Our sixth day in Alaska, Jack and I drove and stayed overnight in the tiny town of Talkeentna. While we intended to take a flight around Denali and land on a glacier, a huge weather system moved in and, while we waited in Talkeentna to see if it would clear, we finally bailed and drove to Anchorage. However, the drive was wonderful with stops in some unique Alaskan spots, including one of the most unique individuals that I have ever met: Mike Carpenter.
We were driving from Denali on the two lane road when we passed a trading post that seemed like a collage of junk. It was mesmerizing with a true method to the madness. That method was the work of Mike Carpenter whose “Wal Mike” is the ultimate statement of individuality. However, the trading post is an actual store for the locals to get everything from eggs to gaskets. Mike has been there for over 50 years — before the road was laid. He sells everything, including a human hand (which I assume is only figuratively for sale). Mike often recovers bodies frozen in the snow and says sadly that no one looks for some people. (The hand does not appear a relic from one of these recoveries).
Mike has assembled nothing short of a living, organic piece of art composed of the flotsam of humanity. The bathroom is an outhouse with a hollowed out stump. Mike and his wife Brenda live according to their own rules. They live within this creative form of organized chaos. From old Beatles albums to dried Moose brains to a black and white television, Wal Mike is a record of humanity.
We reluctantly left Wal Mike and drove to Talkeentna. We stayed at the Swiss Alaska Inn, which was highly recommended on TripAdvisor. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend the Swiss Alaska. The staff is very friendly and it has a little restaurant for a hearty breakfast. However, it is fairly run down and our room was a bit dank. The small television had only three working channels and the knob was coming off the bathroom. The hallway outside of our room stored extra mattresses. We ran out of hot water after a shower and a half. There are only a small number of hotels and inns in these rural areas and they tend to be fairly spartan. Swiss Alaska was clean and the staff friendly, but I would not return for a repeat stay.
The town of Talkeetna is very small and has a few older rugged structures reminiscent of the frontier. We had “Frosty” buns at The Roadhouse which is a very cool place and a fun environment to just hang out. The tables are family style with strangers taking any open seats. It gets pretty crowded in the morning, but worth the wait.
We finished the day in Anchorage and ate dinner at the extremely popular Moose’s Tooth Pizzeria. We have to wait a long time for a table but it was worth it. The restaurant has dozens of different pizzas. They are fantastic as are the cheese bread sticks with marinara dipping sauce. If you are in Anchorage for a few days, this is an excellent choice for dinner.
Tomorrow we take off the white water rafting on a class 5 river.