Talkeetna, Alaska

Sam and Cassidy check out the memorial for Mt. Mikinley's dead.

South of Denali National Park and along the banks of the confluence of three rivers is the picturesque town of Talkeetna (population, give or take, about 250, and about as many dogs). Settled in the early 1900s as a local center to help build the Alaska Railroad, the town has long been the staging area for climbers from around the world attempting to make the summit.

We chatted with a woman climber from Colorado who had just spent 22 days on the Mountain. She and her partner were stuck for days with bad weather on a couple of occasions—but they made it to the top. She observed that there were a fair number of women climbers these days, but noted with chagrin that she was among the oldest. (She had that glowing ageless quality that enthusiasm and outdoor life bring, but we guessed her to be in her mid-30s.) When Cassidy crowed that she too is a climber, our climber beamed and told Cassidy to keep it up. And then she headed off to take her first shower in 22 days.

Talkeetna Cemetery

Just outside the town and over the railroad tracks is the town cemetery, a quiet and gentle place in a grove of trees. It is here that you will also find a memorial for the many who have died on the mountain. In the above picture, Samantha and Cassidy read over the names of these unfortunate adventurers.

The climbers who died on the mountain were mostly in their late 20s and early 30s—the youngest was 18 and the oldest we read about was 49.

It seems 1992 was a bad year with what looked like a dozen dead climbers. Although we know that the first female to reach the summit did so in 1948, those names we could easily identify as female didn't begin to appear on the memorial plaque until 1980.

KTNA Public Radio

Just like a scene from Northern Exposure, on the edge of town is a log cabin home for the local public radio station, KTNA. Standing proudly outside is the station manager, Julianne McGuinness. The building is jam packed with radio equipment, stacks of tapes and records, computers with wires running every which direction, a purring cat, and a collection of eager and committed volunteers. Radio is the primary method bush residents keep in touch with one another through "the trapline" as well as the "outside" world. You can also hear Jean Richardson reminisce about her mother, Mary Carey "a city girl gone wild" on Nuggets. For more information about KTNA, please see their homepage.

Julianne McGuiness, KTNA Station Manager,
"at the office" July 1996
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