Saturday 7/19/08 Have you ever had a day at a go cart raceway? You know the place, fast cars, curvy roads, obstacles, a few dips in the road maybe. Now make that a whole day, rally roads, washboard roads, single lane bridges, road described as "roller coaster" turns, and my favorite that the locals call "hug a boulder bend". We decided to go through the Wrangell-St Elias National Preserve. So we travelled down the Richardson Highway about 30 miles
Next we got on the Edgerton Highway to Chitina. This was a 30 mile stretch of blacktop that has a lot of "frost heaves". In layman terms that means dippy dips, if you know what I mean. Like "tickle bellies" only shorter and more often so they are just dips. A few we were close to bottoming out. Maybe we should have brought one of the boys "rally" cars.
So, when that ends the next 60 miles is called the McCarthy Road. This is where the fun really starts. The first 10 miles or so we go pretty slow because these roads are BAD! Then MM starts thinking like people that live on dirt roads "maybe if I just hit the tops of the bumps". Besides that we wanted to make it a "day trip" not a full vacation. There were at least 3 or 4 one lane bridges over rivers. I really like the one over Kuskulana River. This bridge is 525 feet long and 238 feet above the river.
that's a long way down.
After a while MM starts enjoying this, I can tell by the way he's holding onto the wheel and leaning into the curves, you girls with car guys know what I mean. He says he was just pretending he was driving his Corvette. We're counting down the miles and finally get to mile marker 60. Can't wait to see what's at the end. It had better be good!
Another visitor center and we learn that we can walk across the footbridge into McCarthy and then take a shuttle to Kennicott. I'm starved by this time so we decide to walk to a little place that the gal at the visitor center told us about in McCarthy. Did I mention that it's raining now and the temp is in the 40's? So, a half mile walk into McCarthy to "Potato". Interesting place. Good food.
Notice in the picture below the "potato heads" on the ledge.
We learned that before there was a footbridge visitors had to haul themselves across the river on the tram. They put their goods on the platform and then pulled the cable to draw themselves over the river. Talk about work. Don't think I'd have done it for a day trip. Here are remnants of the old tram.
There was a note in the "Milepost" book that says "Pet owners note: If you bring your dog, bring a leash. There are many loose local dogs in the McCarthy/Kennicott area." And there were many loose dogs. Just hanging out.
Anyway, some of the facts about this National Park. It is the largest being 13,175,901 acres or 20,587.3 square miles. It has 6 of 10 highest mountains on this continent. Some parts of the mountains receive 60 feet of snow per year, average annual snowfall in 50.4 inches. Twenty five percent of Wrangell-St Elias is covered by glacial ice. It is a huge, beautiful park. We sure did make a good investment when we brought Alaska into the United States.
The McCarthy/Kennicott towns were a copper mining area in the past with the mines being in Kennicott and the town of McCarthy growing into quite a miners' and railroaders' town. They were booming towns providing services to more than 800 people. The falling copper prices closed the mines in 1938. In November of that same year, the last train left Kennicott for Cordova taking most of the remaining people with it.
Just a few more pictures that I want to share with you. This one we can only guess about.
There are several landing strips along the roadway. We found this sign stuck in the back of a truck. It says "Caution yield for approaching aircraft".
This one was way too appropriate. There was one at either end of the 60 mile McCarthy Road.
We saw a lot of this ornamental grass along the highway. Especially the Old Edgerton Highway.
It was only about 12 inches high and the soft pink plumes were blowing softly in the breeze. Just beautiful.
Not what we had originally planned for today, but I'm sure glad we are on the trip that we are and we can just change our plans without much hassle. Tomorrow Valdez...maybe.