To McCarthy, and beyond

Meg and I took a short road trip for the holiday weekend and to celebrate our first (!?) anniversary.  Not sure where the past year has gone so quickly, other than trips to Eagle (AK), Iowa, a quick tour of the southwest (Meg), Iowa, Hawaii (Meg), Costa Rica.  I suppose when you add various points in between, as well as quality time spent here at home in Anchorage, you would probably add it all up to one year.  

Meg made us a patriotic and romantic cherry pie as a an anniversary celebration dessert after we arrived home.

Anyway, to the activities of this past weekend. 

We set out from Anchorage to head to McCarthy/Kennecott on Thursday evening, following fulfillment of obligations as they relate to work, dogcare, chickencare, apiarycare, and preparation for our houseguest.  With those tasks out of our way, we packed up the trusty Volvo with our camping supplies, food, bikes and other sundry materials.  As our luck would have it, we didn’t get very far, as there was a severe accident on the highway just outside Eagle River, which resulted in traffic both ways being directed off the highway and through Eagle River.  On the Thursday evening before a holiday weekend, there was some ‘minor’ congestion as a result.  While we waited, we enjoyed listening to the audio stylings of local naturalist Richard Nelson talk about his wanderings about the state, and efforts not to become bear-food.  While nearly yielding to the temptation to turn back for our own bed and just set out anew in the morning, we managed to make it through the traffic jam after about a hour and continued our trek north and east to the Glacier View Campground, which is pretty close to Sheep Mountain (B, on the map below).  After a huge breakfast at the Sheep Mountain Lodge, we continued our trek eastward, through Glennallen, past Chitina and down the McCarthy Road/Edgerton Highway.  The road to McCarthy is renown as an eater of tires – 60 miles of gravel roadway built atop an old railway line that was never fully cleaned up.  Each year following re-grading of the road, new railroad spikes are all akimbo.  We were fortunate, and other than two hours of rattling bike parts in the back of the car and a few big bumps, we emerged in McCarthy unscathed.  The first map shows the route to Chitina – 

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Google apparently doesn’t like the road to McCarthy either, though you can see it and they do show it if you zoom in far enough, it isn’t a route to be traveled.  Either way, this map shows the remainder of the journey – 

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We found a nice camp site to base our weekend out of and set off on our bikes to go to Kennicott.  Nobody told us it was a five mile ride uphill.  We toughed it out and explored the old mining site and went to the toe of Root Glacier.  Saturday took us onto the West Kennecott Glacier Trail – overcast rainy weather dampened our plans to head up into the mountains – which turned out to be a good day for taking some lunch while watching small rockfalls and bits of ice calve off of the glacier into the stream flowing from it.  That evening we enjoyed the pre-Fourth activities with other tourists and the locals in McCarthy at the Golden Saloon, with a live band, food and drink.  Sunday started early with a day hike onto Root Glacier with the Kennicott WIlderness Guides to make sure we didn’t end up as glacier food, to be studies in 10,000 years as a young couple who was unexpected encased in a glacier.  Fantastic experience – we saw moulans, glacial roses, sharpened our crampon-ing skills, enjoyed the glacial or katabatic wind, as well as the 7,000′ icefalls further up the glacier.  Apparently the large-building-sized chunks of ice that come tumbling down have discouraged even the craziest of ice climbers from completing that one.  If you do go on a glacier hike in the near future, we’d both recommend some SPF40 on the underside of your nose and cheeks to prevent any sunburn.  Don’t ask us how we know. On our return from the glacier hike, we partook in a few of the 4th of July activities in downtown McCarthy.  I think it was the random Germany guy screaming on my tug-of-war team that helped us prevail.  At least, that’s the excuse I’m using to explain why I started screaming too.  From there, it was a drive back to Sheep Mountain for a relaxing night in a soft bed.  Following a brief detour though the Volvo graveyard this morning, we pointed ourselves homeward again.  Whenever you’re up in AK next, if you’ve got time, McCarthy/Kennicott are worth the trip.  (Oh yeah, and posted by Zach… just not logged in.)


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