Headed to Wrangell St. Elias National Park

chitina001After having a lovely break from driving in during our long stay in Valdez, we set out on our second driving day in Alaska, headed to Wrangell St. Elias National Park.

chitina002We were aware of some issues with our car, the Coquí, and were planning to take him to a mechanic in Anchorage, the next stop after Wrangell St. Elias. We had taken the Coquí in to see two different Subaru dealers in two different states prior to crossing the border into Canada. This was prompted by some noises that the car started to make, which got progressively worse. But the mechanics were not able to definitively diagnose the problem, although they and we suspected that it was related to the clutch or transmission bearings.chitina003

chitina004chitina005Now leaving Valdez, we hooked up the Coquí and left for Chitina, the town that we planned to camp in while visiting Wrangell St. Elias National Park. It was cloudy and rainy but was still another beautiful drive, through waterfalls, mountains and wetlands.

We arrived at a BLM campground just past the Copper River and unhooked the Coquí. The campground was really full of mostly locals who were there to fish, as this area is very popular for fishing. There was one site available that could fit Island Girl, and it was a bit tricky to get her into the spot.chitina006

One of the guys staying there began to help guide Hector into the site, while I parked the car out of the way and got out. Once Island Girl was in, I returned to the Coquí but was unable to shift into any gear. Oh, oh.

Hector was able to gently nudge the stick shift and park somewhat close to Island Girl, but we had to get help to push the Coquí into the appropriate parking spot.chitina008

The next day, we had planned to drive 60 miles on a gravel road to the Kennecott Mines. So we were quite fortunate that the car broke down in the campground and not on the remote gravel road.

Alaska Day driving day 2 recap:

Road Name: Richardson Highway

Road Type: 2-lane

Road Conditions: First fifty miles out of Valdez were excellent, afterwards there were a lot of rough patches and some frost heaves

Road Name: Edgerton Highway

Road Type: 2-lane

Road Conditions: More patches and frost heaves

Miles Today: 124

Driving Time: 2:30

Total Miles in Alaska: 476

Total Miles since entering Canada: 2470

Now we had to regroup and figure out what to do. Our first thought was to head directly to Anchorage. But it was Friday evening, and it would not help to get the car there on a Saturday.chitina007

Friday night we heard what sounded like a shot but thought it was far away. The next morning we found out that a guy in the campground had gotten drunk and started firing shots. The police ultimately took him away. And a grizzly bear that had been visiting the campground had returned. Maybe not the best place to stay at this point in time.chitina017

chitina019But we stayed put for a day while we figured out a plan. Hector found a Subaru specialist and was able to make an appointment for Monday. Unfortunately, they said they would not get to our car right away.chitina018

chitina011Saturday was really windy and when Hector said he was riding his bike into the tiny town of Chitina, I passed.chitina009

While there, he spoke with a ranger at the national park visitor center that told him that there were really good mechanics nearby in Copper Center. But when Hector called he found out that they would not be open until Tuesday, and we didn’t want to wait.


chitina013The ranger highly recommended the van tour to the Kennecot Mine. And Hector had his heart set on seeing the mine. So he called the reservation office and found they had space on Sunday. But since the bus tour took a total of ten hours, we were worried about Angel. When they said they could take Angel, that was the clincher.

chitina016chitina012So the latest plan was to take the bus tour to the Kennecott Mines Sunday and drive to Anchorage on Monday. That way we could enjoy one of the features of the National Park before we left.

And that is what we did. Stay tuned.


9 thoughts on “Headed to Wrangell St. Elias National Park

  1. So sorry to hear about the car, got to be the worst feeling when something like that happens in the middle of nowhere. 22 years ago I had a rear wheel bearing go when I was halfway up the road to Eagle, Alaska .. on the week before the 4th of July. Was marooned at the end of the earth for almost 2 weeks. But, like all things, this too shall pass and you’ll be soon on the road again.

    I have no doubt Hector will enjoy the mine buildings, hope you get some clear weather up there!

    • Hi, Bob, stranded for two weeks sounds terrible. We are okay, since we are headed to Anchorage today, but also coming into a holiday week so we hope they can take care of us. Hector loved the mine buildings, but it was not clear. We really have not had clear days, although we have been lucky with almost no rain. Hope we can connect somewhere along the way.

  2. I am so sorry to hear about your car situation. That is something that has popped into my mind several times when thinking about travels to Alaska, being stranded in a remote area. Hope you are able to get the Coqui fixed soon.

  3. Im so glad to hear that the van allowed Angel on the tour. I was thinking of her when you mentioned you are going to the park.
    Im looking forward to your blog about the drive to McCarthy and what you think of Kennecott Mines.

  4. Flexibility is our guide word. I guess you guys have to have that on the road. Looks like a pretty groovy place to spend a couple of days. Did you fish at all? Hope the little Coqui does not “croak!”

    • Flexibility is probably the number one trait that is needed to do this. We did not fish, but some guys that were fishing gave us some fresh salmon. Yum! You are funny!

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