By Peter B. Mathiesen
Three years ago, outdoor writer, photographer, and consummate sportsman Peter Mathiesen left his hometown of St. Louis to start a new life in Alaska. Here’s why he made the move, what everyday life is like, and how it feels to have Denali right outside your window.
My new hometown of Talkeetna is two hours north of Anchorage and fours hours south of Fairbanks. The community is a stop on the Alaskan Railroad at the confluence of three large glacial rivers: the Susitna, the Chulitna and the Talkeetna. Settled in 1915, Talkeetna was a supply depot for the gold mining camps in the foothills of the Alaska Range 40 miles to the west. The only way to reach the town was by rail until the mid-1960, when the Parks Highway was built and a 14-mile dirt spur was put in.
Talkeetna has several historic buildings and an honestly quirky feel. Its residents were briefly made famous in the 90’s television show “Northern Exposure.”
As the closest staging area to Denali (no local calls it Mt. McKinley), you will find one of the most impressive collections of vintage aircraft in the world servicing mountaineers attempting to summit Denali. The mountain is formidable, killing an average of 12 climbers a season. The same air flight companies take tourists landing on skis to glaciers at 7,000 feet.