Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Flying into Kennecott

September 7. So we have arrived the Chitina airstrip, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. A tiny Cessna arrives, drops off two people, and the pilot comes over to us. We are each allowed one bag up to 30 pounds, but I cry and plead and ask if I can take my empty pack as a second bag. He is cool with it, so I dry my tears and we get on board. Mary, who is nervous about flying in a little four seater, takes the co-pilot's seat. The pilot tells her not to grab the wheel if she gets scared, because then she might get really scared by the results. Then, we are off - my first time in a little plane since 2005 when I was in Alaska for my first marathon, and took a day to fly into a remote camp for Alaskan brown bear watching - very cool!

The trip to McCarthy is about 60 miles. We could have driven, but it would have been three hours over a very rough road that has a reputation for having a special talent for blowing out tires. Plus the fine print in our car rental contract said that if we even thought about driving on a gravel road, the contract would be null and void, our home would be burned to the ground, and we would be locked in a dungeon where unspeakable things would be done to us. I might be exaggerating a little bit, but they made it quite clear that we were not to take their car off highway.

We flew over incredibly rugged country - rivers, canyons, mountains, and glaciers. Like the rest of Alaska, it is all so vast, but even more so when seeing it from the air. I will let some photos do most of the rest of the talking.

The Copper River, that of the famous salmon that are caught off shore of it.
The mountains were everywhere, and so rugged. Can you imagine being lost in such a vast and remote place?

Streams ran through deep gorges as we flew overhead. In the back, you can see the glacier that the stream comes from:
Two glaciers come together:
And two streams run through two canyons and join together:
Here is a close up view of a glaciers flowing around a huge rock outcrop:
The historic mill town of Kennicott (or Kennecott) is our destination. It is a fascinating place. The huge many-story building near center was the copper mill, to the lower left with the smokestacks is the power plant. All of this was built in the wilderness to mine and process the incredibly rich copper deposits:
Here is another view of part of the mill town, plus part of Kennicott Glacier Lodge on the right-hand edge of the photo, where we would be staying for three nights. What looks like a gray slag heap is actually all-natural glacier.
The glacier grinds rock as it flows along, and in this case, it has covered itself with a thin layer of crushed rock - less than an inch thick. Under that is all ice. You can also see some big potholes that have melted in the glacier:
Views of the airstrip in McCarthy:

Next stop - Kennicott Glacier Lodge about five miles away - we are just in time for dinner!

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