Alaska Journey Day 36 / by Dave Hileman

The “Hi Ho, Hi Ho” Day

Off we head, east toward Chitina and the start of the McCarthy Highway. Why they call it a highway is up for speculation. The first thing we saw leaving Chitina was the river where we watched net and weir fishermen. Alaska natives only. The river is very wide and dark green/gray and surging. The roar of the current is heard for a great distance. The next three miles of road are dirt, ruts and washboard, speed about 10 mph and you wonder how bad it will be later. But it actually improves - slightly. We raised clouds of dust at 20 or 22 mph - those coming toward us were usually going faster with much more dust. Roads in AK are either snowy, icy, dusty or muddy. If they are paved, they are full of frost heaves and construction. Adventure. We passed lots of forest, lakes both large and small, vistas of mountains and snow and several rivers. One bridge is 286 feet over the river and one lane. Cool. There is a trestle no longer used that has a sharp curve that we walked around. We passed one place that once was a way station now has a couple of ramshackle houses and the requisite number of rusty not longer viable vehicles. As we approached McCarthy there were a smattering of private houses, small and rough. There is a foot bridge - end of the road at mile 59.8. Found a place to park (fee) and walked across footbridge. Still a very dusty mile to McCarthy. We were fortunate that staying in Kennicott Lodge included van transport from the bridge. So, five bumpy miles up to the old mining town. We check in, neat place and explore a bit of the town. Discover there is a mill tour at 2:00 so we signed up. We were amazed at what we were able to see. You go through couple of buildings, sort of normal stuff and then hike a hill 200 feet or so up and enter the top of the mill building - 14 stories up. Most of it appears to be ready to collapse but we get hard hats, so we are good:) We get a great tour down to the train tracks (lost track of the number of steep and narrow stairs we walked). The train is where they loaded the finished copper ore. The mill is designed to break big rocks into little pebbles and separate limestone from copper. They collected the ore from five mines and the mill ran 24/7 from 1916 to 1938 processing about 300,000,000 dollars worth of copper in pre-WWII prices.  After the tour we ate dinner at the Meatza a food truck installed on the lower level of the town. One lower street, one upper street and the main street that was double train tracks before they were removed. Despite the name and location it was excellent food by a CIA trained chef. Really good. We got washed, rested a bit and took a nice evening walk ending with lemonade and a molasses cookie on the porch. 

Cadillac’s Most Correct Viewpoint

As usual my instincts are excellent and my plan to hold the rally tomorrow instead of arrival day was correct as we took hours and hours and minutes to get to this place. The Driver usually scoots down the highway (Paul Simon reference) but not today - the day I need to be somewhere. But we did arrive. My signs look super. My speech is ready. The time is ripe. Moose Rights are about to begin in earnest. I calmed my self with a latte from a street vender. I also met Mary and Andrea who adored me and allowed me (as a celebrity of course) to stay in this amazing old inn and gave me lemonade. I am pretty excited about tomorrow. I gave BdB some food and he did not belch. Improvement!