This was another long day of driving (~5+ hrs with stopping for pictures along the way) from Fairbanks to Glennallen so we packed our bags as well as lunch as there weren’t many towns along the way to stop by. Within an hour and a half, we were at Delta Junction, where you’d turn off to go towards Glennallen (on continue on if you want to go into Canada). The Eielson Air Force Base is between Fairbanks and Delta Junction so we we saw plenty of combat planes and vehicles along the way. At Delta Junction, we stopped by the Chamber of Commerce, took some pictures, talked to the staff inside, used the bathrooms, bought some souvenirs, and the coffee drinkers got coffee after what seemed like a long wait with just one car ahead of us at Higher Grounds Expresso & Coffee drive-thru and went on our way.
The landscape from Delta Junction to Glenallen is out of this world, with frozen lakes and rivers, houses on frozen rivers (or maybe on the river bank), gorgeous snow-capped mountains, and glimpses of pump stations of the Trans-Alaskan pipeline along the way. After all that eye-candy, we arrived at Copper River B&B in Glennallen, our home for the night, hosted by Quinn Falkner. We’d rented out the entire B&B as we needed 3B and 3Ba. The place was fully equipped with everything we needed for our stay. Quinn wasn’t at her residence/office when we arrived but she’d left us a post it on where to find our digs. Within 10min of our arrival, Quinn, our fantastic hostess (and my kindred sister) came by and greeted us. We’d brought a lot of food (breakfast, lunch and dinner) with us but didn’t have milk. When I asked Quinn where the nearest grocery store was so we could get milk, she said “check the fridge”. The kitchen was fully stocked with milk, 2 dozen eggs, pancake flour (gluten-free, grain-free, you name it), several varieties of tea, coffee, and the works. Our main purpose for visiting Glennallen was to visit Wrangell St. Elias National Park. Quinn wasn’t sure if the McCarthy road to the park was open yet but she wrote down some numbers for us to call as well as texted her friend to see if the Nabesna road to the other side of the park was open. She said the Wrangell St.Elias Visitor center was just a mile from the B&B and we should check the road conditions with the office in case we didn’t have any luck with the phone. She also said it was 1.5hrs to get to Chitina, from where the McCarthy was another 1.5hrs (so 3hrs one way), another ~2hrs to hike the Root Glacier and back to Glenalllen, we were looking at 8hrs on the road. The men were beat from driving so we decided to go to Worthington Glacier (~45-50min drive from Gleanallen) instead. She had Bear Spray in the B&B that we borrowed for the road and showed us how to use it just in case (not to mention the after-effects if it were to accidentally go off). We also learned a bear-attack rhyme, which apparently is taught to kids in school, “If its Black, Fight Back, if its Brown, Lay Down”. The Worthington Glacier made up for our disappointment of not being able to go to Wrangell St. Elias. The were zero vehicles on the road, and it was snowing in parts so the scene looked something out of a fairly tale, except it was real! Truly and out-of-the-world experience, at least for us. The Glacier access was closed maybe because it was off-season but there was 4′ snow in the parking lot. So we parked our trusty Ford Expedition, wore our Crampons, and walked up the snow (the cover photo of this post is the access road to Worthington Glacier from the parking lot) .
We stopped at the Wrangell St. Elias visitor center in Glenallen on our way to the Worthington Glacier, which was closed (although the signs said the park itself was open year round, with FREE admission) so we took pictures of the park sign. and vowed to return. Next time, we’ll plan to stay at least 3 nights and maybe make Chitina our home base (Quinn, if you’re reading this, maybe can open a B&B there?).
Drive to Anchorage
After an early morning run/walk to the Copper River (after all, we were staying at the namesake B&B), we packed up our bags, filled up on gas and headed towards Anchorage. This drive was supposedly shorter coming at a little over 3hrs, however, a couple of people in the group wanted to stop at Matanuska Glacier. I’d read that the Glacier sat on a private property and un-guided Glacier access was $30/person, which was already too much especially when there are so many free glaciers in Alaska, but on arriving at the visitor center, we were told that they weren’t doing anyone go up there un-guided and it was $100/person for the guided tour of ~3hrs-ish. They do give you crampons for the hike though.
S and I, having been to many glaciers on our various trips, didn’t feel like throwing away $200 to see another glacier (especially to just climb it and see little waterfalls) and decided to do do some hikes in the area while the rest of the group went on the glacier tour. You’d think that $100 would get you a ride to the glacier access where the hike starts but we had to drop them off instead.
S & I went to the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site where we hiked the overlook trail and went further up (towards Anchorage) down to a parking lot which had gave us access to the Matanuska river bed with glacial water. By the time we got back to the Matanuska visitor center, the office told us that our group was done with the tour and were heading back. While we were waiting in the parking lot, a huge moose ran in from the woods and hung out with us for a bit. It was already past 5PM and we still had a 2hr drive to get into Anchorage plus I was starting to get hungry so we decided to get take-out from Moose’s Tooth in Anchorage. We called 30 min ahead and placed our order which was ready when we got there. Moose’s Tooth really makes some amazing pizza if you’re in the mood. They also sell branded T-shirts if you’re interested in bringing one back as a souvenir.
Tip: The drive to and from Matanuska Glacier plus hiking time from Anchorage could take up a whole day. If you don’t want the entrance fee $$$ sticker shock when you get there, do your research (plenty of reviews on Tripadvisor in addition to ours) and save yourself the disappointment.