Wednesday, September 26, 2001
Hello from a primitive campsite ten miles northwest of Nabesna, in the
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska!
I finally saw the Aurora Borealis!!!
Start time: 0800
Start odometer: 14401
Weather: Beautiful day, 36 F.
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- What a MAGICAL night! I have never experienced a night sky this
intense! Before the dancing lights, the sky had this incredible
luminescent glow of blue and green, and I could tell something was about to
happen. Then streaks started to come down to walk along an imaginary
floor to the sky! It was right above me, then to the north, south,
east, then west! Needless to say, I was quite impressed and
fascinated! Along with the
Northern Lights, I saw a beautiful starry
sky, meteors, and satellites. Here are the pictures I took in an
attempt to capture the incredible lights! I used a Kodak DC4800
digital camera, 2.8 f-stop, and sixteen second exposure. Only
modifications have been to crop the black part of some of the images, resize
to 600 pixels along the long side, and saved as jpeg with a compression
factor of 30.
- During the evening, there had been several pick-up trucks that drove
around the campground. I am guessing they were looking if they knew
anyone there. Only one other campsite was occupied, and they were not
from the area. One of the trucks, after cruising my camping area,
drove to the campsites on the other side of the road, and I could here that
he had stopped the truck. When the
lights appeared and began their
dance, I heard the guy howling and screaming! It added even more
flavor to the night! I did, of course, wait to hear him leave before
settling in. Fortunately, he had left while the lights were still
illuminating the sky.
- I rested pretty well, but it had gotten into the low thirties, and I found
myself to be a little too cold. Adding another layer of clothes
- The morning started beautifully, with clear skies and a wonderful
sunrise. The temperature had come up to 36 degrees, so the frost was
not heavy on the tent.
- One of the Volunteer Fire Department staff, Daniel Boone (real name!),
stopped by to, as he said, "See if everybody was still
alive!" You know some people like to joke around! I asked
him about the guy howling, and he figured it was the "town crazy
guy." I asked if he had ever harmed anyone, referencing the
comment made earlier, and Daniel said they have not found anyone
- After cleaning up the campsite, I headed into town to look around a
bit. I met the owner of the town liquor store walking his dogs.
He had mentioned seeing a moose in a pond just around the corner. He
mentioned it was the town moose (are we seeing a pattern?) and that it
was aggressive. The gentleman said he had to throw a big rock at the
moose to get it away from him!
- I continued my walk around town. This is a very peaceful town this
time of year. During the summer, they have many hunters and fishermen
visiting. Here are a few pictures of the buildings and other points of
- This truck had been in the pond for a long time!
- A fishwheel on the Copper
River near my campsite -
- I returned to Alaska Highway 4, heading north towards Glennallen, then
Towards Tok. I had every intention of getting to Tok, but found some
diversions along the way.
- First, Mount Wrangell was in mostly clear view, and I was able to see
steam venting from near the top -
- I also stopped at another view of the Alyeska Pipeline -
I heard they had the pipeline down for scheduled maintenance, and when they
restarted it, the leak 1200 gallons. It was reported as a procedural
problem in how the flow of the oil was restarted.
- I visited the town of Copper Center, but the roadhouse and museum I wished
to visit closed. But I did find the following scene along the side of
the road -
- In Glennallen, I visited another airport. An Era Airlines aircraft -
The type escapes me...
- At one of the Mount Wrangell overlooks, I met a couple. Kent was
from Painesville, Ohio, and Debbie was from Phoenix. They had been
visiting friends in Anchorage, taken a drive to Denali, and were headed to
the Kenai Peninsula. They were having a great time, and enjoying the
sunshine and mild temperatures of the day by having a picnic with an
- All along the road were spectacular Autumn colors, as mentioned in prior
days. It is so spectacular, it is worth repeating!
- About an hour and a half before Tok, I turned off onto the Nabesna Road to
visit the Wrangell-St. Elias Park Ranger Station to get my National Parks
Passport stamped. (I picked up my book at Pictured Rocks National
Lakeshore, and have been getting stamps when possible along the way.)
I spoke with the ranger for a while, and she mentioned that I should take
the forty-five mile drive into the park, as the road was in very good
condition. She also mentioned several campsites that were available,
should I be interested.
- I drove along the Nabesna Road, and with the views, was glad I took the
Ranger's advice. It was quite an interesting drive, especially with
two streams to ford! There is a third one, but it was dry today.
The first one was moving a bit, and driving on the gravel made for an unique
effect. The second was was low, and did not pose any problem.
However, just a couple miles short of the end of the road, I stopped the
car, seeing a lot of mud on the road. I walked towards, the area and
decided not to go through it. The tracks in it were pretty deep, and I
had no desire to get stuck in it! Chris or Norm from work, You would
have made it easily in your trucks!
- After turning around, I found a nice remote and primitive campsite just a
short distance back. The road to the site was well hidden, as I did
not see while driving towards Nabesna. Also, there was some wood cut
for a campfire. I set up my tent and prepared for another cool
evening. I was even visited by several Magpies, but I did not offer
these scavengers any food! They left disappointed, I am sure!
- One item I did not mention about yesterday that I repeated today was my
listening to the shortwave radio. I was able to get a good signal on
various frequencies from Radio Australia. The reception of other
stations was better here, as the mountains were further away tonight.
- Maybe tomorrow I will make it to Canada! Thank you for taking the
time to visit!
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Where the pavement ends east of
The Copper River, with the
Wrangell Mountains behind.
This is the road heading back to
Just beyond this cut in the rocks
is the town of
Chitina. This was originally a train pass. It is single
lane, so I awaited a fuel truck to pass through.
This beautiful pond was in
Abandoned building in town.
I decided to head back into
Wrangell St. Elias National Park
and Preserve and drive the
McCarthy Road a short
Kennecott. The original railroad ties can be seen!
This was an interesting road to
One final view of the Copper
Tom's Saloon, where I ate the
Another spectacular view of the
Wrangell St. Elias Mountains.
Looking north as the Alyeska
Pipeline heads underground.
Copper Center Roadhouse.
More beautiful views along the
So this car near a rest stop.
This sign explains The Alaska
This the the
Wrangell St. Elias
National Park and Preserve Slana Ranger Station on Nabesna Road.
This was where a road off of
Nabesna Road ended.
A bridge along Nabesna Road near a few campsites.
Part of the mud path on the road.
Routes traveled today: AK 10 - AK 4
Hotel: Camping inside the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, near
Nabesna, Alaska -
(I had already stowed my tent. It was positioned
where the darker square surrounded by frost shows in the picture.)
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© 2001 Igor N. Nikishin
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