Valdez to Chitina (pronounced Chit-na – I wonder what happened to extra “I”)
Sunday, July 26
We had planned on staying all day in Valdez, but the weather was really crummy so after we went to church (which included a little cruise out on the bay),
we walked around the town for a bit
and then (after naps) started back UP the road. Yes, that 7 mile hill was waiting for us.
Even with the clouds (and occasional rain), the drive was still pretty –
The pipeline runs along the same route as the road we were on – sometimes underground, sometimes above. Here is a glimpse of it just as it is leaving the final pumping station. I found it amazing that with all the mountains and valleys it traverses (all 799 miles of it) there are only 12 pumping stations along the way. Impressive!
The Edgerton Highway/McCarthy Road
Gary and I decided that we wanted to do a little side trip – the Edgerton/McCarthy Road – so we waved good-bye to our other traveling companions with promises of meeting up again in Tok by Tuesday. Several folks had recommended this drive to us – it’s paved until you get to Chitina and then for the next 60 miles it’s gravel. We decided we’d drive Lizzie to Chitina and then take the truck the rest of the way.
It started out very straight-
and was quite diverse. Instead of wilderness on all sides there was an occasional hay field
And pastures with mystery bovine type animals (does anyone know what this is? Some kind of Yak, maybe?)
But it also had some great views –
We made it to Chitina without event and were surprised at the…ahem…nothingness of it? According to the Milepost book – “Chitina has several picturesque old buildings (that would be 2) and a growing number of services (that would be a gas station and a paved pull-out with an outhouse!).”
Yes, there are three buildings in the picture, but only 2 of them are occupied. That is main street.
Apparently Chitina was a booming town after it was established in 1908 when the copper mine was operational in Kennicott and it was the northern terminus of the railway that supplied the mines. When the copper mine and railroad were abandoned in 1938 Chitina became a ghost town. Today it is mostly the gateway to the McCarthy Road (which follows the old railroad bed) and a portion of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. We parked Lizzie and took a sneak peak at the McCarthy Road since there was a sign for a campground about a mile down the road. I was skeptical, but I figured we could check it out. First the road passes through this teeny-tiny opening
And then winds down for a bit until you come to a nice macadam road and fancy new bridge. While we were checking out the “campground”, I took a picture of the bridge over the Copper River.
The bridge was very nice, but the campground wasn’t really “big rig” friendly, so we’ve opted to just park in a small pull-out just past “downtown”. This is the view from my front door –
We took a walk and actually ate dinner in one of those two buildings. On the way home I couldn’t resist a shot of the Chitina suburbs –
And just as we were settling down for the night (and I was beginning to get caught up with these journal entries) – a big ol’ moose trotted right in front of our rig! Of course by the time I got the camera out she was across the road and heading up the hill –
I think she’s gone that way before!
Day Three – 118 miles. Parked in the moose trail!
Additional shots of Day 3 can be found HERE!