Touring Alaska in an R.V.

The land yacht surged and swayed over frost heaves at 65 m.p.h., every bump nudging the seemingly physics-defying craft because it hurtled down the freeway. The engine purred its approach up and down topographic reliefs and, with little hesitation, roared to life to climb the steeper passes.

Despite the motor dwelling’s sedate and boxy exterior, the refinements of design and automotive engineering one way or the other handle to coalesce round a single concept: What if I might drive my home from my sofa?

Rounding the subsequent bend, I used to be greeted with yet one more mountainous vista in a seemingly limitless chain of snow-capped peaks that line the Glenn Highway, which runs from Anchorage to Glennallen, and the Richardson Highway, which stretches from Valdez in the south to Fairbanks in the north.

I gazed out the window on the late-spring flora, which hemmed the Matanuska River Valley, till a jolt in the street introduced me again to my actuality: I used to be hurtling down the street, lurching and swaying with the equal of an effectivity house as a back-seat passenger.

Despite the gorgeous visible distraction of the Glenn Highway, my focus shifted to the map and to my locations: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve; the town of McCarthy, now a historical relic; and the decaying remnants of the Kennecott Mines.

The road progressively narrowed the closer I got to the former mining town of McCarthy, as though the mountain passes on either side were squeezing it tighter and tighter. The smooth blacktop faded to a worn chip seal, and then made the final transition to dirt and loose gravel for the remaining 40 or so miles. Then came the dead-end of the McCarthy Road and a footbridge leading to the remnants of early twentieth-century copper mines.

As I departed McCarthy, and as the peaks of the Wrangell Mountains slowly shrank in the side-view mirrors, I was left with an overwhelming sense of reverence for those who labored in hot buggy summers and through frigid winters to build the railroad that once ran here — the tracks of which my route largely followed.

The conditions they endured stand in stark contrast to the comfort in which I traversed this wild place.

Roads are built for a reason, and while this one’s purpose has transitioned from mining to tourism, the visual riches it affords the traveler are no less valuable than the shining metal that initially lured the miners.

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