2011 Alaska (1/3): Talkeetnas

Places Alaska. Southern and Northern Talkeetna Mountains
Time & length August 2011, 2 weeks
Partners Becky Moman
After I cancelled my Brooks Range trip I made friends with a girl I met in Palmer and took her on two relatively easy hikes in the Talkeetna Mountains.

When I returned from Arctic Alaska (look here for further information) I first stayed with friends in Fairbanks and then continued hitchhiking down to Palmer, South Alaska. There I got hosted by a very pleasant couple I had met a year earlier on the road hitchhiking. Their names are Bev and Keith, both became good friends of mine. At the time I arrived they had another guest, her name was Becky, years ago she was living in Indiana just as Bev and Keith, that’s how they got to know each other. Becky was a few years older than me, much fun to be around and interested in outdoor activities as well. She hadn’t done any longer hikes before but when I made plans for my next trip she suddenly felt like joining me. So I adjusted the route a bit – we agreed on doing a short hike first, 4 days in the southern Talkeetna Mountains. Keith helped her out with some gear and after my second night in a real bed I was back in the woods – this time together with my new friend Becky.

We started our trip about 20 kilometers east of Chickaloon on an ATV-trail which led us westwards. It was quite easy hiking except for all the muddy spots furrowed by my favorite kind of American outdoor adventure experts: ATV drivers.

Down there the weather was much better than a week before in the Brooks Range, just a few showers every now and then. Late in the evening we reached Boulder Creek where we made camp for the night and woke up in bright sunshine the next morning.

From there we continued uphill alongside the riverbed and on game trails in the woods. Becky was asking questions all the time: What’s the name of this flower? Is this bear shit? How many chocolate bars can I eat today? Also she got excited by so many things she hadn’t done before: hitchhiking for the first time, drinking water out of a stream for the first time, reading a topographic map for the first time… Okay, that was a joke, I read the map. Anyway, I thought it was cute and I really enjoyed her company. Now some more pictures.

A day later we came to a pass at noon and from there we saw some caribou and ground squirrels. The weather was perfect and we didn’t see any reason to rush. So we took a nice lunch break and a few pictures up there, on the way down we saw some moose hiding in the brush. We had a late dinner that evening and I think we were sitting around the campfire until midnight or so.

The last day was quite unspectacular. It was all cloudy, sometimes it was raining a bit. We followed Divide Creek to Hicks Lake and then down to the Highway in order to get back to Palmer. Keith was gone for a flight training at that time but Bev was already waiting for us with a great dinner. Together with Becky I decided to go on another trip as soon as possible. But right now the weather was so bad – it was raining almost all over Alaska for a week. We used the short periods of good weather in the Mat-Su Valley to visit a sled dog farm and to take a boat trip on the connected lakes in the Palmer-Wasilla area.

I was checking the weather forecast for updates regularly and finally, on August 23 it was supposed to get better south of the Alaska Range. Quickly I picked a route for this area, teared out the two pages of the Alaska atlas (scale 1:300.000) and not much later we stood at the road with our thumbs up in the air. On our way north it was pouring a few times and we got wet even before we arrived at our starting point ten kilometers south of Cantwell where we made camp.
On the next day we started hiking southeast towards a pass which offered some great views and continued down towards a wide valley. Fall was about to arrive and the colors already began to change. That’s the best time for hiking in Alaska.

The next days we kept hiking south and passed Caribou Pass, Jack River and another unnamed pass which led us to the Tsunena Creek valley.

We turned northeast and hiked uphill. From our campsite just below the pass we enjoyed some beautiful scenery before getting to the highest point in the next morning and down again alongside Meadow Creek. Now we improvised a bit and hiked over a high plateau located 20 kilometers south of the Denali Highway. Due to the great weather the view was amazing!

Two days later we arrived back at the Highway. It started to rain again and Becky felt sick in the morning of our last section. This time hitchhiking wasn’t that easy, we stood in the cold at the Denali Highway turnoff for quite a while. Finally somebody stopped and brought us back home to a warm shower, pizza and a real bed.

I wasn’t able to enjoy this kind of comfort for long, I actually prepared myself for the coming trip on the very next day. Click here to read more about my three week’s Denali adventure.