Meeting Sasquatch's Little Brother
During my 2017 trip to Denali I decided to take a day and visit Talkeetna. I’d heard how great a place it was and decided a break from hiking would be worth the trip.
It’s no small trip. It’s 160 miles from where I was staying near Denali to Talkeetna. Everything is 160 miles apart in Alaska. Make sure you fill your tank up with gas every chance you get because gas stations are few and far between. There was no sign of civilization anywhere along that 160 mile trip.
I say that a bit tongue in cheek. It’s absolutely true, the towns are very far apart, but it’s some of the most beautiful driving you will ever do so it's hardly a burden to spend time driving and being a part of that beautiful land.
Before I get to Sasquatch’s little brother, or even Talkeetna for that matter, I have to mention Igloo City.
I had no idea this place existed. I was driving down the highway, about an hour south of Denali when suddenly I passed a huge igloo. I mean huge. It was obviously abandoned with what looked like the sign from a long gone gas station sitting beside it. I had to turn around.
Turns out, there’s a whole wealth of information about the igloo available on the internet. You'll find it listed on a countless number of strange-but-true-places-you-have-to-see kinds of websites.
The place is four stories high and was built to be a hotel back in the 1970s. It was never completed, is now abandoned and in a sad state of decline. It is a remote area so they do tell visitors to be on the lookout if they stop by because there are bears, wolves and animals around, who sometimes check out the igloo themselves.
If you’re searching for an investment opportunity, the most recent info I can find says it’s for sale for a mere $300,000. Of course, it will cost several times that to get it in actual running order, and you’re still located in the middle of nowhere.
I loved Talkeetna. It’s a small town of just 1,200 people and its many shops certainly do rely on the tourist trade to survive, but it doesn’t have a tourist trap feel to it.
Nagley’s Store is a must stop while in town. It’s a throwback to general stores of a hundred years ago. Seriously, it was founded in 1921 and hasn’t changed a whole lot since.
For people of a certain age, mine, it will remind you of the neighborhood stores that were pretty common when we were kids. Before supermarkets and big box stores put them out of business, these little general stores were scattered about nearly every town.
Every little space inside them was packed tight with items for sale. I remember stopping by the one a couple blocks from my house to buy little balsa wood gliders with a rubber band propeller or candy cigarettes. My cousins and I often walked to another store near their house to buy small bottles of Coke that came out of a deep chest-type cooler where you put the money in and then snaked the bottle through rails to an opening where you lifted it up and out of the box.
That’s the kind of place Nagley’s still is, but with an Alaskan wilderness feel. Think moose antlers, fur pelts and snowshoes hanging on the walls.
Tucked in the back is West Rib Pub and Grill, a fun little place to check out. I had a great time playing a dice game there with a couple of ladies who also stopped by for a beer.
The highlight of the visit was the historic Fairview Inn. Probably the only place in the world where you will see a bear skin mounted to the ceiling, beside a hanging disco ball. (You can see the photo in one of my previous posts.)
The old place has the feel of a neighborhood bar, complete with a half dozen rooms upstairs you can rent for the night for just 20 bucks. I thought for a moment about staying, for a moment, and then the moment passed.
It is indeed historic. Built in 1923 as travelers began to pass through on the new Alaska Railroad. President Warren G. Harding even had lunch there. He died a few days later. I don’t think there was a connection.
This is my kind of place. A good old neighborhood bar where you have a beer and talk to real people.
Which, as it turns out, is how I met Sasquatch’s little brother. I have no memory of his real name. In my head he will always be Sasquatch’s little brother.
I pulled up a seat at the end of the bar, ordered a beer and soon after a man sat down a couple stools from me. I'd be generous to say he was 5' 9" in height and medium build. His hair was dark brown and long. Very long, and bushy. It flowed over and well below his shoulders. His beard matched, stretching to the middle of his chest. His entire head and upper part of his body was covered in hair. I swear, he looked like Sasquatch.
He was quite the talker and was already a couple of beers in by the time we met. He was from Wyoming, or maybe Montana, and wrestled in high school but never really got along with the coach. He headed to Alaska because as long as you don't bother other people, they don't bother you.
That was actually something I noticed myself in Alaska. You'll meet gruff guys who would rather be in the wilderness hunting than being around people, alongside bohemian hippie types who just want to lay back and enjoy life.
Their commonality is they came to Alaska because it's a place where people respect each other's rights and freedom to do their own thing. I could see me living there but those three or four winter months of limited daylight would kill me off.
Sasquatch and I became buddies and before I left he made sure to tell me if I wanted a beer I could grab one of his across the street in the newspaper box in front of Nagley's.
Apparently he'd stored a case of Blue Ribbon in the bottom of one of those newspaper boxes where you pull down the door on the front and grab out a free tourism paper.
When my time at the Fairview came to an end I went across the street and opened the door to the newspaper box just to check this out for myself. Sure enough, there was a case of beer in the bottom, partially hidden by the papers above.
I didn't partake.
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