Friday, June 19, 2009

And We're Off

I know it's been a while, but I have a good excuse. Our good friends Alex (my best man) and Nancy (first friend I made at UCLA) made a trip up to Alaska to visit us! We've been on the road since June 2nd and we definitely made the most of it. When Alex first got here, we were discussing our favorite hikes and camping places. Well, I can honestly say that the places we went with Alex and Nancy are now list toppers in all categories. The solitude and challenging hiking in McCarthy/Kennecott and the awesome (in the truest sense of the word) experience in Cordova at Childs Glacier are two of the richest experiences I've ever had.

Kennecott was an old copper mine in the early 1900's that was very productive and McCarthy was the town set up to cater to the miners. I could write tons of boring facts about the mines but will spare you. I do recommend you look into the place if the old ghost-mining-town thing interests you. We did a lot of hiking in the area, up to one of the old mines (Bonanza) and then we did a backpacking trip out to a spot called The Knoll, which is a 3,800ft bump that sticks out from the mountains surrounding the root glacier. We camped at the top of this thing and had a great view of the Stairway Icefall, which drops more than 5,000 ft into the valley that the root glacier travels over. Since it's moving faster down this drop than when it hits the valley, the glacier breaks apart along the way down - although we are taking glacial speeds here so the word icefall is a slight exaggeration in my book. It's still an amazing place to pitch a tent and somewhere I wouldn't mind returning to in the future (I'm generally not a big fan of doing duplicate hikes since there are just so many good ones out there). Here's a picture of our tent out on The Knoll with the root glacier in the background:

Nancy arrived after our trip to Kennecott and we grabbed a very scenic ferry ride out to Cordova, a small fishing town in Prince William Sound at the mouth of the Copper River. Upon arriving we headed out to Childs Glacier to camp and check out this "must see" in the guide books. Well, on this one the guide books hit the nail on the head. We turned off the dirt road we had been driving on for an hour into the campsite, and immediately spoke with the camp host about camping fees, wood, etc. While chatting, part of the glacier calved off into the river making a tremendous rumbling noise that literally shook the air. All of our eyes lit up in excitement and we could hardly contain our laughter. We stayed up past midnight on the river bank 1/4 mile from the glacier watching this thing calve huge chunks of ice and then got up and did the same thing the following morning over coffee and oatmeal. It's hard to explain just how exciting this was, but the glacier is 300ft in the center and we saw a couple 200ft sections of ice fall violently into the river, sending a small wave towards us that washed up on the river bank below. It was truly spectacular to witness and SO loud!

All in all, I wouldn't have changed the trip at all. We also went to Kodiak (another fishing town - where the Deadliest Catch boats are moored), Talkeetna and into Denali NP. If you're interested I have pictures of everything on the web. Links are below.

And to Alex and Nancy, thanks for the great trip! I'll never forget it.


Kodiak Pictures

McCarthy Pictures

Cordova Pictures

Denali Pictures

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