By Sarah Ebright, guide
“The Wrangells are a Dynamic Landscape.”
I doubt a day goes by without one of our guides using that line, in reference to the glaciers, the rivers, or the chossy mountains surrounding the Kennicott Valley. Almost an auto-generated response to the seasoned guide, this season we had the (un)fortunate opportunity to experience it first-hand, very close to home. Let me introduce August 2018.
If you were traveling Alaska during this time, you probably remember the rain. It lasted most of the month and covered most of the state. In McCarthy, it caused the creek to go up. Waaaaaay up. Our beloved Powerhouse (located near the creek for good water supply back when it was a working powerhouse) soon found itself in the middle of McCarthy Creek. We had to evacuate guides from their wall tents, and tie the tents off to trees so they wouldn’t float away. We were wading through the water, collecting rafting and mountaineering equipment and moving it to higher ground. We had all hands on deck, digging trenches and building up a dike to protect our compound (in the rain, and in the dark). At the peak of the flooding, our owner Wayne even removed some of the boards off the backside of the Powerhouse so the water could flow through.
Despite the problems it caused, this event (it was actually a series of 3 flood events…) was a great reminder of our place in Wrangell-St. Elias. Often, it takes being high in the mountains on a backpacking or mountaineering trip to feel small and insignificant compared to mother nature. This year I got that feeling from inside my cabin (as the flood waters flowed under it). My cabin is still standing, my sleeping bag will dry, and we’ll probably just have a lot of extra ice to chop when we open up the Powerhouse entry next spring, but my memories of battling against McCarthy Creek will always remind me of our dynamic landscape.
Whenever you get too comfortable in the Wrangells, mother nature reminds you who’s boss.