Talkeetna. Just rolls off the tongue. If you practice I suppose. Either way, Talkeetna was the next stop on the list. This is the first Alaska adventure where I pointed the car north and started driving. The first place I stopped to pull over was near a town called Willow. In June of this year, a couple were leaving a cabin they rented, and lit some trash before they left. People could still learn a lot from Smoky the Bear. The fire quickly spread to over 7,000 acres, destroyed over 50 homes in the Willow area, and I can't even bear to think of the wildlife. This is my first view of Willow.
In fact, 2015 is one of the worst fire years on record for Alaska. In a typical year, 600,000 acres of forest burn. To date this year, 5,100,000 acres have burned. It doesn't take much for the fire to jump roads, rivers and destroy generations in minutes. I was curious about the trees, some had a distinct orange tone rather than a scorched black tone. I hope that means they were not killed and may sprout leaves next year.
And of course, there was still beauty. The palette of blue sky, green grass, black and orange, and purple fireweek. Notably, another name for the Fireweed which is known to colonize areas after a fire, is Willowherb. Fireweed makes the Alaska landscape a little more vibrant and beautiful in the summer. It has a history of being a medicinal herb, and makes its way into tea, jam, jellies, chocolates, syrup, and honey. I guess there will be a good crop for the local businesses who sell those next year.
A little fireweed up close. The sad thing about fireweed, is that it seems to only shoe up for the brief summer. It doesn't bloom until summer, and disappears before you even realize its fall.
Talkeetna has made the headlines a couple of times...even CNN. You see, it's most famous resident is the town mayor. As I mentioned in a previous blog, Mayor Stubbs happens to be a cat. In a quirkly little place like this, you can understand how someone would nominate their cat over the other candidates...and even how the cat would get the most votes! Mayor Stubbs retired from office in 2014 and now spends most of his time napping in the General Store, which is right where I found him.
|Mayor Stubbs having a lazy afternoon in Talkeetna|
I did eventually find a parking spot -- at the museum. I was willing to pay the low admission to get a little history AND a parking spot. In the museum I found a map of the language distribution of Alaska;s native peoples. I am still a bit fascinated by these languages, as so many places are named after words in these languages. Aialik. De'nali. Words that are in danger of having their meaning lost. A terrible thought to a bookworm like me.
And before Obama made it official, even the signs in Alaska tell the visitors that the mountain is known as Denali, meaning "The High One."
Nagley's store is basically the centerpiece of town, and was built by the family who were considered the pioneers of this area.
The energy of the locals artisans is evident everywhere. I popped into this shop with the decorated moose right before I tried some home-made ice cream made from a creamer powered by an early 1900's John Deere tractor. The town sits under the gaze of the high one, Denali, and is well worth a stop on your way to Denali National Park...which I have yet to get to.