Just Up the Road

Our little cabin is located in downtown McCarthy, Alaska.

IMG_4314A hundred years ago, McCarthy was a hopping gold mining town. There was a Hardware Store, a bar, a school, and even a lingerie shop.

IMG_4311There was also a brothel which is why the little town could support a store that sold only undies. Today, there are about 60 people who actually live in the area through the cold dark winter when temperatures regularly sit at 30 below for days on end.

During spring break, the number of people in town must quadruple. This is understandable. Spring time in McCarthy, Alaska will make your heart ache–it’s just that beautiful. The summer population is kind of hard to imagine on a day like today, but literally hundreds of people live here during the tourism season.

Just a block up the road from us is the town center. Hotel on your right, bar and restaurant on your left.

IMG_4413IMG_4355IMG_4352Further down the road is the McCarthy Kennicott Historical Museum which is located in an old train depot. One hundred years ago, there was train that ran from Kennicott to Cordova, Alaska–that’s 196 miles of train track in Alaskan wilderness.

IMG_4416Tony Zac’s is where we have our town meetings. McCarthy is not incorporated, but we do have a governing council called the McCarthy Area Council; MAC for short. MAC has open meetings once a month from March through September. It is democracy in its purest form. Everyone gets one vote and the special interests have yet to make any progress with those who show up to make this town run. The entire spectrum of political opinion sits together and makes things work. Last year we got a well. Yep, we got a well.

IMG_4325McCarthy is located in the Wrangell St. Elias National Park. The park was established in 1980 and is the largest national park in the United States. This makes things very interesting. Can you imagine living in a national park on property you own? This is part of why I find MAC meetings so engaging.

IMG_4422To me it is absolutely amazing to think McCarthy was a bustling town in the middle of Alaska back in the day when women wore skirts and corsets, but things are even wackier than that.

Walt and I hiked five miles up the road, so I could show you what I’m talking about. Five miles of beautiful Alaskan wilderness.

And then this.

IMG_4482Another rural Alaskan ghost town.

IMG_4472This one is called Kennecott, and it is owned by the park. Back in the day, it was a copper mining town. The Guggenheims and Morgans were involved so you know there was some serious ore to be found in the mines surrounding Kennecott. It was a company town of the most isolated nature, and McCarthy was the City of Sin down the road. The mine operated from 1911 until 1938 producing 4.625 million tons of copper ore.

IMG_4497Every time I see these buildings I am blown away by the fact that they were built in such remoteness under such harsh conditions.

IMG_4486I know how long it took me to get to Kennecott, which makes me have a hard time imagining the systems required to make that town happen.

IMG_4457The park is in the process of restoring the building associated with the mines. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I sort of love seeing the buildings in their natural stages of decay. And I’m a bit afraid of a Silver Dollar City type circus becoming the reality of the place. Still it is fascinating to watch the transformation.

IMG_4461I hope my story has inspired you to take a walk. It’s good for you.

This entry was published on March 12, 2014 at 7:17 PM. It’s filed under Alaska, Just Plain Stories and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

12 thoughts on “Just Up the Road

  1. Great pics and lively narrative, Maria! Wish I was there. Enjoy!

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  2. Thanks, Maria, almost as good as being there this morning.

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  3. What a walk you have to enjoy ! Thanks for sharing it with us. I love hearing about where you spend your time. Breathtakingly beautiful. Sigh… Enjoy your vacation.

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  4. Fascinating, Maria! Thank you for the tour. It is amazingly beautiful!

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  5. Well, this made me want even more to visit Alaska. And now that my best friend’s son is there working and has a girlfriend there, it could happen!

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