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Destination: Talkeetna

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May 03, 2013

Destination: Talkeetna

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.

Restlessness is something that has always followed me. At the age of 18, I moved from the Midwest to New York City with just $300 in my pocket. It was no wonder that after 30 years back in my hometown of St. Louis with a hefty mortgage, two children finishing college, and a wife wrapping up a Ph.D., I reconsidered our heavily scheduled existence.

My wife and I wondered what life would be like with a massive reset. Although the timing to sell our home was not ideal in 2008, we agreed our urban Midwest lifestyle needed to be augmented. With the market slugging downward, we sold our home in 2010, leaving a huge question: Where do we go? 

A life that offered new challenges and opportunities was key. My wife wanted a vista and to teach at a college. I wanted accessible wilderness and great fishing and hunting with the caveat I could discharge a firearm in my backyard. As a full-time writer in the outdoor industry, I had plenty of options. Places like New Mexico, Idaho, Oregon, and Maine were all considerations, but few of them worked for my wife.

None of those places held the allure or the opportunities of the 49th state. Massive vistas, consistent economic growth, and the adjusting to an active rural lifestyle seemed impressively appealing.

I had been to Alaska numerous times on assignment, scratching my itch to argue with rainbows and salmon. My wife on the other hand, had never been.

We boarded a flight to Anchorage and drove every connecting road in Alaska except the Haul Road. My wife was to choose our new home, and I was willing to go wherever she found comfort.

Our first morning, just 20 miles north of Anchorage, the car broke through the fog at the Palmer Hay Flats, where the Talkeetna Mountains meet the Chugach Range. My wife was overwhelmed with the panoramic overload, and burst into tears. Four days later, we found an unfinished home on a small lake in the shadow of Denali in the artist town of Talkeetna, two hours north of Anchorage.

I would pack, move, and finish the house in Alaska while my better half stayed behind and worked for 8 months in Missouri.

It’s really not possible to explain the depth and breadth of moving everything you own 3,869 miles across the North American continent. 

Instead of paying a moving company $55,000, I opted to buy a 24-foot 1994 U-Haul and trailered my truck behind on a car hauler. It was a slow, highly arduous adventure, but other than one flat tire, it was thankfully uneventful. I looked pretty smart only spending $6,000, including fuel, to move. 

Three years later, we have settled into our life in Talkeetna. My wife is a professor at a university, my carpentry and plumbing skills have found new heights, and my summers are spent guiding for trout and salmon. Of course, there’s plenty to write about.

In the next few weeks, I’ll share some of the stories that have enriched my life as an outdoorsman in the 49th state. I can tell you that nearly every day, something happens I had never experienced when I was a suburban Midwest resident.

Comments (10)

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from buckstopper wrote 49 weeks 4 days ago

You sir exemplify the American Spirit. Congrats.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RJ Arena wrote 49 weeks 3 days ago

I envy you very much, I am so looking forward to your writings!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from dneaster3 wrote 49 weeks 3 days ago

This series promises to be fascinating! I hope the online editors will consider giving Mr. Mathiesen his own blog on this site.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Deborah Elliott wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

Peter, I always enjoy hearing about your adventures...very entertaining!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from sgtsly wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

We shall live vicariously through your adventures and continue to regret that fateful ceremony, lo those many years ago.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steward wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

There is more than one of us with this itch. I'm looking forward to these posts. Thank you!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from CL3 wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

Great stuff! Looking forward to reading more.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Pathfinder1 wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

Hi...

You accomplishes essentially what I did several decades ago in Fairbanks.

Best of luck to y'all.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

Have not been there in decades. Brings back warm memories, er, great memories. Spectacular place.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ArtBrownSr wrote 49 weeks 6 sec ago

Peter, I just spent the time reading your post latest to earliest, I like your style and welcome to Alaska. It would be nice to sit down and share a cup of coffee with you some time.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from buckstopper wrote 49 weeks 4 days ago

You sir exemplify the American Spirit. Congrats.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Pathfinder1 wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

Hi...

You accomplishes essentially what I did several decades ago in Fairbanks.

Best of luck to y'all.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dneaster3 wrote 49 weeks 3 days ago

This series promises to be fascinating! I hope the online editors will consider giving Mr. Mathiesen his own blog on this site.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

Have not been there in decades. Brings back warm memories, er, great memories. Spectacular place.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RJ Arena wrote 49 weeks 3 days ago

I envy you very much, I am so looking forward to your writings!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steward wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

There is more than one of us with this itch. I'm looking forward to these posts. Thank you!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from sgtsly wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

We shall live vicariously through your adventures and continue to regret that fateful ceremony, lo those many years ago.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from CL3 wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

Great stuff! Looking forward to reading more.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ArtBrownSr wrote 49 weeks 6 sec ago

Peter, I just spent the time reading your post latest to earliest, I like your style and welcome to Alaska. It would be nice to sit down and share a cup of coffee with you some time.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Deborah Elliott wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

Peter, I always enjoy hearing about your adventures...very entertaining!

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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