An Alaskan Weekend in Kennecott, or was it Kennicott?

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The ghost town of Kennicott and the copper mine named Kennecott up on the hill.

Kennecott is the name of the mines and company, while the glacier and town are named Kennicott after a local explorer by the name of Robert Kennicott. The mines and company were misspelled due to a clerical error. After the green streak in the mountain was discovered, the next step was to get it out of the back country of Alaska. They ended up mining some gold in the area to fund the building of the railroad to the copper streak. That green streak was one of the richest copper ore deposits ever found!

McCarthy is the name of the creek and the town that popped up below the mine due to the “dry” Kennecott mine not allowing gambling and or other assorted affairs. Today, the mine is a ghost town that is being restored and McCarthy has a winter time population of between 15-20 families. They say that the population is rising due to the tourism in the summer. The McCarthy road from Chitina to the mine is closed in the winter but you can use snowmobiles to travel the 60 miles or use the airport.

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The Kennecott Mine up on the hill above me. You can only go in this building with a guided tour.
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One of the many buildings that are still standing after 100 years.
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There was a flood that destroyed some buildings in this area and you can really see the signs of the years.

Construction of the railroad to the mine began in 1908 and stretched 196 miles. The current McCarthy road is built over top of most of the old railroad. For 27 years, the railway carried a staggering $200 million in copper ore from the historic Kennicott mining area to the coast of Cordova. The last train delivered the very last load of copper ore on November 11, 1938. During the 1964 earthquake, with a magnitude of 9.2, the railway was destroyed and never rebuilt. Kennicott has been a ghost town since then and, in 1978, President Jimmy Carter declared the area a National Monument because of its cultural and scientific significance. They are now part of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve. At 13.2 million acres, it is twice the size of Denali National Park and larger than the country of Switzerland. It is home to 9 of North America’s 16 tallest peaks, over 150 glaciers, 4 major mountain ranges, and the largest glaciers outside the polar ice caps.

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McCarthy and the Ma Johnson’s Hotel. My kids walking the wet streets. Those are permitted vehicles only.
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I found it interesting to see the blending of the old with the fairly new in this photo. Notice all the bikes on the right.
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This is a gently restored hardware store that was being used to house the live band for the McCarthy Whitewater Festival that was going on during the weekend that we visited.

Today, instead of the tram that was used to pull yourself across the river, they have a foot bridge. There is a bridge down a ways that only permitted motorists can use to cross the river and those are usually only the locals or deliveries. Once on the other side, you can choose to hike the short distance to the small base town of McCarthy or you can take the shuttle. You can also skip McCarthy and just head straight up to the mill town of Kennecott. The shuttle to McCarthy is free but the ride to Kennecott is $10 for a round trip and they will give you a little ticket for your return trip. It is a 5-mile hike and so worth the shuttle ride, because you will want to save the hiking for the trail to the glacier or up to the mines. Another good option is to bring a bike and I highly recommend it as many people bike in the area.

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The footbridge that leads across the river. I am standing on the McCarthy side of the river after getting out of a shuttle. Our vehicle is parked in the lot on the other side.

For accommodations, there is the Kennicott Glacier Lodge (http://www.kennicottlodge.com/) that is right on the mountain and within the old mining town itself. It is a restored building so expect the rooms to reflect that. Another option is to stay at the historic hotels within McCarthy. You have the McCarthy Lodge and The Ma Johnsons Hotel (http://www.mccarthylodge.com/) with many services available nearby. On the road side of the foot bridge, you will find many campgrounds, Bed & Breakfasts’, Lodges, and cabins nearby. We stayed at the Kennicott River Lodge (http://www.kennicottriverlodge.com/) in one of their cabins that could accommodate 6 people and a dog. We were very glad that we did and found that they are extremely accommodating and had all the services that we could possibly want. We had a great view of the glacier, mill town, and a glacier lake in the foreground.

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Our cabin that somehow accommodated all 6 of us plus a dog. Believe it or not, there was a loft with 2 twins that pushed together for my hubby and I, and 2 bunk beds (4 beds total) on the main floor with a couch that pulls out. http://www.kennicottriverlodge.com/

One of the things that I found confusing, beyond the spelling of the Kennicott/Kennecott names, was whether the glacier was called the Root Glacier or the Kennicott Glacier. Well, it turns out that there are two glaciers in the area which explains all of the dirt, ice, and water that flows beneath them. The glacier actually closest to the mine is called the Root Glacier and beyond that, and partially connected, is the Kennicott Glacier. You can hike both if you are of able body. They have hiking tours (http://kennicottguides.com/ or just google Kennicott guides) available for the cost of a guide and cramp-ons for your boots. We didn’t have a guide and we chose to just hike to the Root Glacier for a shorter experience since we are amateur hikers.

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This is my nephew Mike, youngest son Jakob, and my daughter Katerina. My oldest son Billy and his dog were way ahead of us on the trail. They were much faster hikers. About half of the trail was in this condition, which was fairly nice.
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My nephew Mike and my youngest son on the knoll of the moraine near the Root Glacier. You can see two hikers on the trail leading to the right. The rocks slid a lot but the knoll is where we ended up eating lunch.
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On the left, on the toe of the Root Glacier, you can see my oldest son Billy and his dog Boo. You can also see a guided tour heading out onto the glacier. The guide helps them put on cramp-ons and schools them on how to walk on the glacier.
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You can see my oldest son Billy and my nephew Mike walking down from the edge of the Root Glacier. Very nerve-wracking for a mom.
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The beautiful Jumbo Creek. I recommend taking a rest here if possible before you hit the rough terrain beyond the falls. Very refreshing as a return rest too.

The trail to the toe of the Root Glacier is around 2 miles and most of it is a fairly easy hike. There is the last 3/4 mile of the trip that is down hill and partially in the moraine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moraine), so you can expect sliding rocks and some of it is a strenuous hike. I found it even more difficult coming back up out of there. Now if you are used to hiking and are used to mountain climbing, you might get a slight laugh out of my version of strenuous. I am an asthmatic so it made this hike a bit more difficult for me as I have not been hiking much this year. I did have to use an inhaler on several occasions during the hike, sad to say (Just a warning for those in my current condition.) The hike is worth the pain!

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This is a view from the front deck of our cabin. You can see the Root Glacier on the left (very rainy at that moment), the Kennecott Mill just to the left of the tree, and the glacier lake with little icebergs in the foreground on the right of the tree. McCarthy and the foot bridge was further to the right.

There are a few beautiful creek crossings, some wonderful views of the glacier and surrounding mountains, and the exhilaration of completing the 4 miles round trip is so very worth it. The glacier was beautiful but ended up not being my most favorite part, although the kids loved it. Jumbo Creek, and its waterfall that you cross, was my most favorite part of the hike. Making it back to Kennicott and saying “Wow! I made it!” was a really great feeling for me. I pushed myself and, while most hikers would find it a casual hike, I felt accomplished. I now know that I need to hike more often and condition my body for what I really want to do because there is nothing worse than your mind saying “I want to go see that!” and your body replies “oh…there is no way that is happening!”.

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My daughter, Katerina, and my ponytail. 😉 You can see where we are eating lunch. We are facing the glacier but you can see the trail that we arrived on and all the rocks that we slid around on.
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Kuskulana River Bridge: one lane, no stopping on the bridge! Have fun looking down but be careful and stay on the bridge. You can explore under the bridge too!
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A view from underneath the Kuskulana Bridge. My kids climbed around on a ramp that walks across with rails. I couldn’t get up on there because the climb is a steep jump up on concrete.

Kennicott, McCarthy, and the Root Glacier are worth the 60-miles (on a dirt road) road trip and worth seeing if you see nothing else in Alaska. You must have a spare tire and a tire repair kit if you attempt this trip in your vehicle, although I have never had a flat. The old railway spikes have a tendency to come up to the top of the road from time to time. I have seen little front wheel drive cars, as well as RV’s, make this trip with no problems whatsoever. You will also cross the single lane Kuskulana Bridge over Kuskulana River Canyon that is around 525 feet across and 238 feet above the river. Take plenty of pictures of this historic bridge and enjoy the mesmerizing views! Make sure you have plenty of gas as the last gas available is in either Kenny Lake or Chitina. Also, make sure you have plenty of room on your camera or smartphone for lots of pictures. Have a great trip…we sure did!!!

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One large family and a dog!

Getting reservations for a large family, with a dog, is harder than it seems. No matter the location, I find it difficult to gain accommodations that would suit all 6 of us, plus the dog. This is our family: One dad, one mom, one 12 year old son, one 17 year old son, one 18 year old daughter, one 20 year old nephew, and our dog (large breed.) Now one would think that Alaska has a lot of larger families and thus would have accommodations to compliment that knowledge; however I am finding the opposite to be true.

Hotels are most likely out of the question unless I am willing to rent several rooms in a dog friendly hotel. On a few occasions, I have found hotels that have full suites available but most often they do not like pets. I must say there are a few out there and I greatly appreciate their thoughtfulness to accommodate larger families. I am even more grateful when I see that it is very clean and there are no bed bugs in the establishment.

Some B&B’s might be willing to accept a larger family but I have found that they most often do not accept pets. I have never been able to stay at a B&B due to our family size and the pet issue. That being said, I have always wanted to stay at one and have always admired those who run them. It is a lot of work and dedication to open one’s home to the general public.

Motels generally do not seem to care how many people will be staying in the room and will usually rent it to you without question. More often than not, they will allow pets; however they frequently smell musty and are sometimes dirty. I have also found bed bugs in many motels and that is something I never appreciate.

Cabins are usually a better bet but you have to find one that can accommodate so many people. I have been lucky enough on many occasions to find cabins that can house 6 people comfortably and it is usually a 50/50 chance that they will allow a large dog. My family prefers the cabin style rentals due to the privacy that they afford, but that is only if they have decent bathroom availability. Some have outhouses and that is okay…IF they are clean!

Lodges are usually out of the question for large families with pets due to the very nature of a lodge. It is usually on a more grand scale and most often related to some sort of fishing or hunting adventure. Where would you stash your dog on a fishing trip anyhow? But, again, I am sure there are some out there that might allow large families and pets with the usual “fees” tagged on top of it.

That brings me to the other part of our dilemma. Fees! Families are usually looking for savings on their trips due to the very nature of the cost of a family to do anything beyond just existing in day to day life. So when I go to websites and they say “double occupancy + $25 for each additional person + $75 pet fee”; let’s just say I cringe and keep looking elsewhere. The additional fees that go beyond the double occupancy, plus the pet fees, taxes, and meal expense make it very difficult for families to do anything together. It seems like the lodging industry is just out to make a buck on the larger families instead of being understanding and accommodating them for the same price in the same room or cabin as a smaller family. Does it seriously cost $25 extra to do the laundry of towels and blankets for each additional person?

I wanted to write about this subject because I know that many other families are out there and have situations just like mine. Maybe someday soon, all my kids will leave the nest and it will get better but we have been dealing with this for a very long time. It’s frustrating to say the least and I am hoping that someone, somewhere, will read this and realize that larger families need to get out and have fun too! For the most part, we have stuck to campgrounds and tents but this is Alaska! We don’t want to camp every single time and some places are very cold at night. Our summers are short and there are seriously a lot of mosquitos in most areas of Alaska. If you have a large family and have dealt with this situation in your adventures, then I totally understand your frustrations.

This Guy Went to Alaska and Caught a 482-Pound Halibut

Wow! Great story about a giant halibut caught by a California elder in Alaska!!! Nice job!

TIME

After a 40-minute struggle, 76-year-old Californian Jack McGuire recently caught the world’s largest halibut, the Associated Press reports.

McGuire’s monster fish weighed a whopping 482 pounds and was 95 inches long, smashing the previous record set in 1996 (a very respectable 459lbs). Unfortunately his catch will go unrecognized by the International Game Fish Association, because McGuire’s boat captain shot the fish before it was brought onboard to keep it from flopping about and hurting someone.

According to the AP, McGuire “applauded the decision” to kill the fish despite his disqualification from record-holder status.

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Sonya’s Beer Battered Halibut

Sharing my delicious halibut recipe on Alaskan Rumors! I hope you enjoy it! If you like what you see, you are welcome to join my other blog (Alaskan Foodie) at http://alaskanfood.wordpress.com/ 🙂

Alaskan Foodie

I have been making beer batter for Halibut and Cod for a long time. I love beer battered Halibut! These days I cannot make it due to having a wheat allergy but I am working on a recipe for that too. I will connect you to it when the recipe is done being perfected. In the meantime, I don’t see why the rest of my family can’t enjoy some great fish n’ chips!!

This recipe is one of my favorites, but it is very messy to make as dipping the battered halibut into panko creates quite a mess. You can also make this without the panko if you prefer. Just fry it from the point of dipping in the batter. I hope you enjoy it.

Sonya’s Beer Battered Halibut

Ingredients:

2-4 lbs of Halibut (or other white fish)
12 ounces dark beer or ale (something with a lot of flavor)

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How Blueberries and a Tiny Town in Alaska Could Change the World

Alaskan Foodie

I have been to this village on numerous occasions. I can verify that the blueberries in Alaska are delicious; however they have a different flavor as they are a different variety than the ones found in the rest of the United States. I think that it is really great that this village is doing this. It is sorely needed and it’s about time someone tried it.

The people of the villages in Alaska are really struggling and some are losing the battle. They don’t want to move into town but how else can they get a job and pay for food; since they are not able to hunt or fish back home and cannot afford to buy their food? But in the city, one must have not only the workplace skills but the social skills to nail a job in a highly competitive world.

Yes, this is a great answer…

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4th of July Camping Trip

I planned a nice little camping trip to the Kenai Peninsula for the 4th of July. We were traveling from Palmer, Alaska about 260 miles south to Homer, Alaska; which is about a 5 1/2 hour trip if you don’t stop much. On our way out of the Anchorage area, we stopped and got something to eat at Village Inn for dinner. We did this because we were leaving right after the guys got off of work and just packed up and headed out.

I did not reserve any camping spots as I wanted to “wing” it. This was sort of a test of which campgrounds get the most traffic on the 4th of July. I will have to say that MOST of the campgrounds were jam-packed with 4th of July campers and any empty spots usually had reservation tags on their posts. I don’t mind primitive camping but we hoped to find one with a bathroom due to so many in our group. We had my husband and I, our 18 year old daughter, our 17 year old son, our 12  year old son, our 20 year old nephew, and our large dog.

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Our campsite at Morgans Landing.
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The view from our campsite in Morgans Landing.

We did find a great spot for the first night on July 3rd at Morgan’s Landing in Sterling, Alaska. This area is just outside of Soldotna and, since it was well off the highway, it was very quiet. After passing the Moose River on the other side of Sterling, you will find the signs that point to Morgan’s Landing State Recreation Area. This campground has 51 campsites and they are $10 per night. There are many pull-throughs for RV’s and trails that lead down to the Kenai River. This was a very quiet campground, the bathrooms were super clean, and the mosquitoes were moderate. We got in very late and had to very quietly set up camp.

After having breakfast (eggs and bacon) we broke camp and headed south towards Homer. We checked out a few campgrounds on the way down but realized that we must avoid the Kasilof River area due to the heavy amount of dipnetters in the area. Dipnetting is an Alaskan subsistence way of getting fish and it is allowed in only a few rivers.

So, heading past the Kasilof area, we ventured closer to the Ninilchik area. Ninilchik is a Russian Village from back in the days of the purchase of Alaska. They have an old Russian Orthodox church which is a popular stop for tourists and the village has some stores and gift shops that you can visit. We liked the area for the beach access. But we decided to move on and check out the other areas closer to Homer.

Just before reaching Homer, you will want to stop at the top of the hill and check out the view of the Kachemak Bay and the Homer Spit from up above. It is a popular stop and a must see photo opportunity. And then driving down into Homer, you will just stay on the road to head right down onto the Homer Spit. This is also a must see and is most definitely a popular spot on the 4th of July. The spit was super packed and it was honestly a bit unnerving trying to dodge all of the people crossing in front of you. All of the camping sites were over-full and so we just walked around and had some ice cream at one of the little shops.

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Above Homer, Alaska. What looks like a little gravel bar on the very left side of the water is actually the Homer Spit. It has camping, shops, restaurants, hotels, and more on that tiny little spit.

We ran around Homer for a little bit and then decided to head back towards Ninilchik for the night. We would have rather camped in Anchor Point on the Anchor River but all 5 of their campgrounds were packed full also. Note to self: Get reservations at the Anchor River Campgrounds ahead of time as it was gorgeous there! Now back to the Ninilchik River Campground.

Luckily, the campground was not completely full, even for the 4th of July. The Ninilchik River Campground was based not too far away from the Ninilchik River, the beach access road, and the village of Ninilchik. The campground was $10 per night and there was no host but a park ranger drove through twice. We had BBQ Chicken and baked sweet potatoes for dinner. It was a nice quiet campground but you could still hear the highway vehicles. We weren’t the most quiet campers though, as we had brought those celebration pop-its that you can buy at the store and the kids had a blast with those.

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This is the campsite we chose in the Ninilchik River Campground. Lots of space for our 3 tents!

On the night of the 4th, you could hear fireworks being set off in the nearby village. And then the next morning, I heard the Alaska State Trooper pulling over vehicles on the highway. But all in all, this campground was fantastic! There were very few mosquitoes and the bathrooms were very clean.

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My daughter and my husband on Ninilchik beach with our dog, Boo. You can see one of Alaska’s volcanoes in the background. There are several across the Cook Inlet from this area.

On the morning of the 5th, after a breakfast of corned beef hash and boiled eggs, we headed over to the beach and spent some time wandering around and enjoying the slight breeze that had rolled in. After spending the morning on the beach in Ninilchik we decided to head back over to the Anchor River for some lunch (sausage dogs and mandarin oranges) and a little trout fishing. That was a great call and we had an awesome picnic lunch there. We didn’t catch anything but there were some small fish running all around the boys while they played in the water.

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A view of the Anchor River and the giant Cottonwood trees that stand over it.
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My husband, Stefan, was fishing for trout in the Anchor River, but they also have salmon.
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The 3 musketeers! Mike, Jakob, and Billy. They walked the plank to the big rock. In the background on the other rock, you will see two seagulls and their nest right in front of them.
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Wild Geraniums are growing all over the riverbank of the Anchor River in Anchor Point, Alaska.

That afternoon, we decided to head back to Homer to check out Bishop Beach. That was a great call as we hit the area at a perfect low tide. The kids all enjoyed running around the tide pools and checking out all of the little critters under the rocks and we found a ton of shells. It was a bit windy as there was a rain system moving in. But all in all, it was a great time and one that the kids will remember for a very long time. Totally perfect day!

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All 4 kids standing next to a driftwood teepee that they found on Bishops Beach. You can see a bit of my hubby on the left.
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The kids were checking out the tide pools and flipping rocks to see what sort of critters they could find. They found a lot of really neat creatures! My daughter, nephew, and son.
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The water was cold but my daughter couldn’t resist taking off her shoes and enjoying the ocean!
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The view of the City of Homer and our vehicle on Bishops Beach.

As we headed back to our camp in Ninilchik, we noticed a large amount of clouds moving in and the wind started to feel cold. We made our dinner (hamburgers) that evening in camp and discussed whether we wanted to spend another night with a chance of breaking camp in the rain in the morning or just pack up now and make the long 6 hour drive home that night. We decided to break camp and drive home that night. We were glad we did that as we woke up the next morning to a rain storm outside and we knew that we would have been soaked while taking down the camp.

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We are packing up our rig to head back home. We had to fit 6 people and a dog in it so we had packed most of our stuff into totes on the top and strapped them on to the sports rack!
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On the Seward Highway not too far away from Summit Lake. You can usually find odd cabins in oddball places like this along the highway.

Well, that pretty much sums up our 4th of July trip and the fun that we had on the Kenai Peninsula. 🙂 I hope that you enjoy the pictures that I have posted within my narrative and if you are ever in Alaska for the 4th of July, please remember to make your reservations ahead of time for any campgrounds that you may want to stay at.