Thoughts, ramblings, experiences and joys of an Alaska girl. Home is where the heart is, and my heart is firmly rooted in the Great Land of Alaska.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Chitina, McCarthy and Kennicott, oh my!

This weekend, my friend Angie and I headed out on the road for another adventure. So far, we've hit Homer (last winter), gone to Talkeetna for the Moose Dropping Festival and stayed at the Montana Creek Campground, and this past weekend we headed to McCarthy and the Kennecott Mine. We've done hikes, showshoed, hunted for wild salmon on parade in anchorage and have more plans for the coming winter, and the coming year ahead. It's really great to have a friend who has an adventurous and inquisitive spirit that matches (or actually far exceeds) my own. We were both born with wanderlust spirits.

The trip from Anchorage to McCarthy is not a short one. Driving the 7 hours it took to get there further confirmed that Alaska is a huge, HUGE place with such diverse landscape that I know I'll never tire of living here or run out of places to see. We started off at about 10:30 am on Friday. The last time I'd been up the Glenn Highway past Palmer was last year when I moved back to Alaska from the Lower 48.

The weather was amazing when we headed out, and remained so all weekend long. We saw the Matanuska Glacier clearly as we passed it. We stopped at the Sheep Mountain Lodge for lunch, stopped in Glenn Allen for gas, then headed down the road towards the town of Chitina (pronounced Chit-na). Before getting to Chitina, we stopped at the washed out state campground of Liberty Falls. Angie told me that Liberty Falls was one of her favorite places to stop on the road to Chitina, but that the flooding had changed not only the path of the creek, but also the falls itself. There is a road and parking lot before the actual campground, and we got out there and hiked up to see if we could see the falls. We couldn't see the falls from that hike, however. So, we headed up the road to the entrance to the campground. The road is closed, but we left the car at the entrance and walked past the baracades to the camping area. I could tell that Angie was a little disappointed that they hadn't started to rebuild the campground, but when they do, I'm sure we'll be going back there to camp.

Chitina used to be a ghost town, but it's slowly being rebuilt and reinhabited. It's the end of the paved road area, and the starting point of the McCarthy Road. On the road to McCarthy, Angie maneuvered around potholes and old railroad posts, across old railroad bridges and past moose, snowshoe hares, and ground squirrels till we made it to the campground where we stayed, Glacier View Campground. The campground was quiet, most of the areas were nice, and it was only a mile from McCarthy.
To get to the actual town of McCarthy, it requires walking across a footbridge over the Kennicott river. There used to be a handtram across the river, but the bridge was built in 1995 to replace it. We stopped on the bridge to take a look at the Kennicott and Root Glaciers on our left. We passed the city's watershed, a stream with signs posted that read "Ecologically Sensitive Area: Do Not Wash Dogs, City Water." The last day we were there, we actually saw a man back his truck up to the area and plop a hose with a filter on the end of it into the water and pump water into a huge water holding tank. McCarthy itself is compromised of maybe 10 buildings on a "main" street. There's two restaurants, a take it restaurant called "Potatoes," and a restaurant at the McCarthy Lodge. We ate at the McCarthy Lodge both nights we were in McCarthy. The food is awesome! It was a lot of fun sitting there listening to people from all over the world who were visiting, trying to determine where they were from by the language they were speaking.

Saturday, we took the shuttle from McCarthy to Kennicott. By the way, you'll see Kennecott/Kennicott throughout this blog. This is not a misspelling. Kennecott is spelled both ways. The city, glacier and river are spelled Kennicott. The mine and mining company are spelled Kennecott. The road from McCarthy to Kennicott is 5 miles long. At the end of the shuttle ride, we were let off in Kennicott near the Kennicott Lodge. Ruins of the mining town greeted us. The town and mine were active until 1938. Then, the company up and deserted the town and the mine, leaving everything behind. Several of the buildings were razed, but many have remained and are being rebuilt by the National Park Service. We walked around the town taking tons of pictures, picking the wild raspberries (ok, I picked, Angie watched), and finished by eating lunch at the Kennicott Lodge. Another great place to eat, and the views are amazing! We walked the 5 miles back to McCarthy, then on to the campground.

It was an amazing and relaxing weekend in an amazing and beautiful place. I love living in Alaska and having the ability to act like a tourist without having to pay for airfare and car rental! We've already discussed going back next year, and taking a root glacier hiking trip. For 1/2 a day, it's only 60$; full day cost of 95$. I could have stayed for another week and still not seen everything there that there is to see and done everything there is to do. Since McCarthy basically shuts down in mid September, we won't be able to make it back this year, but we'll be waiting for May, when the area opens up again.

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