Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Wrangell-St. Elias

Since Mike was visiting from the Florida Keys (and soon to be an inhabitant of Yellowknife, NWT!!), I thought, "What better time to take some time off work and explore an unknown area??" So off we went to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. W-St. E. is the nation's largest National Park, yet only receives about 40,000 visitors a year (which is something like a tenth of what Denali sees). Four mountain ranges converge in the park, so you can only imagine the incredible views. I would recommend that everyone go see this place, but I do like that it's not disturbed...so maybe I won't recommend it.

We accessed the park via the "usual" route - the McCarthy Road, 60 miles of gravel road from Chitna to McCarthy. Expect washboards and potholes, but don't believe the tour books (they tell you to have two spare tires - the road isn't that bad, it's like the road to Child's Glacier and the Million Dollar Bridge outside of Cordova). And don't expect the ice cream store at mile 44.2 to be open. That was a disappointment. Anyway, we went to Kennecott Mine in Kennicott, Alaska (a clerical error led to the misspelling of the mine's name), and then took a hike up towards Bonanza Mine. We ran out of time and had to turn back around near tree line, but it's one heck of a hike with awesome views the whole way! Then we explored the town of McCarthy (Kennicott and McCarthy are about 5 miles apart, but you can't drive between them - a narrow footbridge is the only thing connecting the two over the raging Kennicott River), and that place surpasses Seward as my favorite Alaskan city. It's quaint, has tons of dogs, everyone knows each other (and the dogs), and sits in the most spectacular landscape I've ever seen. And it was sunny (and hot!) the entire time we were there. :) Two thumbs way up for W-St. E/Kennicott/McCarthy!

(I have pics, but will have to upload them later...)