Girl Meets Bulgaria

Musings of an American expat in Bulgaria (with detours in Utah and Alaska)


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A Visit to Talkeetna

Nagley's Store - Talkeetna, Alaska
Yesterday, Vince, myself, and one of my employees volunteered in Talkeetna for their Earth Day festivities.

Talkeetna – a quirky little town of about 800 residents – is about an hour from where we live. It’s famous for being the home base for climbers of Mt. McKinley, the inspiration for the town of Cicely on the TV show Northern Exposure, and as the filming location for the Disney film Snow Dogs.

Bustling downtown #Talkeetna, #Alaska. Can't wait for many summer adventures here!Untitled

I’ve visited the town several times in years past but it never gets old. I absolutely love its artsy vibe, unique stores, and fun restaurants.

After helping out the National Park Service at their event, we headed to the Roadhouse for a treat. Vince and I shared a giant cinnamon roll with frosting. Oh my. It was delicious! We’ll definitely be stopping by again on our next visit.Talkeetna RoadhouseTalkeetna RoadhouseEnjoying a "Frosty" after our Earth Day volunteer project. So good!He said it was "too sweet." He has so many things to learn, my new American boy! ;)

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Wild Denali

On my recent trip into Denali National Park, I saw some incredible wildlife.

And of course I had to share it here!

My trip began with a flight over the park, around Mt. McKinley, to Kantishna. From there it was a 5 hour bus ride back to the park entrance.

Along the way we were were lucky enough to spot some of the parks most famous inhabitants.

A mother Grizzly with two cubs, waaaay far away.

I spy a Dall sheep

wandering caribou

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Yeah, I walked on a glacier!

Last Friday, on one of my few remaining days off, I decided to take a glacier landing flight around Mt. McKinley.

After putting on glacier shoes, prepping my camera and lying about my weight on the paperwork (don’t worry, it was only by a few 20 lbs.), I boarded the 8-passenger, 60s era de Havilland Beaver. Our flight took us over Healy (the town where I live), Glitter Gulch (the canyon where the lodge is located) and Denali National Park.

From the air, the fall colors were incredible. Splotches of red, yellow, orange, and purple all mixing together as far as the eye could see. As we got closer to the mountain the jagged peaks of the Alaska Range were covered with more and more white, untouched snow. Here and there the cracks in the ice shone bright blue.

The weather was perfect and the pilot said it was the best day all summer (yay!). The 2.5 hour flight took us right up and around the cloudless Mt. McKinley. We were able to get quite close and could even see the huge icecicles hanging from outcroppings of snow on the mountain, some are up to 50 feet long!

After flying around the mountain a few times, the pilot landed on Eldridge glacier.

After snapping a few photos, I just walked around and took it all in. I was walking on a freakin’ glacier!

I was thankful for the glacier shoes, as in some spots my feet sank down into the snow a good foot or so.

We spent about a half hour on the glacier then boarded the plane to head home.

The whole time I just kept thinking how amazing it all was and how lucky I was to be experiencing it. Not many people can say they flew right up next to the tallest mountain in North America then landed on a glacier in it’s shadow!

Just another Denali memory I will cherish forever!

First sight of the mountain on the flight


The Park Road

Gorgeous fall colors

The highest point in North America

Eldridge glacier

Denali Princess from the air (the set of buildings on the right hand side of the road)


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Mini-vacation

Let me begin by saying that today was AWESOME!

Our day-off mini-vacation started yesterday after work. Vince and I, along with 3 friends, traveled 2 hours south of Denali and spent the night at another Princess Lodge (Mt. McKinley Princess) located near Trapper Creek.

Moose sighting on our drive down to Talkeetna

Hiding in the massive Fireweeds!

We went to dinner and then to the employee kickball tournament (where Vince met a distant relative of his from Bulgaria-whose husband, Allan, was our fishing guide extraordinaire today. Small world!

We got an early start this morning and met Allan at his cabin. After loading up on homemade cappuccinos and banitsa, we headed off to Sunshine Creek for some salmon fishing.

Sunshine Creek

Long story short, I didn’t net a darn thing! Everyone else, including Vince, got some beautiful, big red salmon. After over 5 hours, hooking/wrestling with 5 and losing 3 lures (those suckers put up a fight!), it became apparent that it just wasn’t my day.  We packed up and headed into Talkeetna for some lunch and a look around.

Vince's first catch

Second red salmon of the day, he is so proud!

Talkeetna is a unique little town. It is the starting point for most climbers on Mt. McKinley and has an artsy, small-town vibe.

Talkeetna, Alaska. My shirt looks very odd in this photo!

We ate lunch at a colorful little pizza joint then took a walk down the main street out to the Susitna River. Afterwards, we did a little shopping-including buying Allan some replacement gear for the lures/spinners that we lost.

LOVED the cheerful tables and chairs

On the banks of the Susitna River

Girls-only photo!

It couldn’t have been a more gorgeous day. The weather was clear and warm and I even got a little sunburn! The only thing that would have topped it off would have been for the mountain to have been visible (Talkeetna is a mere 40-miles from the base), but oh well!

We had such a good time that we are planning another trip for next week. I hope I am able to get the day off! I am determined to catch a salmon! Vince and I are even thinking of having whatever we catch smoked so we can take it home, which is good because I happen to love smoked salmon.

I am home now and should be in bed, but I had to get a post up before turning in. It was just such a great day and I couldn’t wait to share it with everyone!

Salmon fishing in Alaska, another item down on my Alaskan bucket list!

W.


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Denali National Park

I keep referring to “the park” in blog and Facebook posts. It occurred to me that some of you may not know what I am talking about!

Allow me to fill you in…

I am living in a little town, Healy, Alaska, which has a population of about 1,000 people (probably near double that during the summer months with all the seasonal workers in the area). I live in the “Princess Homestead.” It is, essentially, dorm rooms. The building was actually used up in Prudhoe Bay to house the pipeline workers. Princess purchased it and it was shipped down in pieces on the rail. It’s an eyesore. There isn’t a better way to put it. It’s has a definite presence in little Healy. It is, for the most part, comfortable and more than enough to get me through the summer. Although, we are having a bit of a drinking water problem at the moment and must drink bottled water. Oh dear!

*The water issue has been resolved since I first starting writing this post a few days ago. Whew!

Healy, AK

Healy is located about 11 miles north of where I work, The Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge (owned by Princess Cruises). I am a Front Desk Supervisor this year (more on that to come, I am sure!).

Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge (DPWL)

Our lodge is the largest hotel in the state of Alaska and is the closest hotel to the Denali National Park and Preserve entrance (1 mile).

Denali National Park encompasses over 6 million acres of beautiful tundra, glaciers, snow-capped peaks, and of course, the highest point in North America, Mt. McKinley (or Denali, the native Athabaskan name and what most Alaskans call the mountain). It is also home to some pretty incredible wildlife. So far this season I have seen lots of moose (including some very tiny babies!), a sleeping grizzly bear, countless caribou, a black wolf (pretty rare sight), Dall sheep, a couple of porcupines, foxes, hares and lots of squirrels. I have never seen a Lynx. It’s one of my biggest must-sees of the summer (after the Northern Lights).

Denali only has one road, the 91-mile long “Park Road.” It starts at the George Parks Highway and terminates in Kantishna, an old gold-mining town. Only the first 15 miles of the road are paved. After that it’s narrow, cliff-hugging dirt.

The lonely Park Road

Words truly cannot describe the vastness and beauty of this place. The vistas are unlike anything I have ever seen before. The sheer size of the park coupled with the efforts of the National Park Service to keep the land as untouched as possible has resulted in an area so spectacular you’d have to see it to believe it!

Can you spot the sleeping caribou?

Horseshoe Lake

Savage River

Even in bad weather, Denali is simply stunning.

Up until a few weeks ago, Vince and I had only done short hikes near the park entrance and taken the free shuttle bus out to Savage River (only park tour buses can go further than the paved portions of the road). We decided that we’d like to get into the park more often and go further in, so we invested in the park’s “6-packs.” We get to go into the park as far as we want 6 times over the summer.

Hiking in the park on our day off

We already used our first ticket and went out to Wonder Lake (about mile 85). I have a dedicated post on this one coming soon.

There you have it. I basically live and work in one of the most gorgeous places on the planet. It’s tough sometimes, but I manage!