The SpaceThe nearest place you can park your car is about 3 miles away, unless you are staying for the long term and want to buy a bridge pass (a few hundred dollars). So you will be hoofing it to the cabin. You will have to bring your own sheets and towels, because the nearest public laundry is a three hour drive away. You will have to haul your water from the spring two miles away, just like the locals do. You will have to chop your own wood if you don't want to freeze to death, and you will have to go to the bathroom on an outdoor throne. You will learn that it takes a full day to cook dry beans on a wood stove. You will get eaten alive by bugs, and chased by bears. If you want fire, you will make your fire. If you want water, you will haul water. If you want to become a fully fledged and capable human being, and are still reading, then you might be in the right place. Guest AccessAt your disposal, you will have the full wonder of Alaskan wilderness and 10 acres to run around naked playing the bagpipes. A small cooking area. A wood stove. A bed. A place to not get devoured. Bagpipes not provided. Interaction with GuestsYou're on your own. Try not to die. The NeighborhoodYou've got a couple neighbors, each about a half mile away. The town of McCarthy, which has goings ons in the summer, is about 2 miles away. Kennicott about 4 miles more, just keep on walking right past McCarthy. The mail shack is halfway between the two. Getting AroundNothing is convenient. Everything is a hassle. You will have to hike or bike three miles to the cabin from where you park. There is a bike at the cabin that you can use to get to town or to haul water. If it needs fixing, you'll have to fix it. And if the bridge washes out, you're stuck (doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen on occasion). But the beauty is that time passes differently, and you might even come to enjoy nature's pace.
The nearest town is McCarthy, 2 miles, with a general store and saloon. Open only in summer. Kennicott, 4 more miles up the road, has a restaurant and such in summer. In winter, the nearest place is Chitina, 2-3 hours drive (60 miles on gravel), with very limited services (a small general store and gas station). The nearest town town is Glenallen, another hour past Chitina, and they have everything you'd need (a proper grocery store and motels, services, etc.) You can fly out on the weekly mail plane if you get desperate and the road isn't passable in winter, and that goes to Glenallen.
There is a ton to do in terms of activities in summer. You can do fun things on the glacier, lots of hiking/backpacking, outdoorsy stuff. Kennicott has an excellent National Park Service area, with the old copper mines and some excellent buildings that are totally worth the steep-for-the-location entry fees. You can bike or walk the 9 more miles down Nizina Road to the Copper River and check out the defunct bridge, drink some beers on the alluvial plain, if you like.
Bus: Backcountry Connection offers daily van service from Glennallen to McCarthy. Their site also has good information about connecting service to and from Anchorage and other destinations.
Air: Wrangell Mountain Air offers three daily flights from Chitina, at the edge of the park to McCarthy. They also offer charter flights from Anchorage and other destinations within Alaska. Some visitors rent a car in Anchorage, drive to Chitina, and catch a flight from there. For the really adventurous folks, you can then raft back to your car on a 3 or 4-day wilderness rafting trip with Copper Oar! Copper Valley Air Service offers scheduled flights to McCarthy from Anchorage or Glennallen on two days per week. Get delivered with the mail!
Car Rental: In recent years, the condition of The McCarthy Road has improved so much that many car rental agencies now allow their vehicles to be driven on it.
Parking: You will have to hike or bike three miles to the cabin from where you can last park. Parking options change every year, as some enterprising people like to charge for it, but sometimes there are people who will let you park for free farther out from the footbridge – can’t guarantee it, though. There is a bike at the cabin that you can use to get to town or to haul water. If it needs filling or fixing, you'll have to fill or fix it. And if the bridge washes out, you're stuck on whatever side you were on when it washed out (doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen on occasion, once or twice a year).
Driving to McCarthy: The McCarthy Road provides scenic and adventurous access to the towns of Kennecott and McCarthy and the 13.2 million acre Wrangell St. Elias National Park. Beginning in Chitina, this unpaved road runs 60 miles (96 km) to the Kennicott River near the town of McCarthy and is not maintained during the winter. There is no vehicle access across the Kennicott River; however, a footbridge and local shuttle service provide convenient access to the historic towns. Along the way, the road traverses majestic spruce forests, lively glacial rivers, and provides spectacular views of the Wrangell and Chugach Mountain ranges.
Other Things to NoteSleeping: There is only a double bed in terms of bed (made it myself from spruce poles, thank you very much), but you are welcome to bring friends for tent camping at $6 per person (no tent provided). You can also have someone crash on the main level floor but, I promise, it is not comfortable and the cabin is tiny. The couch is big enough for a little person. Very little.
Bathroom: Small, but homey outhouse. Please bring your own toiletries. There should be toilet paper out there, but assume nothing. You can buy some things at the Mercantile in summer.
Kitchen and Food: Small cooking area is provided. You must wash anything you use with water that you haul from the spring two miles away. Don’t like it? Bring paper plates and utensils and pack them out with you when done.
There is some dry food in the storage area below the cabin. You may use some. Don’t leave any food that cannot keep fine for years – seriously. A bag of rice? Fine. Anything you aren’t sure about, and anything liquid at all, take with you. I know that throwing out a half bottle of catsup or a can of beer seems wasteful, but I would rather not come back to my cabin interior covered in exploded catsup and smelling like a hobo in the middle of winter.
You are best to bring any food you want to eat with you, although there has been a small Mercantile open in McCarthy proper in recent summers. I’ve really only used it for things like ground buffalo (cooked on a campfire? Holy moly, it’s heaven). They have other things though, but very limited, and no guarantee it’ll be open. Otherwise there are a few places to buy food in town, like a food stand, and a couple restaurants. The grocery story in Glenallen might still deliver groceries on the twice-weekly mail plane for not that much extra.
Water: There is a spring in town, about two miles from the cabin. You can use my water jugs and buckets to haul – just make sure they are empty and unsealed when you leave so they don’t grow mold. The spring is marked on the map provided, just ask around if you can’t find it.
Internet: Ask around. The saloon sometimes offers wifi. If staying for a while, you can get a phone board for the cabin through the Copper Valley phone company which has slow internet.
Laundry: Hahahahahahaha. I wish. This is why you need to bring any towels and a sleeping bag. Because I can’t tell you when the last time I washed that blanket was. Years. Maybe a decade.
Cabin Safety: The door opens through the floor. Please be careful. I myself have fallen through it, once, as did my dog. We both lived, but I took pictures of my own injuries they were so impressive, and my dog had unusually persistent erections for several days (not kidding, and while I’m not entirely sure the two were related, it sure did seem it). In my wild imagination I can envision fingers would be particularly traumatized by irresponsible use of the door. However, it’s been in use for years and no one has had issues other than described, so just be careful. If the counterweight rocks fall out (it’s only happened once), please fix the counterweight, because the door is near impossible to open without it.
Be careful on the balcony as well. I built the railing, which means it might be shit. Consider that I used to have a shed, and that there is no more shed, which tells you a little about whether your life should depend on my construction abilities. Although the outhouse seems to be holding up fine. Don’t worry, I had appropriate help with the cabin.
Bears: Yes, there are bears. There’s some bear spray around the cabin, maybe some in the outhouse. I have no idea if it’s still good, as it’s years old. I’ve never had to use bear spray, and the only times I’ve ever seen it used has been irresponsibly by drunk hippies at music festivals which, while funny, is fairly wasteful because the stuff is expensive. To that end, bring your own if you want it, and replace mine if you use it at a music show. I’m not sure if you can buy any in town now – maybe at the Mercantile. Wear a bell if you are worried, or festive.
In past years, there have been only black bears on this side of the river. I’ve chased them off and they are not accustomed to people so are frightened by noise. I’ve also eaten one that wasn’t frightened enough. One buried a coffee maker and stole some hot dogs and broccoli, although I found the broccoli 20 yards away from camp, and I liked to picture the bear having discarded it with disgust. People have run ins with them sometimes, but there have been no maulings to my knowledge. But why be the first? Wear a bell, carry spray, be alert and sensible. A guide on bears follows.
Be very careful with food disposal. If you choose to burn anything rather than pack it out, burn it WELL. Incinerate it. Past the point of it being discernible as anything other than ash. The best way to not experiment with the food chain is to not attract bears in the first place.
Dogs: Clean up their poop on pathways or near the cabin. Don’t let them fight other dogs. Teach them to respect the floor door. They are going to love it here. Leashes are not really used out here. There are wolves in winter, however, so just be aware of that if you are visiting in a colder month; I wouldn’t leave them alone outside at that time.
What to Bring: At the very least, bring sheets or a sleeping bag, water, food, and light.
Remote Alaska is beautiful, but it's not easy, and you are essentially on your own. I will provide whatever guidance I can, if you can reach me by phone, but this is not a bed and breakfast. This is real, Alaska life, so please be prepared. At the very least, bring sheets or a sleeping bag, water, and light.
Please be sure to review the house rules.