Alaska - Week 5
July 24, 2022
Breaking news: blue sky and sunny days are back in Alaska, and we finally saw the the peak of Denali. Compared to last week, our 5th week in Alaska was chill and filled with fuzzy feelings since we united with old friends (and met new ones!) in this remote part of the world.
We started the week by taking the free shuttle from our camp in McCarty to the Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark.
The landmark is located 5 miles north of McCarty and is considered the best remaining example of early 20th Century copper mining! Many of the buildings in Kennecott have been abandoned for decades, and while some structures have deteriorated beyond the point of saving, some others have been stabilized and are open for visitors.
We opted for a 2-hour guided tour with the Kennicott Wilderness Guides and we did not regret as the tour gave us access inside the mill.
Tuesday: McCarthy to Glacier View (5h / 200 Miles)
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at McCarthy, and would have loved to take an extra day or two to hike to Root Glacier and explore around the area. However, we were excited to meet up with Rámon, the sea-kayaking instructor and guide we met in Baja in the winter, in Palmer the next day so we left Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve with fond memories and started the eastbound drive.
Palmer is about 6 hours away from McCarthy, so we took our time stopping along the way and camped along an inviting dirt road in a beautiful valley not too far from Glacier View.
Wednesday: Glacier View to Palmer (1h / 60 Miles)
The drive to Palmer was short but eventful. We ran into Joshua, who is traveling with his father and a friend in the exact same truck and camper as ours! We knew each other from Instagram, so it was fun to meet in person. Joshua and his family are Chinese so it was a great opportunity for Kuan to exchange travel stories in her mother tongue.
We were hoping to meet Rámon for dinner but he didn’t get back home from a fishing trip until late. So we decided to stay in the local campground and meet for breakfast the following morning.
Thursday: Palmer to Willow via Hatcher Pass (1h30 / 50 Miles)
We woke up early and made our way to the café where Rámon suggested. Little did we know that Rámon has been coming to Alaska to teach for NOLS in the summer for over 18 years. We caught up on our travels in the past few months, his leisure adventures between the courses, and how much we miss the food in Baja.
Before we parted, Rámon offered us a fillet of halibut that he fished the day before. Thank you, Rámon!
It was still early when we left the café and our only goal for the day was to drive to Willow. We decided to take the Hatcher Pass road again since we did not finish driving it last week when the roof of our camper broke down.
Why Willow? Well, Kuan had to be on her computer for a class this weekend so we booked the best affordable Airbnb nearby we could find!
As we were about to arrive in Willow, we realized that it was too early to check-in in the Airbnb. So we found a nice little spot to stay cozy and warm in the camper by a creek while it was pouring outside.
Friday, Saturday & Sunday: Willow
Willow is a village of about 2,500 people and is known to be the mushing capital of the world. It is the start of the Iditarod sled dog race that runs every year in early March. Mushing teams travels about 1,000 miles in freezing temperatures from Willow to Nome at the northeastern tip of Alaska. We also learned that Willow has more dogs per capita than anywhere else in the world — no wonder we hear more of our dog neighbors than human ones when we walked around. We will go on a dry mushing tour next week (obviously, when in Willow…) so you will see photos in the next blog post.
Willow is also the meeting point with our friends Renda and David who drove all the way from New York to Alaska for the summer! The four of us will spend the next couple of weeks traveling together.
We spent our weekend joining Zoom calls, catching up on emails and TV shows, cooking, reading, and resting. It was lovely to have a break from camping and chill at an Airbnb for a few days. On Monday, we will head south to the Kenai Peninsula to explore new territories. Hope the sun will stick around! See you next week.