We ventured out of the Anchorage area yesterday and the word that kept coming back to me on our drive towards Denali was “kitsch.”

Perhaps this is because we passed many an abandoned tourist trap – a dilapidated cement igloo, abandoned road-side gift shops – you get the idea. What really solidified the idea of “kitsch” was our stop in Talkeetna – an outpost that reminded me of those places in Star Wars where you can get a drink, eat a meal, and bump into the most unusual people.

The town itself is this tiny one-road places, reminiscent of the towns that you see in those old Western movies. It is filled with contractions: it has public outhouses, but around the corner you can get your cannabis fill at the local pot house. You can grab a one-motor engine plane, enlist a river ride, or arrange a fishing trip, all within a couple hundred feet.

On the recommendation of my Alaskan friend, we stopped at the Talkeetna Roadhouse which is a working roadhouse. A roadhouse is somewhere you can grab a room or a bunk in a room (like a hostel) and a good meal. This particular roadhouse has been in operation for over a hundred years and has literally not been updated since.

We saddled up to one of the public tables (which seem to be pretty popular in this part of Alaska) and ordered the most amazing comfort food. My brother and dad got the reindeer chili and a potato and onion pasty. I had some sort of square BLT sandwich with Mac-n-cheese. So delicious. So fatty. So worth it.

We made it to Denali and checked into our accommodations later that afternoon. Partly to work off our lunch, and partly to take advantage of the park, we decided to hike part of Mt. Healy which is in the first part of the park. Compared to Flattop, this hike was a breeze and we caught some pretty amazing view.

Returning to our lodging, which (btw) is literally a bunch of log cabins perched on the side of a mountain, we discovered that our room is off kilter. Literally. I mean to say – it’s set at an angle so high that we had to climb up the floor to get to bed. I got a little sea sick this morning when I took a shower. When you combine the abundance of log decor with the teetering nature of the structure, I just keep coming back to that word – kitsch.

Today – however – should be an entirely different experience. We will be traveling 92 miles into Denali and staying at the roadhouse in the middle of the park. Hopefully we’ll see wildlife (safely) and explore more of Denali’s treasures these next couple of days.

Side note: we likely won’t have cell service or WiFi – so Mom, if you’re reading this, we will keep a close eye on Dad and make sure he doesn’t get taken by a bear.

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