The Stairway Icefall is the tallest ice fall outside of the Himalayas. A few weeks ago I set out to see how close I could get to this colossal tumble. (more…)
I’ve finally made it to the McCarthy, the town I lived in last year. My priorities since arriving have been to:
1) Find a place to stay
2a) Find a place to work
2b) Study for the written test for my Private Pilots License (more later)
3) Write, Read, and other lofty goals. (more…)
Moody Night 1 on the eve of Summer Solstice.
My buddy Jesse, who I met serendipitously when our road trips intersected in time and place at Mesa Verde National Park, is working for a flight-seeing operation called Denali Air. Similar to my shuttle gig last year for Wrangell Mountain Air, it’s his responsibility to transport visitors to and from the airport and engage them in repetitively prepared, single-serving conversations.
Backcountry hiking is made much safer by pairing up, and Jesse and I penciled in a backcountry trip into Denali National Park as soon as I knew I’d be back up here (more…)
I was laid off from my job recently – last day was May 19th. It’s too bad because I was excited to get into water infrastructure engineering, but we just didn’t win the proposals we hoped to and I was low man on the totem pole. Never fret, I’m back in Alaska for the summer, and I plan on traveling around and picking up work over the next three months.
It’s sort of like my blog was left in a time capsule for one year and here I am to pick it up again. (more…)
Work work work
I’ll shut up about work for a minute and jog you through a few other notable goings-on in McCarthy and Kennecott.
Three weeks ago (June 4th) McCarthy held a community yard sale. Anyone looking to free up valuable storage space could get rid of unused clothes, blankets, and knick knacks.
Here is an overview of the scene:
And this is what I walked (rode) away with:
- Big Blanket: $1
- Small Blanket: $1
- Blue Sheet: $1
- Mosquito Hat: Free
- Cheating Death Book: Free
- French Press: $1 (!)
- Survival Radio with hand crank and solar panel: $2 (!)
- Super Janky Mountain Bike: $1 (!!)
Grand Total: $7.00
Alaskan residents are permitted to fish 500 salmon per year from the Copper River (north of McCarthy Bridge).
Those 500 fish must be for private use only. Individuals cannot sell their fish unless they have a commercial license. This means that a lot of salmon is gifted to friends. Twice now we’ve gotten a call about fish out of Chitina.
We fly them back that evening and have an impromptu fish cleaning and cooking event.
– An exciting thing to see unfold for this beach bum from Orange County.
There’s not too much to filleting these fish, but it’s a technique intensive skill.
Essentially, you pull the knife from the tail to the head keeping it as close to the spine as possible. Then you make a vertical cut down behind the gills to completely separate the fillet. Once the two fillets are cut you discard the guts, head, and backbone. Lastly, remove the blood vein (black line in picture) and cut off the dorsal or pelvic fins if they’re still attached. The skin stays on.
If you know what you’re doing you can remove the ribcage from each fillet. I don’t so I didn’t.
The cutting, cleaning, and packaging took the 8 of us about an hour to complete.
There’s something special about having an unplanned crew dinner at 10pm on a work night.
Kennecott is a popular place for weddings, what with the whole place oozing with ye olde tyme charm. It’s a goal of mine to offer you all my honest perspective – what I call “the camera behind the camera.”
Well, here you have it:
Wedding photo shoot in Kennecott.
Summer Solstice is a big deal in Alaska.
It holds weight as the delineation between summer approaching and winter encroaching. On the evening of June 20, the longest day of this year, McCarthy turned out for the burning of a straw effigy, the expressed purpose of which was to bring people together in solidarity for the stewardship of Alaska’s water resources.
For the curious, legal sunrise for McCarthy was 3:56am, and the depth of sunset crested at 11:21pm, totaling 19 hours and 25 minutes of light – not including the after-dusk/pre-dawn glow that ebbs but never goes.
Summer Solstice effigy burning near McCarthy Creek.
Last but not least, and ranking in as perhaps the coolest perk of any job I’ve ever heard of, Wrangell Mountain Air offers empty “flight-seeing” seats to its employees free of charge.
Two weeks ago I got to tag along on a 35 minute flight through Kennicott Valley, and it went well.
Pictures can not communicate the size of these mountains.
Large mountains that are far away appear to be medium size mountains that are a medium distance away.
In the above picture the snowless peaks in the foreground to the left are around 6,000 feet above sea level. Mount Blackburn (background left) is the tallest peak in Wrangell St. Elias National Park and the 5th tallest in the US, topping out at 16,390 feet (5,000 m) tall.
That’s a 10,000 foot change between a thumbs-width difference on your screen.
The enormity sinks in only when you realize how far away the mountain remains after flying towards it for 15 minutes.
My video is grainy, but know that it was crafted with love.
I drive the shuttle van between McCarthy and Kennecott 6 or 7 times a day. Each full circuit takes an hour. It’s an ok gig.
Donoho Basin is one of the most popular backpacking destinations in Wrangell St. Elias National Park. I met a guide with five years of experience, and she described it as the most scenic single day hike-in site in Alaska.
The remote mining town of Kennecott and its supporting outpost McCarthy have their roots in the early 1900’s, long before the Wrangell St. Elias National Park was established in 1980.
In 1899 two prospectors bushwhacked their way into the Kennicott Glacier Valley and discovered what was then the richest copper deposit in the world.