Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wrangell St Elias National Park

The rain, which started on Saturday afternoon, continued through most of Monday.  Late  Monday afternoon we began to see some break in the clouds.  The bit of blue sky got our hopes up for better weather for our travel day on Tuesday.

We took the motor home in for service Monday morning.  Other than the oil change, they found nothing else which needed attention.  Always glad to hear that.  This morning we filled up with gas, propane, and fresh water and emptied the waste tanks.  We finally got started about 9:30.

Our destination for the day was Glennallen at the junction of the Glenn Highway and Richardson Highway.  I guess, all things considered, it was a pretty nice drive across the Glenn Highway.  The road was in good condition, although curvy and narrow from Palmer to Sheep Mountain at mile marker 110.  About a third of that first part was excellent on relatively new road with three and sometimes four lanes.

We made a stop at Pinnacle Mountain Cafe, Lodge, and RV Park to look at their collection of antique tractors.  We made a couple of other stops at pullouts to admire the views.  We had excellent views of Matanuska Glacier for several miles.

Matanuska Glacier
Then we ran into road construction for a 9-mile stretch, 2 miles of which we were guided through by a pilot car.  That was a first for this trip.  After the nine miles of construction, we had rough road all the way to Glennallen at mile 189.  The road surface was not so bad, but there were many frost heaves.  Driving was very slow.

Sheep Mountain Area
It was a very scenic drive.  The Sheep Mountain area was gorgeous and we passed many, many lakes and ponds.  We were surprised not to see any moose.

Before stopping for the night, we drove south on the Richardson Highway for about 10 miles to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.  This is the largest National Park in the United States.  It is larger than Switzerland and has higher mountains.  The St. Elias mountain range is the highest coastal range in the world.

Portion of Valdez Trail
This is a magnificent park, but accessibility is limited.  There are two gravel roads which lead into the park.  One is off Richardson Highway going about 40 miles into the park to McCarthy and the other is off the Tok Cut-off at Slana.  Otherwise, river access or air taxi is the only way to get into the interior of the park.  Since we’re not up to driving any more gravel roads, all we did today was visit the Visitor Center.  We got there just in time for the movie and afterwards we walked the half mile interpretative trail a portion of which is along the original Valdez Trail which opened as a miner’s trail in 1901.

Tonight we are parked at a pullout on the Richardson Highway just south of Glennallen.  Tomorrow we’ll be back in Tok.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

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