(Ron Writing) We enjoyed a beautiful sunny day with just a few clouds now and then but a pretty stiff north wind which made it feel quite chilly outdoors in spite of temperatures in the high 60’s.
We spent all day traveling around the northwest corner of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and National Preserve. Perhaps we “don’t get out enough” but to be honest we don’t recall ever hearing of this national park before coming to Alaska. We won’t forget it after this trip. At 13.2 million acres it’s the largest unit in our national park system. 9.7 million of those acres are designated wilderness, the largest unit of our national wilderness preservation system. It has over 1,000 miles of wild free-flowing rivers and 9 of the 16 highest mountain peaks on the continent, and the largest concentration of glaciers on the continent. The Malaspina Glacier alone covers about 1,500 sq. miles – larger than the state of Rhode Island.
Since there are only a couple gravel roads that extend a relatively short distance into the park, most of it is only assessable by backcountry hiking and most of that hiking must be done “cross country” since there are few established trails. The Richardson HW and the Tok Cutoff Glenn Highway skirt the northwest corner of the park and many points along this route have views of some of the park’s major mountain peaks. The park visitor center is also located along this route.
The visitor center is a very nice new facility and we spent a couple hours there viewing a movie about the park, looking at the exhibits and walking the quarter mile loop trail with interpretive displays about the forest and the human history of the area as well as a couple views of the mountains.
We stopped in Glennallen to use the WiFi at the library and to get gas before continuing on The Tok Cutoff to a turnout just west of Slana. At Slana the highway turns northeast and no longer follows the northern edge of the park. We are parked for the night at a paved turnout with a beautiful view south into the park. When we look straight south from our window we see Capital Mountain (7,731’), and in the distance are Mt. Drum (12,010’) and Tanada Peak (9,358’). Wow, if there were a campground here with this view we probably couldn’t afford to stay in it!
Weather: Overnight low was 48°, highs today in the high 60’s. Sunny all day with just a few beautiful high clouds.
Mileage: Today - 119 miles, cumulative since leaving AZ on 4-6-11 – 8,752 miles.
Gasoline Price: $4.209/gal in Glennallen, AK
Tonight’s stop: We are spending the night at a turnout just west of Slana, AK on the Tok Cutoff HW, 62.71640, -144.13293, 2,785’.