We crossed the footbridge and boarded the shuttle to take us to Kennecott. We arrived just in time to do the mine/town tour. Daniel, our guide from St Elias Adventure Guides, took us around and explained all the ins and outs of the mine, the difference between low grade and high grade copper ore (you can still find pieces on the ground), how Stephen Birch
(think Birch Aquarium, Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Newborns and Women) was the mastermind behind the mine, and how in 1938 the Kennecott Mine Company gave their employees 2 hours notice to pack up and be on the last train out! Since Kennecott was a company town, only executives were allowed to have their spouses and children. There were 4 women who worked in Kennecott – 2 nurses, a teacher and a secretary. Employees were split in the bunk house by nationality. The town of McCarthy sprung up 5 miles down the road. Partly because alcoholic beverages and prostitution were forbidden in Kennecott, McCarthy grew as an area to provide illicit services not available in the company town.
It grew quickly into a major town with a gymnasium, a hospital, a school, a bar and a brothel. When the mine was closed, Kennecott will pilfered by local residents. It is reputed that at 14 stories high, Kennecott mine is the tallest wood structure in the world.
We headed back to Kennecott to hike on the Root Glacier. Since we didn’t have any crampons, we didn’t venture very far out, but enough to get a feel for how large the glacier is, and how much has melted. On the way back to camp we walked through the town of McCarthy and then walked back to camp.
We stayed at the Glacier View Campground for 3 nights while in the Wrangell/St. Elias. While the campground was $15 a night, the site was fine but the bathroom was horrible. There was a single pit toilet for the entire campground (30 sites, although it seemed there were only every 4 site filled a night), and it smelled like ammonia, with a screen on the top half of the door which didn’t always close properly, and you had to switch the vacant/occupied sign when you went in.
There is another campground at the footbridge – Base Camp CG – that we will have to check out next time.