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Wrangell - St. Elias 1995

Back to Anchorage

Sunday, August 27   We get up and eat breakfast in shifts, with everyone heading for the river crossing around 8:30 am. John tosses in an egg over easy with the pancakes for those who want one. His brother and bleached blond sister-in-law are in the cabin. John tells us more. He's crashed three planes, one almost fatally. He had the beginnings of hypothermia after a moose hunt and was approaching the air strip, when a fog bank appeared. He turned the instruments on and doesn't remember a thing after that, until he woke up in the hospital.

We load our packs in John's pickup and walk to the river. John helps us cross the river; and, at the end, I thank him and get his last name, John Adams. His sister and brother-in-law bought McCarthy Lodge in the late eighties when there wasn't much going on here. He also fills us in on the shooting a little more. A fellow named Lewis, who still lives in town, was shot by the killer but not fatally and escaped into the Kennicott Lodge. He then went around behind, but the killer thought he was in the lodge, so he burned the lodge down. Lewis then managed to get to McCarthy and flew out to Glenellen to get the highway patrol. I asked John what made the killer do it, and he said that some people come out here and really get away from reality. Also, the killer was into computers, and he said sometimes people are so much into computers that they get out of touch with reality. We tell this to Roger as a warning -- Roger's very "into" computers.

After helping us, John is off to church. A group of McCarthy people meet for church at someone's house each Sunday and are building a new church. The first ever for McCarthy. It's non-denominational, but John says they once checked, and everyone is Catholic. Ray and I shake his hand and roll out across the river.

Roger is eager to get started; and, actually, I am a little too. He pushes Ray a bit, and Ray says, "Unlax, Roger." Ray, who usually is pushing on the backpack portion, surprised me a bit last night at dinner by saying that the thing he doesn't like about these trips is the rigid schedules before and afterward. We depart the river in our vehicles at 9:20 am, well ahead of Roger's projected departure of 10:00 am. The 60 miles of dirt road is really boring this time, as we have already seen it. It is still rough; as a sign Barbara A saw says, it's "fifty-nine miles of the worst road in Alaska." We eat the leftover cold pizza from last night, without drinks; no stores along the road, and the food stand at the river crossing sold only lemonade and tea in cups "without lids," which even the proprietor didn't recommend for the bumpy road ahead of us. We see a moose, or at least his tail end, along the road.

At the huge Copper River, we make a stop at a cafe. I get cokes, then see some cinnamon buns and get one, then see the special of the day, black beans and rice with jalepeno peppers, and get one order, all to go. The van is making "that noise" but seems to be doing okay. One night in camp, Susie commented that she was wondering if the van would be okay. At that very same time, I was thinking about eating pizza in McCarthy. Obviously, different concerns. Barbara finds a craft shop across the street that is probably the best we have seen in Alaska, locally made stuff, especially pottery, and Barbara buys a blue pottery dish. The dirt road took three hours, then five and a half more hours to Anchorage, a long day. Rain toward the end, when I drive the last two hours to relieve Ray. Driving a ten-person van is a bit different from a car and a bit more difficult.

Dinner is a quite special occasion. We eat at Sue Ann and Marvin's house. Sue Ann lived in Knoxville with her ex-husband in the seventies and moved to Anchorage about fifteen years ago. Barbara and I loved their contemporary house with windows and open rooms and lots of books. Sue Ann showed us photographs from last winter, when they had one of the biggest snowfalls ever, and lots of moose came down into Anchorage. One of the photographs is of a moose's rear, standing just outside one of their windows. A moose also killed an older man at the university, when he somewhat dumbly walked directly toward the moose, who was defending her calf.

We catch up on old times and have a really great dinner. Sue Ann and Marvin catch salmon down on the Kenai Peninsula, and she grilled salmon, which was served with a salad, potato salad, and carrot casserole. Plus, some great homemade bread and lots of beer, wine and sodas. And for dessert an incredible homemade blueberry pie and a purchased carrot cake. Barbara toasts Susie for a recent significant milestone (her fiftieth birthday) and Ray who is going to have one soon (his sixty-fifth birthday). A really pleasant evening that everyone seemed to enjoy. We agree to reciprocate when Marvin and Sue Ann come to Knoxville this fall.

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William H. Skelton, 1995