Talkeetna, Fairbanks and Denali National Park, USA

We continued our brewery tour of Alaska as we made our way up to Talkeetna.  The first stop was in Wasilla at Last Frontier Brewing Co. which continued the Alaskan trend of superb craft beer.  Just before we arrived in Talkeetna we stopped at Denali Brewing Co. which turned out to be one of our favourites.  The weather was superb, the location beautiful and the beer delightful.  The craft breweries in Alaska are a real highlight and its definitely worth stopping at a few of them while you’re on your road trip.

Wasilla is also home to the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Headquarters.  Here there is a museum about the race and a chance to visit the dogs themselves.  We loved cuddling with the Husky puppies who will one day be sled dogs.  You can pay US$10 for a ride on a cart pulled by a lot of incredibly excited Huskys (this is their summer training).  It’s a really interesting place to visit and the Reddingtons, who run it, are really nice and informative.

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The drive into Talkeetna itself is spectacular.  We were lucky to get a stunner of a day and had some incredible views of Mt. Denali, the tallest mountain in North America (located in Denali National Park).  I wish we stopped for a photograph of the mountain as the next few days brought average weather with little visibility of Mt. Denali.  Oh well, that gorgeous view has definitely been burned into our brains for years to come!  We did manage to make some much needed coffee stops and loved stopping at the little espresso drive-through stalls on the side of the road.  I guess they have to be drive-through because of the cold!

Talkeetna itself is a gorgeous little town that feels as if you have gone back in time.  It is full of pubs and art galleries and they even have a cat for their mayor.  We stayed at Meandering Moose Cabins in their Snoozin’ Moose cabin which was nice and cheap and perfect for our family of 5 adults.  Talkeetna is a perfect little stop off on your way to Denali National Park, and is even better in Autumn as there are far less people kicking around and you truly do feel like you’ve arrived in a frontier mining town in the 20s.

As we got closer to Denali National Park the change in the seasons became apparent and we stared in awe at the deep orange and yellow colours that dominated the landscape.  Right near Denali National Park is 49th State Brewing Co. where the obligatory beer stop was made.  It is in a pretty cool location with a big, and aesthetically pleasing, place to eat and drink.

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We were lucky enough to win the Denali Lottery which meant that instead of taking the mandatory bus trip through the park, we actually got to drive through it.  This is only possible for one weekend a year in September and the spots are hotly contested.  The bloggers at ‘One Mile At A Time’ do a fantastic couple of blog posts on how to win the lottery and I suggest reading them at this link if you are at all interested.  Anyways, due to my lucky brother, Guy, we won!  We did not have the best weather but we could still appreciate the beauty of this National Park.  The landscapes are ever changing and incredibly beautiful.

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We were also pretty lucky with the wildlife and got to see some grizzly bears and the much coveted moose.  We saw a female moose very early in the morning (our first sighting of a moose ever) on our drive to Denali and we saw a moose family in the park itself later on.  We also saw a family of grizzly bears up in the hills and a lone male grizzly digging for roots near the road.

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By far the most exciting part of visiting Denali National Park was when Andrew asked me to marry him! On a snow covered hill, right in front of my family.  Such a magical place for such a magical moment.

After such a brilliant time in Denali it was time to finish off our trip just north of Fairbanks, where we were staying in a cabin at Aurora Borealis Lodge (near the small town of Fox).  This place was expensive and was one of our ‘splurges’ for the trip.  The cabin was stunning and comfortable and had a big viewing platform for us to gaze up at the sky, awaiting the aurora.  The Silver Gulch Brewing and Bottling Co. in Fox was really cute and really delicious – another successful brewery stop!  We spent three nights at the cabin and it was the perfect amount of time as only one of those night was it clear enough for us to see the aurora borealis.  And it was truly spectacular.  The light actually danced across the sky.  We stayed up way later than we intended, keeping warm on red wine and whiskey, and just enjoyed the moment.  It was difficult to get a photograph to do it justice, but we tried.  I highly recommend attempting to catch such a spectacular natural display – we got so lucky.

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Our time spent in this part of Alaska was just one highlight after another.  We managed to accomplish and see so much and we will cherish these memories forever.  Cost wise we spent about US$606 (NZ$880) per day for 5 people, that includes everything – all accommodation, activities, car rental, food, etc.

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