Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Kennecott 2006

We flew over to Kennicott Sunday and ended up staying overnight at the Kennicott Glacier Lodge. We had planned on just a day trip, but it was so nice we spent the night. Also there have been lots of late afternoon thunderstorms so we were going to wait until late to come home anyway. They had some diapers to give us, lots of rooms, room at dinner and we got hold of someone to let our dogs out so the decision was pretty easy!

The Lodge was cool but pretty expensive. But, considering the location and the view and that the (pretty good) meals were included, it wasn’t all that bad. Our room opened out onto the front deck with a 100 mile view. The Lodge has lots of old purchase orders and paperwork on the walls - one was (a carbon copy) from a guy at Kennicott to a store in Seattle (c. 1920) that was wondering if his clothing order had been received. He’d waited 10 months to check on it - I don’t have the patience to have lived 100 years ago.

The copper mine was running by about 1911 (complete with a railroad to Cordova). They invested 23 milion and took out 200-300 million by the time it shut down in the 1930s. You couldn’t drive all the way there until recently (except in the winter on an ice road I think) and I’m not sure on the details of it now - I think there’s a private vehicle bridge you can cross for $250. We asked a local who was evasive - “It’s not really for casual use” and I don’t blame them really - there certainly isn’t room for many cars. The lodge had busses on either side of the footbridge to McCarthy, but we landed on the new strip nearer the mine so we didn’t cross the bridge. A girl that worked at the Lodge said they left at 5PM and got to Anch around 2AM - with the first couple hours on a rough gravel road. There’s an air charter - but I think it was around $200 per person for the 30 minute flight from Chitina (which is STILL 5-1/2 hrs from Anchorage) so you really have to want to go there.

Hanna walked so much that the second day she wanted to be carried everywhere which is is VERY unusual. She really likes to walk, and it’s one of the few words she can say.

The Park service is really ‘fixing’ it up - a lot of the buildings look like they’re about ready to be opened for touring, including the powerpant which will be cool. There was an archaeologist excavating under the power house because they’d found some stuff when they were digging to fix the foundation. I wish I could have gone there in the ‘old’ days when people say it looked like everyone had just walked away and left behind all the papers and tools. Now you’re really not allowed in any of the buildings except for a guided mill tour. There’s still lots of old junk lying around though. Wooden pipe, old wheels and pumps etc. There used to be some big crushing wheels at the base of the mill that looked like someone had pushed them down the hill at one time, but they were gone. Since last year some of the bigger junk has been re-distributed along the old mill railbed (now the walkway) for easier viewing.

We were taking pictures inside a dilapated cabin that turned out to be privately owned and the neighbor told us “No one wants anything to do with it” because it’s where the guy lived that killed 6 people in McCarthy in 1983. She thought the guy was in prison somewhere and I thought he’s been shot by Troopers from a helicopter, but I may be getting my Alaska bush massacres mixed up... In any event - I’d gladly take the cabin - it’s the center one of the set of 3 along the bluff just North of the mill. There was a half acre lot above the lodge, the owner wasn’t sure if there was dedicated access, no power, no water, etc., for 150 thousand, so God only knows what someone would think the ‘killers cabin’ was worth.

It only took us 1:40 to fly each way. I filled my aux tanks so I didn’t need to stop for gas in Gulkana. Coming back into Palmer it was horribly gusty and swirly, and I made a last second decision to land on the gravel instead of the pavement (much easier in a heavy big-tired taildragger). I just couldn’t keep it straight enough to touch down on the pavement.

The kids and Julie slept most of the way home in the afternoon chop and missed all the Copper River fishwheels, but maybe some other time.


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