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....
Arriving at Curry, we grabbed our snowshoes for a 2hr slog up the mountain - the right choice as the skiers were clearly having a difficult time in deep snow on the long uphill climbs. All worth it in the end, however, as we caught our breaths at the summit whilst enjoying a brilliantly clear view of Denali on the horizon.
We spent a good afternoon traversing a 40 mile loop through incredibly scenic landscapes in the Petersville area, south of Denali. This was the perfect location, with vast areas of open space providing plenty of opportunities to pick up decent speed, and our Ski-Doos had no trouble at all getting up to speeds of 90mph before common sense reigned them in.