This will be our last night in Alaska. We spent 21 days driving most of the roads in this “Last Frontier” state. We drove from Skagway/Haines all the way to Prudhoe bay through the Brooks range, toured (partly) the Denali area in the Alaskan Range and explored the complete Kenai peninsula. We left the peninsula by ferry to Valdez. This is an oil town. The trans Alaskan pipeline arrives here and large oil tankers are loaded. It was raining severely and the inlet was fogged up so we could not see any tankers nor the pipeline coming over the mountains. We did finally see lots of Salmon. Unfortunately not the eating kind. When driving to our campsite in the rainy mist at sunset, located just out of town next to a fast flowing river, the road crossed a stream full of salmon trying to swim upriver over the pebbles in the stream. We did not dare to drive on because we would defiantly have crushed some fish. We turned around and found another way to our camping spot. Also there was a stream full of Chum salmon. Sometimes it looked like they were biting each other in their attempt to get over the rocks. The sea gulls had a party. They were everywhere where the exhausted fish would gave up swimming upstream and just died from exhaustion. The area was covered with many fish carcases and the smell of rotten fish was not pleasant. The next morning we visited a salmon ladder attached to a fish nursery. Also there were thousands of fish swimming up the stream. Some into the ladder which brought them to the fish farm. There, the fish is stunned by electricity and cut open to remove the eggs or squeezed to get the milky sperm. In a hatchery the eggs are fertilised and after incubation the small fish are grown up and later released back to the sea. The dead parents are used for animal food. This is no loss because the fish normally die anyway after laying and fertilising the eggs in the river stream. We also saw one sea lion swimming in the river, enjoying his fresh meal.
We made our way up out of the sound and over the mountains. Finally it stopped raining on the other side of the pass. From several people we heard that the Wrangell range near McCarthy is worth a visit. Moreover there is a pre 1938 Coppermine Kennicott nearby. It was a long drive following the Copper river and later the Chitina river though valleys in between the mountains. The first night we had a magnificent view down to braided and fast flowing Chitina river. The drive was over the rail bed of the old train line which the mine company had constructed, to ship the ore out to Cordova on the Gulf of Alaska, some 190 km away. Beside a narrow cut though a mountain outside Chitina and the remains of some high wooden bridges, you did not realise you are driving over an old rail line. The train bed has been improved to facilitate visitors, as a gateway to the Wrangell-St. Elias National park. Many people walked up to the artistic town of McCarthy or take the provided free shuttle bus. (You need to leave your vehicle by the foot bridge as no one is allowed to drive further from the parking lot). And then take the next free shuttle bus up to the mine. From there you can walk to one of the glaciers coming down the 4982 m high Mnt. Blackburn. You can either walk there yourself or take a one day guided tour which take you to the glacier and with provided crampon walk on it. We did not do the walk to the glacier but instead spent our time exploring the remains of the extraction plant of the Kennicott mine. Much of the red painted wooden structure is still standing since it was abandoned in 1938 when the ore ran out. Several buildings have been cannibalised over the years and much of the equipment has been removed. It is now a historical site and what is left is being preserved. When discovered around 1905 the ore was one of the riches ever found. The ore was however high up on the mountain where the volcanic green stone came in contact with the limestone above it. You can clearly see this from a distance. Three mines were developed into the mountain side just under the top with many tunnels to bring the ore out. The whole area was mostly covered with snow and the mill was actually situated at the side of the glacier. After an interesting afternoon exploring the ruins of the mill we drove out and camped at a small pullout next to a lake. The following day we drove all the way out and north following the Copper river. The banks of the river is sometimes 100 m higher than the river with many great views of the Wrangell range. Before arriving, we left the Copper river and crossed over the low end of the Alaska range back to Tok on the Alaskan Highway. We had already visited this town when coming over the mountains from Dawson City, Canada. We had a much needed shower and drove off to an uninteresting camp spot on an abandoned section of the old Alaskan Highway some 24 km outside town.