Mike and Jan's Wander of Alaska 2012 travel blog


Copper River AK











Princess Copper River Lddge

8-2 Valdez To Kenny Lake

49 Degrees and Raining, 88 miles

Stayed At Kenny Lake Mercantile

We had a short trip up the Richardson Highway this morning to our next stop at Kenny Lake. It is just a place to stay for our visit to Wrangle-St. Elias National Park. The park is our largest national park, larger than Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island combined. It is a wilderness area with little road access, only one road each in 2 different areas of the park. There are four major mountain ranges in the park, 75 named and even more unnamed glaciers, volcanoes, rivers, and abundant wildlife.

We set up at Kenny Lake, and then headed for the Visitor’s Center. It is actually an impressive complex, quite a contrast to the local chamber of commerce visitor’s centers we have been in lately. There are separate buildings for the Cultural History Center, the Exhibit Center, the Info Center, and the Theater. We watched an interesting movie on the park, and spent time viewing the exhibits.

We drove through the town of Copper Center, but there wasn’t much there to see…old run-down, dilapidated buildings, old boats planted with flowers, and some funny things. There was an outhouse with a sign that said “City Hall.” There was an old easy chair in a yard planted with flowers, and a boat planted with flowers. Actually the flowers were the best part of the town. They were beautiful there as everywhere.

On the way home, we saw an animal beside the road, and got turned around in time to see it cross. We were able to identify it from my picture as a lynx even though it the picture was not clear. This has apparently been an exceptional year for number of lynx in the area.

We took a drive up a short side road to see the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge on the way back. It was really impressive up on top of the hill. There were huge windows in front of a pretty lawn overlooking the mountains with comfortable chairs lined up in front of the windows. The Princess Lodge gift shops always have high quality merchandise.

Since this was such a short page, I thought I would share a few unrelated Alaska thoughts and facts.

There is a lot of wetland and marsh in Alaska, which was a surprise to me. I expected all ice and snow!

Beavers thrive well in Alaska, and there are beaver dams to see everywhere, in many of the over 5 million lakes in Alaska.

Snowmobiles are not called snowmobiles here…they are “snowmachines.”

There are no fat evergreen trees…they would make sad Christmas trees. Because of the permafrost, root systems are shallow, and the mostly spruce evergreens that are abundant along the roads always look tall and anorexic.

A lot of the roads here are BAD. Same reason…permafrost. There is a lot of rough and broken pavement that is like a roller coaster, and a lot of gravel roads. I can’t keep my cabinet doors closed when we travel. So far, the count is 5 broken stemmed glasses. The stems break off even the plastic ones when they fall from upper cupboards! Sometimes I feel like I am in a saddle, and usually our truck is the most comfortable vehicle we own.

There are no snakes in Alaska. Good. I don't have to watch my feet while I'm walking on trails.

Alaskans prefer dogs over cats, and they love their dogs! We have only seen 3 cats since we left home, including the mayor of Talkeetna! Dogs are everywhere, running loose in town is a way of life, and they are almost all friendly. And they are all big. No little fancy dogs on the last frontier! If a dog does choose to have a human with him, he rarely has his human on a leash. They are usually trained to walk at a reasonable distance behind so as not to interfere with the dog’s socializing!

In at least parts of Alaska, including Denali, the black bears are considered more dangerous than the grizzlies. Instructions for a grizzly encounter are to make the bear aware you are there if he has already seen you, talk softly to him, and then back away slowly. If an encounter is inevitable, lie on your belly and play dead. He will probably just want to sniff you to determine what you are and will go away. Only fight back if he starts to eat you! With a black bear, try to make as much noise as possible if he has seen you, make yourself appear as big as possible by waving your arms, don’t run or he will follow, and if he attacks, FIGHT! He definitely plans to kill you! That does not sound like our nearby bears…like the ones in the Smokies.

Alaska has become a destination for young people for summer work as there are a lot of different things that can be done here while “having an Alaska experience”. Commercial fishermen hire for the boats, hatcheries and fish markets hire, road crews hire help, and all of the stores and shops that are only open for the summer season hire help. Many places have housing for the people who come in for short periods, some in dormitory-like housing, some in old trailers or cabins, or upstairs floors of buildings in town. We have enjoyed so much the stories we have gathered from the Alaskans and the people who have come for the summer…often for more than one summer! One of our shuttle drivers in Denali drives that bus every summer and a school bus every winter.

When Alaska people talk about “going outside” they are talking about leaving Alaska! Many of them do it rarely, and they usually mean they have gone to the lower 48.

We haven’t seen any deer at all in Alaska, but I think I heard there are some on a few of the islands off of Valdez.

And that is your trivia for the day!

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