We had one full day at the McKinley Wilderness Lodge. We caught the shuttle to the nearby town of Talkeetna to have breakfast and to see the rivers that we passed on our way North on the train.
Talkeetna was a busy town and had a couple of airstrips, jet boat rides as well as shops and restaurants.
Saturday 21st July visiting Talkeetna
Tickets for the shuttle to Talkeetna were on sale at the reception of the Main Lodge. These were only $10 and the return was free. The shuttle coaches run every hour down and on the half hour back except the last shuttle back was at 9 pm.
We followed instructions after our coach ride down and we were there 15 minutes early with our tickets already purchased. Once on the bus at 5 minutes to the hour the driver said we could move to the reserved seats at the front of the bus.
By then the bus was filling up fast there were nearly a dozen people or more now waiting to get on. There were guests who are catching the bus to go to Talkeetna to catch a train to either Whittier or to Denali. Others were going on trips from Talkeetna. They were now so many people at the bus stop that a second coach was promised.
Our driver reported over the radio how many passengers were for the train or for the trips as we set off from the Main Lodge. He told us that he was a student training to be a dentist. He then reassured us all that indeed he was old enough to drive a coach. He told us how he had driven up from the Mid West with three friends to work for the season. They had driven for four days and nights non-stop to get up to Alaska.
The entrance road to the lodge was partially closed. The entrance archway was being worked upon as it looked as though a pickup truck had hit one of the supports.
On the highway
The roads were again clear and we listened to the driver’s commentary on his life working up in Alaska for the season. Just like the other drivers he gave us a running commentary as we were passing down the road. It seems that Trapper Creek was where his Amazon Prime deliveries all came- so he liked that place a lot.
He explained that when the highway was being built Talkeetna had lobbied for it to circle around the town rather than pass through it. But once the highway had been built a spur road was added from the South to the town. Even though Talkeetna is close to Trapper Creek as the crow flies the coach had to go past and then South before turning back on the spur road to Talkeetna.
The coach passed one of the local landmarks, a shop on the highway called Wal*Mikes. It did look more like a junk shop than a serious store.
We were sat in the front seat and had a clear view of a moose that decided to run across the road in front of us. Luckily no vehicle hit it. Our driver had to brake hard. He then commented that he was pleased that the moose hadn’t waited to run across the road!
We passed very few houses at the side of the highway but I diid catch a glimpse of this lake with a couple of sea-planes docked .
After we have made the turn for the spur road the driver began to explain the travel arrangements for the passengers catching trains. He then pointed out a side road that led to the Princess Cruises’ railway station where passengers will catch their trains. He explained that there would be coaches provided to take passengers from the dropping off point in Talkeetna.
There were trains going to Dinali, Fairbanks and to Anchorage. All the trains are different leaving times. For the rest of us we just had to turn up at about quarter past the hour for a coach back to the lodge.
The drop-off point was in a large dusty car park right next to the railway tracks. Shelter would come from two fabric structures over picnic tables.
By now we were feeling hungry and despite the driver’s strong advice to go to Shirley‘s for ice cream, our plan was to have a breakfast somewhere. As we left the coach we asked the Princess representative where she would advise and she pointed us towards the Roadhouse down on Main Street.
The Main Street was surprisingly busy with people walking on both sides dodging the traffic.