Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Kenny Lake, AK - The Jokulhlaup

We decided to walk the 5 miles from Kennicott back to McCarthy instead of taking the shuttle. Thought we’d learn a bit more about the town and its residents - at least see their homes. It was drizzling the whole way but we had our raincoats on and it was a light drizzle. We walked, some biked. Actually, we saw lots of people who had backpacked into the mountians above the park. There are all kinds of adventures that you can have here. We met a group of people who were staying in the Princess Lodge about 5 miles from where our campground was and were going to stay in the hotel in Kennicott. Our National Parks support all kinds of tastes.
Again, the two towns of McCarthy and Kennicott have a combined 51 residents, not counting the summer residents. Some live in the homes built for the managers of the mine and these are private, some in smaller homes along the road and then there are some fairly new larger homes also. You round this corner and this garden just jumps out at you with its beauty. The young man who lived here told us that this is his mother’s garden.
We saw several big chains across the road anchored on each side so they couldn’t be moved. Aha, they are there to slow people down as they drive the road.
There are kids who live in this area. The home below is beign built and a deck is now being put on.
There are lots of small run-offs coming from the towering mountains above the town and the road we walked. These drain under the road through culverts and into each culvert is a hose leading up to a home on the hillside. This is how many get their water.

The views of the mountains around the area is cool. Though in today’s dreariness they look more ominous than beautiful.
5 miles later, we reached McCarthy, a small town which grows in the summer through tourism. Here’s a sign listing all the businesses here. For a town of 51, there are certainly a lot of restaurants and inns.
Then we came to the bridge. WOW. The water is raging and so much higher than when we were here in the morning. Then it was flowing under the bridge but wasn’t raging.’ wide. Now it was a raging torrent and spanned the width of the river, chewing up the banks as it moved past and making the river even wider.

Look how it is raging, especially along the river banks which it is eroding. As we were watching, parts of the bank sloughed off into the water.
By the way, we noticed cars and trucks in Kennicott and McCarthy. If there is only a pedestrian bridge, how do they get there? Ah, there’s a private bridge just down the way and residents can buy an annual pass. Here is that bridge from the pedestrian bridge where we are standing.
This morning as we drove into McCarthy we ran into a man heading the other way who told us that there was going to be a party at the bridge because of the Jackalupe (my spelling from his pronunciation.) Weren’t sure what he was talking about but now we understand. He meant a JOKULHLAUP: an Icelandic word meaning ice dam break. Glaciers have lots of ice and when the sun hits longer in the summer, the glacier starts melting but all the water is stopped by the ice at the bottom. Here a lake forms which can get quite big. Then, as the sun continually warms, suddenly the ice breaks and the lake empties out into the river below the glacier. Usually it takes 24 hours for it to empty during which time the river rises, rages and is quite a sight. That happened this morning and, now look at this river.

Look how high it is around the bridge pillars.
And, look at the number of people who are on the bridge looking at it. Then there are those who are trying to get home. Another ATV had 2 women and enough beer to serve the whole town. They were ready for the party tonight.
What a sight.
We looked online later and saw some home movies of people in kayaks running the rapids here. Quite a show. We also noticed this on our weather app.
What a sight here today. Usually these jokulhlaups happen in early July, but this year it happened today. Amazing. It created a raging river out of a sleepy braided river.

Our GPS os amazing and has so many tiny dirt roads on it that it astounds us. Then there the times when it doesn’t quite have the road in the right place. Close but no cigar.
Towards the end of the road, we checked on the RV’s and fishwheels on the Copper River. We had heard that some RV’s got stranded on what used to be a peninsula but, with the rising water, turned into an island. There are 4 or 5 RV’s on the ‘island’ to the right of the picture which has been cut off from the rest of the peninsula on the left.
I think this road is gonna be rough.
It was an amazing day. The road, the town, the mill, the Jokulhlaup, the fish wheels. Tough to top.

No comments:

Post a Comment