Part of the appeal for me was the location of this residency; it was located at the Wrangel Mountain center at the town of McCarthy AK. , in the interior of the 13 million acre St Elias, Wrangel National Park.
I made plans for my two week residency. I would fly to Anchorage, meet up with Lila (one of the board members), she would help me get to the vehicle that another board member was providing, give me a little orientation, and take me to get any last minute things I might want and point me to McCarthy.
The vehicle was a 90s model Nissan pathfinder with lots of miles and no shortage of quirks.
There was apprehension, I knew there were limited gas stops and very few towns on the seven hour drive. I took off on Sunday morning and got out of Anchorage - no problem. The view of Alaska was very limited because of the smoke from various fires, but you were still aware of the vastness of the area. The Nissan bounced and rattled along, occasionally making new sounds that caused momentary concern, oh well.
The last 60 miles were endless. I filled up with fuel at Glen Allen and by my calculations had just enough for the trip into McCarthy and back to Glen Allen. That was ok because there was no more driving once you got there. I could see the old rail line that had been built for the copper mine running beside the road in places and the railroad bed was the road in many places. That was a long 60 miles. I had a picnic on a creek when I was about 20 miles out. Not a sound anywhere - how refreshing.
I arrived at the McCarthy Creek bridge which is pedestrian only. It was Memorial Day and there was an amazing number of people playing in the river. I was surprised how many people were around. I parked and talked to the guy who owned the parking lot. Free enterprise is doing well in remote Alaska. I grabbed my small bag and walked across the river. I was under the impression that McCarthy was right across the river.... It's a little over a mile. I found the center, I had seen a photo. No one seemed to be around. It was not much different than being in a rural Texas town except for the young adventure tourists dressed in stretch sport clothes wearing backpacks. They could have been standing anywhere from the Amazon, to Montana, Europe; they are truly ubiquitous.
The one thing I was not sure about before getting to Wrangel was the meals. The center has a full-time cook and the meals are communal. The center has garden interns who raise most of their goods for the summer. The gardens were just being put in when I arrived. The meals are vegetarian and anyone who knows me knows that I am a carnivore through and through. I did pretty well but I did have to have a little meat and bourbon supplement at the New Golden Saloon. They had great burgers and the saloon was the local social gathering place in the evenings. The vegetarian diet was ok but I was glad to get back to Texas land of the beef!
I ended up finishing two pieces in the two weeks I was in Wrangel. The larger piece was made with the finds from the first day along the creek. After framing the Raven with some wire I found behind the workshop I covered it with green willow limbs. The piece worked really well and I thought the scale of the piece was really nice with what I had to work with.
The second piece was a smaller a Raven framed out of an old iron headboard I found in the creek. There was some speculation it was out of the "house of ill repute" that the creek had swallowed some years ago. This piece was covered with wire completely and had a copper heart. The copper probably originated there at the local mines.
The two weeks passed fairly quickly and my trip back to Anchorage in the pathfinder was uneventful. My flight home left late at night and we met the sun on the flight to Chicago. I stayed awake all night and had a lot of time to think about the people and the land in that giant wild place. I was also ready to see West Texas and the people that were waiting on me to get back!