Visit Alaska by RV
The land yacht leapt and swayed above the frost heaves at 65 mph, each bump pushing the seemingly physics-defying craft as it hurtled down the freeway. The engine purred up and down the topographic landforms and, with little hesitation, roared to life to climb the steepest passes.
Despite the motorhome’s calm, square exterior, refinements in automotive design and engineering somehow manage to merge around one idea: what if I could drive my house from my couch?
At the next bend I was greeted by another mountainous view in a seemingly endless chain of snow-capped peaks that line the Glenn Highway, which runs from Anchorage to Glennallen, and the Richardson Highway, which runs from Valdez to the south. in Fairbanks. in the north.
I looked out the window at the late spring flora, which bordered the valley of the Matanuska River, until a jolt in the road brought me back to my reality: I was hurtling down the road, staggering and swaying with it. the equivalent of an efficient apartment as a rear passenger.
Despite the astonishing visual distraction of the Glenn Highway, I focused on the map and my destinations: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Reserve; the town of McCarthy, now a historic relic; and the decaying remains of the Kennecott Mines.
The recreational vehicle, or RV, is a quintessentially American automobile that combines the desire to travel the highways and roads of the country without sacrificing the comforts of home. He thumbs his nose at naysayers who tell you you can’t have your cake and eat it too. It eschews hotels, restaurants, and the more convenient (and smaller) spaces popular with #vanlife crowd for a more spacious and relaxed environment that allows you to cook a great meal and start each day with a shower before stepping out of your ever-changing front porch.
The road gradually narrowed as I got closer to the old mining town of McCarthy, as if the mountain passes on either side hugged it harder and harder. The smooth bitumen faded into a worn seal, then made the final transition to dirt and loose gravel for the remaining 40 miles. Then came the dead end of McCarthy Road and a footbridge leading to the remains of the early 20th century copper mines.
the Kennecott Mines are a testament to the difficult life of miners in the last century – and to their existence in an extremely remote part of Alaska territory. (Large-scale mining ended in 1938, before Alaska became a state.)
I paused to reflect on the besieged dread the miners must have felt at the end of every long day’s work – to revel in the immense and rugged landscape surrounded by the 16,000-foot mountain. Blackburn and the grandeur of the Stairway Icefall slowly rolling down 13,000-foot Regal Mountain.
The place pays homage to the living museum of ancient mines, as well as a classic Alaskan landscape of glaciers, giant snow-capped peaks and the original inhabitants of the region, the Ahtna, an indigenous people of the Alaska which has inhabited it for thousands of years.
As I left McCarthy and the peaks of the Wrangell Mountains slowly narrowed in the side mirrors, I was left with an overwhelming sense of respect for those who worked through hot buggy summers and freezing winters to build the railroad that operated here. – of which my itinerary largely followed in the footsteps.
The conditions they endured contrast sharply with the comfort in which I walked through this wild place.
Roads are built for a reason, and although the focus of the road has shifted from mining to tourism, the visual riches it offers the traveler are no less valuable than the shiny metal that has initially attracted minors.