Saturday, June 27

Wilderness Alaska

We plan to spend the next several days in and around America's Largest National Park - Wrangell-St. Elias. It's hard to grasp the shear size of this place,13.2 million acres (6 Yellowstones). It includes 9 of the 16 highest peaks in the United States, an active volcano, the largest ice field in North America, and - the list goes on and on. Created in 1980 it is largely undeveloped with only two gravel access roads (we will drive both) and very limited facilities.

Our wilderness experience begins after a 60 mile drive on the Glenn Highway with a stop at the Slana Ranger Station. We check road conditions for the 42 mile (gravel road) drive into the park, and get campsite and hiking information. While in the Ranger Station a local fisherman stops in to update his permit - we start talking and we learn he is a "subsistence" fisherman (hunter, trapper, etc) that lives off the land (and is entitled to do so by Alaskan law). After a little chat he asks if we like salmon - well yah, so off we go to see his fish wheel in action. We arrive at his "wheel" and the fish are rolling in - he can catch 500 fish each season for his family, and others can use his wheel with his permission to catch their limit - it varies with your native status. Outsiders, like us, can't use a wheel - but he can give us some of his allotment. Guess what we had for dinner tonight?

Wheel goes round, powered by the river current
River to plate in less than five hours


After talking and fishing for an hour or so we head into the park. Fantastic country - very hard to describe (or take pictures of) but our drive on the Nabesna Road was a true wilderness experience - and not without its challenges. When we got to our campsite it was raining and mountain nearby was covered by new snow - the locals call this type of late/early snow "termination dust" - It signals the end of a season.

2nd of 6 water crossings

Tougher than it looks - took two tries at this one
At the end of the road


Little lake at our campground