Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

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Friday: Whittier to Valdez Ferry

To save driving time, this day is planned around the Whittier-Valdez ferry. We line up then make it through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel and arrive in town. I check in with the ferry, and after queuing up, we grab lunch at Varly’s Swiftwater Seafood Café. All they have is fried food: zucchini, onion rings, fish and chips.

The ferry ride of six hours feels like a long time. I pass the time organizing photos while the kids run around, read guidebooks, and act silly. Dinner on the boat is ordinary. They quickly run out of the few pieces of salmon they had, and we get salmon burgers with fries.

In Valdez, the first thing we do is get dinner. Yan had found this Chinese restaurant with fairly good comments. The Fu Kung Chinese Restaurant turns out to have pretty mediocre food. Our hotel is mediocre as well, but that’s OK, as we leave in the morning for Wrangell-St. Elias.

Saturday: McCarthy Road

We pull out of Valdez and encounter numerous waterfalls streaming down from sheer cliffs and hanging glaciers. The kids soon fall asleep, and we drive all the way to Liberty Falls to have a late picnic lunch.

The fabled McCarthy Road is better than we thought it would be. There are potholes, but the gravel road is in fairly good shape. We have no mishaps in reaching Currant Ridge Cabins. I meet Matthew in the office and check in, then do our load of laundry.

From there, we drive to the end of the road and walk the footbridge. On the other side, we head into McCarthy, but partway, we decide to turn back and wait until the next day to visit the town when the shuttles are running.

I pick up the laundry, make noodle soup for dinner, and organize before heading to bed.

Sunday: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

After an oatmeal breakfast at the cabin, we make it to the road’s end and across the footbridge. The shuttle didn’t show up as expected. I make a call to one of the numbers posted on the bulletin board, and shortly, a van arrives and takes us directly to Kennecott.

The visitor center is informative. We get maps and head down the main road. Restored buildings are scattered to the left and right. The film about mining details extraction technology, where 98% of the copper was recovered through a four-stage concentrator.

Our hour flies by quickly, and we catch the next van down to McCarthy for lunch. The Roadside Potatohead is a popular joint. We order the miso salad and salmon roll and eat while being swarmed by stray but taken care of dogs.

We arrive on the other side of the footbridge and make our way out along the same bumpy McCarthy Road. At Copper Center, we arrive at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Visitor Center minutes before closing, and Daphney and Jayden get sworn in as junior rangers.

From there, we head north on the Richardson Highway and turn west onto the Denali Highway. The view of the Alaska Range is spectacular, but there’s no time to stop. Myles is tired of his car seat.

Tangle Lakes Campground is beautifully situated, and after driving around the loops, we find an idyllic spot on a bluff next to the river. There is a stiff breeze chasing away mosquitoes. This is wondrous. We set up, pump water, have lentil soup and gnocchi, and finish off with hot chocolate. It’s still bright out, but we are ready to tuck in.

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