Sunday, April 20, 2014

News from Alaska State Parks

Independence Mine at Hatcher Pass will be open 7 days a week this summer, and the interpretive rangers will be there, too. Last summer, this popular destination just up the road from us had budget issues that kept it closed a couple days a week, at the beginning of summer. We're glad none of our guests will have to miss out on this gem!

If you like remote, rustic cabins, there's good news, that several sites are having their rundown cabins refurbished or rebuilt. Nancy Lake, just west of Wasilla, has very nice plans in store for their hike-or-canoe-in log cabins.

Wayne Biessel, superintendent of parks, was the speaker at last Friday's Mat-Su Convention and Visitors Bureau, and he shared a lot of updates with us. He rolled out plans for the building that will get done this summer at South Denali. When asked how much more of the plans are unfunded, Wayne said between $20-30 million, so it could be many more years before the whole experience/visitor center is finished. But for this year, they'll get some camp sites with extraordinary views put in. The road was put in last year, and the campground is this year's goal.

As he described the area south of Denali in Denali State Park, many hikers were shaking their heads in agreement. He talked about a ridge flank with breathtaking views of The Great One (Denali). That ridge is called Kesugi Ridge, and where the camping is located is a little lower, with even more open, surrounding views of the Alaska Range and Denali. They consulted local Ahtna and Denai people, and the name of the campground came from that: Kesugi-Ken, meaning south of Kesugi. Kesugi means The Ancient One, and that area was prized for rich hunting.

With future development, they are planning to add in trail loops and connections to other trail systems. Wayne said that upon the completion of a next phase, it would create the ability for hikers to be out many days at a time in the wilderness. It seems like it will afford a rare opportunity in this "connected" world to be away from roads/cars/development for that long!


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