Monday, July 27
Chitina to Kennicott, back to Chitina in the truck. 60 Miles of Gravel road each way.
Chitina to Tok with the house.
Another early start day, but we had 60 miles of dirt/gravel road to cover, so it made sense to get a good start. Besides, it was a lovely morning – and the early views were lovely!
These big wide rivers are in valleys made by glaciers – you can always tell by the wide “U” shape of the valley. It often has a lazy braided look, but just as often has quite a strong current and can be quite treacherous. Glacier fed rivers have a lot of glacier “dirt” in them and I think they look like concrete slurry. Very gray.
Although the day started out quite clear (as you can see in this clear little pond with the beaver house in the back),
we soon began to notice a layer of smoke settling around us.
This is the Kuskulana River Bridge built in 1910 (had I mentioned that this road follows the railroad bed that ran to the copper mine community in Kennicott?). It’s one skinny lane, 525 feet long and 238 ft. above the river. Gulp.
Although the wildfire was still far away, the smoke continued for quite a while.
We came out of the smoke and upon a lovely lake at just about the same time. We climbed down an embankment to get a closer look at the lake –
(The smoke is hanging just above the horizon)
Finally we made it to the end of our 60 mile dirt road. Of course, we still had a mile walk to McCarthy and then a 6 mile shuttle bus to Kennecott, but we were happy to be done bumping along for a bit! There is a long pedestrian bridge across the Kennicott River – plenty of photo op’s there….
A little background on McCarthy and Kennicott.
“The 2 settlements in this area, McCarthy and Kennicott, both originated with the establishment of the Kennecott Mines Company in 1906. (An early day misspelling made the mining company Kennecott, while the glacier and river are Kennicott.)
The mining town of Kennicott, perched on the side of Bonanza Ridge above the wide and rocky Kennicott Glacier moraine, housed the mine offices, homes, a hospital, school and a movie theatre. Today, the 14-story Kennecott Mine mill and concentrator building towers the narrow gravel road through “town”, which includes historic structures like the old hospital and assay office, the restored recreation center, some private buildings and Kennicott Glacier Lodge.
McCarthy, 5 miles away, sprang up to provide miners with more housing, saloons, a newspaper, stores, hotels, restaurants and a red light district. A number of these pioneer structures have been restored or rebuild and now house a variety of businesses that serve the influx of summer visitors and the small year-round population of homesteaders.” The Milepost, 2009.
Apparently, in 1938 when the mines closed, the owners removed what they thought was valuable and pretty much just packed up and left everything else. Along with several private establishments, it is also a part of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. We found it to be very interesting, and well worth the 60 miles of smoke and bumps!
Apart from the abandoned mining community, there are also glaciers and mountains to be hiked and explored. The valley is filled with glacial moraines – they look like giant piles of cinders, but they are actually ice that is just covered with the glacial debri.
We walked through McCarthy on our way back to the truck –
Took a short cut through the woods –
And came upon a black bear once we made it back to the road.
It was between us and the bridge, but fortunately it decided that the flowers at the little community chapel looked more interesting than we did,
So we were able to continue on our way.
We made it back to the truck without event and bumped along back to the rig (with a few less stops for picture taking!).
The day wasn’t done for us though – we still wanted to get close to (if not all the way to) Tok. Of course, we did have the daylight thing going for us!
We made it to Tok by 10:00, found a nice spot by the side of the road and settled in for the evening. I looked out a little after 11PM and almost saw a sunset!
Day Four – RV miles – 202.3, Chitina to Tok
Truck Miles – 120 and lots of dust, but lots of history too! A Very Good Day!
PS – The complete set of the Day 4 Pictures are Here
Psst….Here’s a map that might help a little with just where we are!
(Real Time update – it’s Wednesday night, we’re in Chicken, AK, and we’re headed to Dawson City (Yukon Territory) tomorrow morning. Here’s hoping our border crossing goes smoothly! More on Day 5 & 6 & maybe even 7 tomorrow (I hope)!)