I wanted Patty to experience the same sense of awe I felt when I went to Alaska for the first time and it did not take much convincing for her to agree that we should visit Alaska. As it turns out she enjoyed the first trip so much that a second trip to Alaska was planned.
I do not want to spend the time it would take to do research to establish the precise order of the events of these Alaska trips, so I wrote about the events of these trips in the order that I recall them.
I spent a lot of time in the Alaskan town of Talkeetna waiting for good flying weather on my trips to Alaska. Flying in Alaska is normally difficult enough, but intentionally flying into Denali basecamp in bad weather is madness so climbers spend a lot of time waiting in talkeetna for the weather at basecamp to improve. I was impatient to get going, like everyone else, but I had learned that Talkeetna is a very cosmopolitan place during climbing season. Climbers from many countries are there doing the same thing we were doing – waiting for the weather to improve and there is never a lack of people to talk to in Talkeetna. It is relatively easy to avoid boredom. The climbers-in-waiting must be ready to go upon short notice; the weather can be miserable in Talkeetna and good at the landing strip at basecamp. Climbers are flown to basecamp in the order that you signed up at your flying service and if you are not ready to go when you are called, you go to the back of the line. Good weather at basecamp is precious so everyone wants make the most of it. I had been to Talkeetna several times prior to Patty’s visit and I had a number of people I wanted her to meet. She and I were welcomed as old friends everywhere we visited and Talkeetna became our ‘basecamp’ for our excursions into the vastness of Alaska. We stayed at the Swiss Alaska Inn and also at a Bed and Breakfast located just just outside of town. By the way, Talkeetna is literally the end of the road that branches off from the Alaskan highway. Talkeetna is off the beaten path, a fact which becomes clearer once you stay there. We flew several trips with K2 Aviation and the owner, Jim Okonek, was our pilot. We flew into Swan Lake and stayed several days at Jim’s isolated cabin. We used his canoe to go have lunch with the owners of another isolated cabin on the lake (canoe or float-plane was the only way to visit them). One amusing story from that visit is that as Patty and I were canoeing over to visit the neighbors, we spotted a white swan floating on the lake and we quietly snuck up on the swan only to discover that it was fake one – made of plastic! Patty lifted it from the water and discovered a piece of rope attached to the fake swan. The rope was frayed as though is had broken. Patty returned the fake swan to the water and we continued on our way. We introduced ourselves to our new friends. They told us that Jim was flying in and would join us for lunch. Jim landed and as he came into the cabin, I saw that Jim was upset about something that must have just happened. He said a white swan that was his marker for an underwater rock was not in place when he landed and he had hit that @#*%ed rock! I and Patty thought it prudent to not recount our fake swan story on that day. This story remained our little secret until now.