Friday, July 29, 2022

Chitina to McCarthy, Kennecott to Valdez

Today was a good day if a little tiring.  Mistakes were made, deals were struck, beers were downed, friends were met, adventures were had.  

We left Chitina (pronounced CHITnuh) at about 9 o’clock…and immediately came upon a big moose in the road.  After a few seconds it jumped into a nearby pond and watched us suspiciously. 

The 60 mile road to McCarthy that we’d been warned about wasn’t too bad at all.  It was an old rail line that was dug up and now vehicles use it as the only access to McCarthy.  It turned out that only 45 miles of the road was unpaved and it went pretty quickly.  And even better, we were riding through the Wrangell–St. Elias National Park—the biggest NP in the US, making up 15% of all national park land in the US.  

Upon arrival, those visitors in cars, trucks and RVs must park and walk across a long passenger bridge into town.  Those with bicycles and motorcycles can ride across, and we did.  There’s a big fat glacier (Kennicott Glacier, I dare you to challenge my spelling) off to the left and it’s pretty amazing to see.  

The town is small and rustic, maybe a tad touristy, but definitely dated.  There weren’t too many visitors there and we just walked Main Street and got back on our bikes.  We rode about a mile up to the Kennecott copper mine.  

The Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark includes the land and mining claims that formed the Kennecott Copper Corporation: the mines where ore was extracted from the mountains, and the mill town where the ore was processed. The mine and processing mill was active between 1911 and 1938.  Over its 30-year operation, $200 million in ore was extracted from the mine, making it the richest concentration of copper ore in the world.

On an unrelated side note, we spied a lone red Honda CRF 300 motorcycle that we immediately knew belonged to a certain world traveling Dutch gal named Noraly who goes by the moniker of Itchy Boots.  If you haven’t seen her YouTube videos, please check them out.  We didn’t meet her then as she was on a tour of the glacier. 

We rode up to the mining area and old town, currently in full restoration mode.  We spoke with other motorcyclists then headed out of Kennecott and McCarty and back toward Chitina with a final destination of Valdez.  

While stopping for fuel in Kenny Lake, Norally pulled up to the pumps and I snapped a quick photo with her.  Badass? Adventurer? Yes on both counts.  

Now, here are the day’s two minor glitches: Steve ran out of gas just 15 miles before Valdez.  I rode into town, got fuel and was back in no time.  Then, upon arriving to Valdez, we rode down to the ferry terminal where we were supposed to catch a 7am ferry to Whittier tomorrow morning.  Issue #2: The ferry leaves at 7pm.  Doh!!  So we get to explore Valdez tomorrow.   Not a bad deal, I suppose.  

We rode about 245 miles today.  

Enjoy the photos.  But do look into Itchy Boots.


  1. That photo of Steve on his bike with the mountains in the background is for framing! Beautiful photos!

    1. There is so much beauty up here—everywhere one looks! I’m guessing I’ve snapped 500 photos and that still didn’t capture a fraction of what we’re seeing.