close friendships become with the military lifestyle.

We have been through a lot. Jackie and I talked about how fun it would be if Fran, Erin, and Briana were with us too. We’re all moms now and spread across the country so planning a weekend get together takes immense scheduling. But we’re committed. Our last Girls Weekend was March 2008 so we’re due for another one soon. Maybe this winter? NYC, anyone?

I keep telling Clay that I want to live in Alaska. At least for a couple of years. Forget about Hawaii, Germany, Japan, or Italy – I want Alaska. Luckily Clay has been bitten by the same bug. We’ve been assured that the winters aren’t any worse than the ones we experienced up at Ft. Drum and we’ve learned that we much prefer cooler temperatures and changing seasons. Will we ever have the opportunity to live in Alaska? Only time will tell. Will I dream about it? You betcha.

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What About the Pantry – Rental House

We actually don’t have a pantry in this rental house. Well not a formal pantry at least. I suppose that would be a deal breaker for some but I never let a little obstacle get me down, which is why I made three upper level cupboards in the kitchen our pantry. This means that my pantry does not look like this…

 

Okay, seriously? That is a gorgeous pantry. But it is also 100% unrealistic (at least in my world) and probably owned by a fabulous couple sans a curious toddler with an insatiable thirst for climbing. They probably take kick-ass vacations and always order in because who has time to cook when you live as fabulous as them? In other words, this pantry is not for me. Because the last thing I need is a visit from Child Protective Services because my son has shards of glass covering 85% of his body. That pantry sure is pretty though.
This is our pantry.
It’s okay. I’ll wait for you to wipe the drool off of your chin. I know most renters dream about giving up cupboard space for dry goods. And I know what you’re thinking, “Where in the dickens do you store your quesadilla maker?” Have no fear. We always make room for the quesadilla maker, my friends.

If you think about it, we’re so retro. We are channeling an era when cupboards weren’t limited to storing kitchen machines and utensils. I’ll admit that a small part of me misses having a formal pantry but honestly, I don’t mind having to use cupboard space. It forces me not to over buy and be more cautious of what I bring into the house.

However, if lack a formal pantry and you’re unwilling or unable to sacrifice cupboard space, there are non-permanent storage solutions for your dry goods, like a bookcase. We actually used a bookcase for a pantry in our second apartment in upstate New York because it had no formal pantry. I found a neat little tutorial at Running With Scissors for converting a basic bookcase into a pantry with doors. Of course you will need the space to put such a piece, but for those with an empty wall in the kitchen or dining room in their rental house/apartment, this option could work.

A quick browse on Pinterest illustrates the Pantry Porn that is readily accessible on the Internet. Almost scarily so. Gorgeous organized pantries with clear jars filled with dry goods. I just have to ask, where do these people store the peanut butter?

What does your pantry look like?

Girdwood, Alaska (Glacier City)

The Seward Highway has to offer one of the most breathtaking views in the world, running through the Kenai Peninsula and Turnagain Arm. We didn’t get to complete all 127 miles of the drive but we were able to see incredible scenery (mountains, water, and glaciers – oh my) on our drive from Anchorage to Girdwood.

We pulled off the highway at Beluga Point, named after the Beluga Whales that apparently frequent the Turnagain Arm. Sadly, we didn’t see any Belugas this trip. The weather was overcast and drizzly that day so the mountains weren’t as pronounced as they would be in bright sunshine but we didn’t care. In fact, I loved the cozy feeling that enveloped me during our time in Alaska so I welcomed the clouds with open arms. Literally.

I think I could stare at a glacier all day. There is something about the aqua color and tranquil nature that hypnotizes me. The clouds made it difficult to capture just how majestic Portage Glacier truly is but I managed to get a little somethin’ somethin’through the haze.

Girdwood is nestled among seven permanent glaciers, which is why it was originally called Glacier City. We went to the Alyeska Resort, a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders. Seeing as how we were visiting in the summer, the winter sports weren’t calling our name, but we didn’t let that stop us.

We took this tram up to the top of Mount Alyeska (2,300 ft).

Weston loved it.

Upon getting off the tram, we were treated with fantastic views of the Chugach Mountain Range.

The Turnagain Arm is in the background and the lodge on top of the mountain to the right. Interestingly, the Turnagain Arm has one of the largest tidal ranges in the world and an abundance of silt, which makes walking on the ‘sand’ during low-tide near impossible, due to quicksand-like characteristics.

We hiked up to the very top of Mount Alyeska, at Weston’s insistence.

Don’t worry, we were careful to avoid unexploded artillery shells.

After our hike we went to the lookout at the lodge on top of Mount Alyeska.

After our time at Girdwood, we drove back to Anchorage, being sure to stop and take more pictures along the Seward Highway. Seriously, the pictures do not do the scenery justice.  Aren’t those clouds gorgeous? The mountains aren’t half bad either.

And with that, I will leave you with this serene picture of the Turnagain Arm. Stay tuned for more adventures, including Anchorage, the Alaska State Fair, a Reindeer Farm, and Talkeetna. And yes, we did get to (barely) see Mount McKinley.