McCarthy and Kennecott are the perfect spot to get on a glacier. The Root Glacier is within easy approach (less than a 2 mile walk from town). One of the very few glaciers in the world that is easily accessible by foot (without having to be dropped off by plane). Two companies offer guided ice climbs and hikes. The "Hikes" are half day, $50 per...more
Wrangell St. Elias National Park is not only America's largest but is perfect for viewing mountains and glaciers. You simply HAVE to do a flightsee! This area has more mountains than anywhere in North America. Two flight services in McCarthy include Wrangell Mountain Air (the bigger company) and McCarthy Air (one bush pilot). I have flown with BOTH...more
In 1938 the townsfolk and miners cleared out overnight. Caught the last train from Kennecott and left everything behind that they could not carry on their backs. No one stayed behind; to do so would probably have meant certain death. With no rail service the closest town and means of supply would have been Valdez some 150 or so miles to the...more
McCarthy Lodge is the main restaurant in Wrangell St. Elias. All the locals and visitors eat there, and for good reason. The Chef is everybody's friend. The food was just the best - period. Fine dining setting in a unique historic building. Reservations are not always needed but not a bad idea. A 3 course dinner included a wonderful salad (made fresh from all local gardens), Copper River Salmon is the specialty from a local fisherman apparently. Dessert choices were over the top.
There is a fast-food stand called the Potato also in McCarthy. The old pizza parlor closed in 2004.
There is another restaurant in Kennecott at the lodge there, but it is cafateria style (not even close to "wilderness gourmet" as advertised!) Stick with McCarthy Lodge if you want great food.
Favorite Dish: The miso marinated cedar planked copper river red salmon. I am not a particular Salmon fanatic like others may be. The Salmon was unlike other Salmon in that the texture and taste are not at all familiar to regualar "Salmon".
Wrangell-St. Elias is so much cooler than Denali cause it's not overrun by tourists who just want to gawk at bears. However, getting there can be problematic. There is no road. The only road is the old railroad track that shipped copper out of Kennicott mines during its heydays in the 20's and 30's. Old tracks and rusty nails remain. It's likely you'll get a flat tire, so bring spare tires and learn to change them. There's no road side assistance in this part of town!
Alaska is salmon country. After a salmon reaches adulthood and has escaped becoming dinner for tuna or sharks it returns to the river or stream where it was born in order to spawn its progeny. But to get back to the hereditary spawning grounds it must first pass a guantlet of brown bears, commercial fishermen and tribal fishermen. The first two are...more
She couldn't get up. The guide and the husband tried to help her to her feet but she was adament that she could not move and needed to stay put. We looked on helplessly for a few minutes, not knowing what to do. Did the woman break a bone, was she having a heart attack? It was impossible to tell. Eventually we decided to head back to Kennecott and...more
Alaska can be a dangerous place even if you take all the proper precautions. There were precious few hikers on the Root Glacier Trail. We did not meet anyone coming in the opposite direction until we met this party at the wall of white ice at the Root Glacier. I was going to try to get a little closer and these folks were coming down off the...more
More than treacherous, they can be killers. It is extremely dangerous to hike or climb on a glacier without the proper equipment (ice axe, rope, crampons, extra clothing) and a knowledgable guide. Seriously, glaciers are nothing to fool with.In the Canadian Rockies there were plenty of signs and roped off areas to keep the unwary off of the...more
If you camp on the side of the river before you cross the foot bridge into McCarthy (a party town of no more than 30 permanent residents, one of them being a world renowned glaciologist), you'll see the Mormon family that run the campsite. They charge $6 a night per tent. No facilities other than the freezing cold river and some large rocks to pee behind.
The family used to live in Arizona but relocated to Alaska a number of years ago. It's a large family with an elderly man with his wife (maybe wives) and their children. Probably 30 or so in total. I wonder what prompted the family to move from the hot desert of Arizona to the freezing glaciers of Alaska. They live in primitive houses in the mountains and dress like characters from "Little House on the Prairie". I was scared to ask too many questions because they are a little shy, but also carry shotguns.
Anyways, they homesteaded a piece of rocky land next to the river which is their main source of income. But I suspect it's not a lot since most people don't want to sleep on a bed of small, sharp rocks or pee behind large rocks. We had to bundle up with gloves, hats, and winter coats at night in the middle of summer. Nonetheless, it was great fun camping there.
Same drill as glacier climbing. In addition to crampoons, you are fitted with ski boots to provide additional foot support instead of your regular hiking boots. Be sure to wear thick socks for protection. The guides will also fit you with harness, helmet, and ice picking axes before you take a 45 minute hike to the glacier. Guide will also give you...more
This is a relatively mild sport in a harsh, but exceptionally beautiful environment. The glacier mountain is Mt. Blackburn. From Kennicott, a 45 minute hike lead you to the edge of the glacier. Along the way, you might spot black bears. Crampoons are provided by the guiding company. Walking on crampoons is a learned skill, but you learn quickly....more
One of the park's namesake peaks, Mt. Wrangell, rises over 14,000 feet. It looks short and squat, but this is one massive mountain. The mountain is made up of 250 cubic miles of lava--it is approximately the same heigth as Mt. Rainier but about five times as massive. And if you have ever visited Rainier, you know that Rainier is quite large in its...more
The statistics on Wrangell-St. Elias are mind-boggling. Here are a few:It is the largest national park in the United States at 13 million acres (give or take a few hundred thousand).It is larger in area and has higher mountains than Switzerland.It has nine of the tallest sixteen peaks in North America (several over 16,000 feet).One of the glaciers...more
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