Ellen Jorgensen

A crowdfunded biology project byEllen Jorgensen


In Alaska!

Lab Note #2
Aug 05, 2014
Hi All,

We are on the 2014 expedition! Checklists have been made, backcountry camping gear and long underwear pulled out of the closets. The flights were booked last fall, thanks to your generosity. The vehicle was rented, the Spenard Hostel bed booked for the first night in Anchorage before the 8-hour drive to McCarthy, and the bridge passes obtained for access across the Kennicott and McCarthy Creek bridges. The bear-resistant food containers and plant presses were still up at the cabin, thank goodness. Less to carry is a good thing. We did have an unfortunate squirrel invasion, however. Kind of like one of those movies where a person opens the door and finds that their apartment has been searched by the bad guys. Except with squirrel poop. So the first day was spent cleaning up the cabin. They really enjoyed the parmesan cheese.

The flight to Alaska from New York is almost never direct.
We left in the evening from JFK, changed planes in Salt Lake City, and arrived in Anchorage at 11PM.  In the morning we headed for the supermarket to stock up on food, since once we reach McCarthy there are limited supplies and all the available options are more expensive. A relatively new addition to the cabin is a 55-gallon drum mostly buried in the ground and with a bear-proof lid, which acts as our refrigerator.  Being completely off the grid can be fun and somewhat relaxing, but cold dairy products, veggies that last more than a day and beer that’s not room temperature are very nice to have. Once we go into the backcountry of course, it’s all freeze-dried food. Digging the hole for the drum was a chore but definitely worth it.

It's a long drive out of Anchorage east to Glennallen, Chitina (last chance gas) and then the 60-mile dirt road that leads to the Kennicott River and McCarthy. About 7 or 8 hours total. Some of these places might be familiar since from what I understand, Reality TV has hit the area. I believe that Chitina has been already featured on one of those wild-men-of-Alaska type series, and a production company was filming several of my friends and neighbors in McCarthy this spring. There was a good deal of argument among the locals on the wisdom of letting this happen, but there’s no denying that it will be good for the small B&Bs and bush pilots whose livelihood depends on the short adventure tourist season in Wrangell-St. Elias NP.  And some of my subsistence-living neighbors can probably use the income, so I can’t complain. If you are curious to see my own version of crappy reality TV, we filmed the building of my cabin for my friend Jaimie’s YouTube site back in June 2008. He and I felled the trees, stripped the bark and built most of the cabin in 8 days, and the whole adventure was chronicled in a multi-part series on the JMEMantzel Channel called “Alaska Cabin”. Pretty nuts, but lots of fun and I would not have this great base camp today had we not just gone out and done it.

So now we are in McCarthy, planning the backcountry fly-out with Wrangell Mountain Air. I’ll keep you posted!

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