Talkeetna, Alaska

It takes a few things to climb Denali, and among them are extensive logistical infrastructure and being a special kind of crazy. When those two elements collide, you get a town like Talkeetna: a hub for climbers, tourists, and idiosyncratic Alaskans with a slightly crunchier take on the state’s ‘Do what you will’ libertarian mindset. Fact: in 1997, the town elected a cat named Stubbs as its mayor.
The name Talkeetna comes from the Athabascan language, and means ‘Place of Many Gift Stores.’ Kidding! It actually means ‘Riverside food cache,’ but we think our jokey take works, as ‘downtown’ Talkeetna is a strip of gift shops, guide services, restaurants and old-school saloons. And it’s awesome: artsy, playful, infused with community spirit, but also self-aware enough to market itself to the thousands who come here seeking a view of Denali and a dip in the funky energy that permeates the mountain’s main climbing base.