Maria and I are at the cabin in McCarthy this week, and it has been a dream. This is not always the case when adventuring in the WRST (Wrangell-St. Elias) National Park in the winter. We have been here when we have had a cold (virus). We have been here when we thought we were not going to be able to drive out, because it snowed so much. We have cancelled many trips, because the weather forecast and our work schedule didn’t align. I would schedule a time when I didn’t have a lot of work, and then a blizzard would start up after we were already packed and ready to drive out to McCarthy. The thing about McCarthy is that it’s a long drive of 310 miles one way, and the McCarthy Road is no joke in the winter. It can vary from being a two lane ice highway, to just two ruts in ten inches of packed ice and crusty snow. Tire chains are a must-have, and it is a good idea to have a reliable 4WD vehicle with 10 inches of clearance. I will not drive out to the cabin in a winter blizzard, I’ll drive back to Anchorage in one, but not out here, just to get stuck for an unknown amount of time. We haven’t made it here in the snow season since spring of 2020.
Maria and I recently purchased a 2023 Ski-Doo Expedition Sport 600 ACE, and we love this transportation device! It has made winter cabin life way safer, easier and more fun. We have been here without a snowmachine (snowmobile, or sled for people not from Alaska) and the amount of time spent hauling water to the cabin was notable. With our new “sled”, transportation around the area has been a breeze, and hauling our stuff to the cabin, including water, now takes a fraction of the time.
We have a 10-acre lot here, and we put our cabin right in the middle of it to be further from the trail/road for privacy. Nobody had been here since fall. I had to break trail through 4 feet of packed sugar snow. First, we unhitched the sled load, and immediately got stuck, almost rolling the snowmachine on its side. I was able to back out to the road with some vigorous shoveling. We then strapped on our XC skis and broke a trail-loop to the cabin from the the road to the front door. About this time, Jason Lobo showed up (he lives past us, about a mile up the trail). Jason was full of good ideas and pointers to get me and my stuff to my doorstep. However, I didn’t put them to very good use, and got stuck about 50 feet in. Jason took the handlebars and drove the last 200 feet of the trail, and Maria rewarded him with a beer for his efforts. I then practiced driving around the still soft trail about four times before re-hitching the load and bringing it in to the cabin. I really need to practice driving in deep snow.
Yesterday was a bluebird day, and we met up with our buddy Matt Empt and his dog Duncan. We drove the sled to Kennicott and picnicked behind the power plant. Duncan ran and alternately rode with Matt on his vintage Yamaha Bravo 250. The views were spectacular! The WRST park is a feast for the eyes! We then went down the hill to play on the glacier lake where we towed Matt around on his alpine skis, and I practiced driving in the deep stuff. I got stuck a few times and I figured out how to ride in the powder a bit better. The thing is, the snow is not really completely powder, it is an accumulation of many storms, and the layers are inconsistent — a bit of crust mixed into the sugary stuff beneath. It makes it really easy to bog down if you don’t keep up your speed. We had a great time, and then we rode back to the cabin.
We love being at the cabin, and a vacation at your other home is a wonderful way to go. Building a cabin is no joke, and buying one can be pretty expensive as well. But it sure makes a vacation simple. You have all you stuff there, and you don’t have to make a lodging reservation at a VRBO, or wherever. There is no host to have to communicate with, and when you leave, the cleanup is all your own. Using a wood stove is about as much a learning experience as using a snowmachine, but when it is your own, it makes it that much easier. Relaxation is at a high compared to previous trips here in the winter, and I think mostly that is due to the new sled. It feels safer to have a reliable mode of transport up and down the hill to the truck, and possibly all the way to Chitina. Life is good! Live it well!