On the drive out of Fairbanks we decided to detour to Wrangell St.-Elias National Park and the Kennecott Mine. The Park is in southeast Alaska bordering the Yukon and is the US's largest National Park. Having seen the Wrangell mountain range from the Gulf of Alaska when on the ferry travelling to Kodiak, we were intrigued to see it from the land side.
Fairbanks experiences the midnight sun and the vegetables grow huge! Before leaving on 29 August, we headed to Creamer Fields to watch the Sandhill Cranes - it is already autumn in Alaska and they're migrating south.
Heading south we passed through North pole, a small town that has taken the Christmas theme to a new level, from road names to candy cane lamp posts and Santa's House. From there, with beautifully clear weather, we were treated to the most spectacular views of the Alaska Range: Mounts Heyes, Hess and Deborah.
The following day, the amazing views of the Alaska Range were replaced by Gulkana Glacier, Summit Lake, where we stopped for lunch, and then the Wrangell Mountains.
We drove the McCarthy Road to the park, a gravel road that follows an abandoned railroad bed. Not surprising then that we had our first blow-out on the way back. The rear tyre was shredded and changing it became a problem when the paving we did stop on gave way. Three jacks later, one Ikea frying pan, one bread board and a shovel and we managed to stabilise the road to jack the van up and change the tyre.
The McCarthy Road itself stops a few miles short of McCarthy, so we crossed the footbridge and jumped on the shuttle to the Kennecott Mine, which was one of the world's richest sources of copper. It is now in disrepair, but some of the railroad bridges that used to bring supplies in and take ore out are still standing, along with a number of buildings and machinery.
We walked up to the glacier, not the beautiful white or blue you would expect but covered in moraine and looking more like a gravel pit. That said - the local wildlife was clearly not shy!
On our trip out, having survived the flat, we met a couple from Germany - the first T5 we've seen on the trip so far. They have been travelling for about 10 years, so gave us some great tips for Central and South America. We managed to buy a new spare and our last stop in Alaska before crossing into the Yukon, along the Klondike Loop, was a town called Chicken - 'nuff said!
The weather was beautifully clear as we drove on. We were treated to the most spectacular views of