After leaving Valdez the day before, we drove to Kenny Lake and spent the night. The little town has a population of 369, possibly counting sled dogs which enjoyed barking all night.
We began the 14th day of our trip driving to Chitina on the Copper River. This is the River providing your supermarkets with $18/lb. sockeye salmon (reds) and $25/lb. Chinook salmon (kings). The dip-net sport fishery and tribal fish wheels were in full force along the River.
After leaving the Chitina area we entered the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, driving 60 miles on a rough dirt road. Our tent was set up at the Glacier View Campgrounds across the Kennicott River from McCarthy, population 70. To reach the town, it was a one-mile bicycle ride.
The Wrangell-St. Elias Park is amazing. It’s the largest Federal Park in the U.S., more than six times the size of Yellowstone. To put it in perspective, Wrangell-St. Elias is larger than Switzerland with higher mountains.
Both McCarthy and the town of Kennicott (five miles by very rough dirt road from McCarthy) originated as mining towns in the early 1900s. Many of the old mining buildings are still standing. Interestingly, the annual precipitation in the area is only 12 inches, similar to most places in the Alaska Interior. But, the temperature extremes range from -58F to 91F.
After setting up camp we took the 13-mile round-trip, with 600-foot elevation gain, bicycle ride to both old mining towns. The scenery was spectacular with snow-covered mountains riming the area. The nose of the huge Root Glacier ends almost adjacent to the town of Kennicott, easily visible from our camping area.
We clearly weren’t in Kansas anymore!