It’s always interesting going to a town you haven’t spent much (if any) time in before. It takes a day or two to get a feel for local traditions, rules, or perhaps guidelines. While Talkeetna is very much a rural place it is becoming more and more touristy according to Caleb and Lou who have been here in years past. One can predict the high mark in tourist activity by the train whistle coming in to town. The restaurants fill up, the roadsides are crowded, and then with the sound of the whistle a little later in the day the flow goes back down to normal. I suppose that, really, the seven of us are tourists as well; we have bought T-shirts, sampled most of the food and brews the town has to offer at several of the restaurants, and we have found ourselves at the Fairview Inn a couple nights in a row.
Now why do I even bother mentioning this little piece of history? The Fairview doesn’t seem to need much of an excuse to make the parties happen, and Friday and Saturday nights were no exception.
Both nights featured a live band with some decent talent, and plenty of PBR tallboys to go around. Fairview really is a place to meet and hang out with the locals. I noticed people dancing young and old, young with old, and old with young. It had a small town feel to it. Everyone knew everyone and seemed to gel just fine. A quick stroll out back would put you into a smaller more low key bar, next to which a girl had parked her hot dog stand, serving reindeer dogs and buffalo brats. After sampling both (when in Rome right?) we finally found ourselves headed home for the night (as far as you know anyway). The 24 hour light throws a wrench in your schedule no matter how hard you try to fight it, and it hasn’t been uncommon for us to find ourselves surprised to find out how late or early it is with a glance at the watch.
Rewind to Friday night and we have a story for you. While hanging out listening to the band play; a certain local at the end of the bar seemed to take an interest in Tyler and Colby. He was interested in talking to us about the summit, about how his son had climbed it, and he had been flying around in a plane taking pictures of his boy on the summit. Thats how it all started anyway.
The end result was that we headed 25 miles out of town via atv to see this guys homestead. In hindsight it really may have been a true Alaskan experience. I had never seen anything like it, at least not outside of a magazine. A 2 story log cabin next to a wood shop. Rolling wild green grass leading down to a 35 acre lake surrounded by old growth trees. Loons were howling and diving in the lake. Our host had been around long enough to see the pipeline go in, he lit up a fire in his fire ring made from a section of the Alaskan pipeline.
Over the fire we heard story after story from this 60 year old Navy veteran. It seems he has become a pretty good shot over the years, and has had his own run-ins with more than one grizzly. Including killing 4 grizzlies with 6 shots as they tried to come in to his home. He offered the claw marks on the door frame as proof. After hours of stories to the point where we wanted to fall asleep in our own laps from too many days on the mountain, too much new food, and too many times hearing the same story as ten minutes ago, we were finally allowed to head to bed. And to bed we did, all 6 of us with a place to sleep for the next few hours. Of course on the way into the homestead the steps collapsed under my feet; a project for the morning I suppose.
We all awoke in the morning with a bit of “let’s get the hell outa here” attitude, and that we did. That is after our new buddy had us fix the stairs for him. 25 miles of driving later and we were eating breakfast in Talkeetna again. Next it was back to organizing and drying gear out, lunch and round 2 with the locals. But perhaps that is a story for another time.
Jordan White is a strong alpinist who finished skiing all 54 Colorado 14,000 foot peaks in 2009. He guides, tends bar, and lives the all-around perfect life in Aspen.