This past Labor Day weekend, we set off from Anchorage to visit two of Alaska's famed ghost towns, McCarthy and Kennecott, in Wrangell St-Elias National Park. For non-natives of the 49th state, a 7 hr drive is nothing to be sneezed at - we would take Alaska Route 1 north (Glenn Highway) towards Glennallen, followed by the Richardson and Edgerton Highways to Chitina, before negotiating the last 60 miles along infamous McCarthy Road, an un-paved road we were warned could take 2 hours in itself, to our destination. The drive, while long, was not as grueling as we had anticipated, and rather delivered paramount views of the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and Copper River that are second to none.
We set off on the Bonanza Mine Trail, 9 miles round trip, with 3800ft elevation gain ahead of us. It starts out steep, and then gets steeper. The reward comes when the trail emerges from the tree line, just past 2 miles in, onto a ridge that provides a panoramic view over the Kennecott Glacier moraines. The mine site itself is pretty spectacular. An old bunkhouse sits against the slope, just under the ridge. You can hike up further onto and along the ridge for even better views of the valley, including a glimpse of Root Glacier.
Fair Attraction No. 1: Food! So much, oh-so-bad-for-you deliciousness. This is the day I will do double desserts (tough choice between cinnamon pretzels, ice cream, funnel cakes and those crazy flat fried dough things called elephant ears), after the requisite stops for reuben sandwiches and spinach bread. Not sure if I could ever stomach a donut burger, however....
Make sure to grab a few extra napkins before tucking into their loaded reuben sandwiches, generously filled with juicy, finely sliced corned beef, and bacon and Arkose beer-braised sauerkraut. Their reuben bowl is half reuben, half loaded fries, for those who don't want to get their hands dirty, with beer-battered mushrooms on the side if you're worried about your five-a-day.
The hottest item on the menu is, of course, the eponymous spinach bread - plate-sized squares of thick-cut, spent grain bread, loaded with a wollop-packing, cheesy, garlic and spinach topping, served hot and bubbling from the broiler. It's cut into soldiers for ease of consumption (or sharing.....unlikely).