From the moment I first saw a photo of the abandoned copper mill in the mining ghost town of Kennecott, while planning our trip to Alaska, I knew it had to go on my Bucket List.
Then I discovered it was in the Wrangell – St Elias National Park, at the end of the McCarthy Road – a former railroad into the heart of the middle of nowhere, now converted into a 63-mile-long, unpaved, dead-end street – and I was even more determined to get there.
We stayed at Ma Johnson’s Historic Hotel in McCarthy, an old boarding house straight out of the Wild West. Our first evening was spent exploring the sparse remnants of this once thriving frontier settlement, which serviced the Kennecott miners during the mine’s heyday.
The next morning we excitedly headed to Kennecott itself, 5 miles further up the valley, beside the Kennicott Glacier. (BTW. the spelling mistake was made when the town was originally named, not by me!)
The whole town was incredible, but the highlight was definitely the old mill. Built against the slope of the mountain behind, at 14 storeys high, it’s reputedly still the tallest wooden structure in North America. Just seeing it gave me a great sense of fulfillment.
Then we discovered that St. Elias Alpine Guides did tours through the inside of the mill! Sign me up!!
We started at the top of the building, and over the next two or three hours worked our way down to the bottom. It was fan-tas-tic! Our guide, Ben, told us all about the history of Kennecott and the various processes that occurred at the different levels within the mill. He also sparked a desire in us to see one of the mines that delve into the surrounding mountains, high above the town.
We told Ben we were considering hiking the 4.5 miles to the Bonanza Mine, over 3,800 feet higher up the mountain. When we admitted that we were unsure if we were biting off more than we could chew, Ben gave us a piece of sound advice.
“Make a commitment,” he said. “Go to the mercantile, get yourself some vittles, and just do it!”
How can you ignore a piece of advice that includes the words ‘mercantile’ and ‘vittles’?
So we made a commitment. We went to the mercantile. We got our vittles. And we hiked to the Bonanza Mine…
It was EPIC! So much so, the trip has become the core for the fourth Jaspa’s Journey novel, The Hermit Of Kennecott.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given by a local while travelling?
This post is inspired by Dawn’s (of The Day After) A Lingering Look at Architecture: May ~ Abandoned Architecture, by Cee’s (of Cee’s Photography) Which Way Challenge and the Daily Post‘s theme this week of On The Move.
Before you rush out to the mercantile to get some vittles for your trip to McCarthy and Kennecott, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal, or through my website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram?
And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!