Category Archives: adventure

On the Road: Kennecott and McCarthy

To promote my latest release, Borrowing Death, I had scheduled a couple of signings in the Anchorage/Palmer area (Thanks, Barnes & Noble-Anchorage and Fireside Books in Palmer! You all rock!). In a brilliant fit of inspiration, my husband suggested we take a side trip to the remote (yeah, I know, Alaska…What ISN’T remote? ; P ) historical Kennecott/McCarthy.

The Charlotte Brody series has so far been set in Cordova in 1919/1920, but I have a proposal for the possible next three books in the works and #4 is mostly set in Kennecott/McCarthy. So far, I’d only had photographs and historical accounts I found on the internet, at the local museum, or gleaned from chatting with folks who had visited, to spark a story. I won’t deny the excited flutter I experienced at the idea of getting a real feel for the trek to the mine/town site. So, we made our ferry reservations and found a place to stay.

IMAG0112Getting There

We live in a town that is only accessible by boat or plane. The decision to take the ferry was logical, as (1) we had planned to do some quarterly grocery shopping while in Anchorage, and (2) flying meant renting a car which (2-a) is pricey in Alaska in summer, and (2-b) many rental places prohibit taking their vehicles on certain roads (more on that in a bit). Originally, we were looking at riding the ferry for 6 hours then possibly driving another 8+ to the site. Husband considered options and felt adding a 6 hour leg to a closer ferry stop and driving less might be shorter, or at least less exhausting. It wasn’t, we found out later.

We left Cordova at 5am and arrived in Valdez at 6:30pm. By the time weIMAG0117 stopped for food and gas and headed out of town, it was 7:30. No problem. Still pretty light, despite the clouds and spitty rain. And gorgeous? We were trying to move along so I didn’t get many pictures, but believe me when I say the Richardson Highway out of Valdez is incredible in a scenic sense.

We turned off the Richardson at Chitina and onto the Edgerton Highway at 9pm with 63 miles to go. Now, on a designated highway in most places, that would be an hour-ish. Not so, here. The Edgerton, while amazing as far as scenery, is a bit winding, only partially paved and mostly not. Recent rains had essentially reversed the last grating. To say it was bumpy is an understatement. By now, it was starting to get darkish and my husband was having a grand time (/sarcasm) avoiding the potholes. Suffice it to say, we rattled a lot, and the final 15-20 miles was slow and rough.

The Kennecott River Lodge at the very end of the road, before foot access across the Kennicott River, was a welcome sight at 11pm. We parked outside our appointed cabin. I walked behind our pickup and noted something odd.

“Honey, what happened to the window of the camper shell?”

Yep, we’d lost the rear window somewhere along the 63 miles of “highway” but there was no sense worrying about it at that point. Luckily, there was only light rain in the forecast, and covering the opening with plastic and duct tape (all good Alaskans travel with some sort of heavy duty tape) would do for the time being.

“We’ll look for it on our way out,” DH said, and we went to bed.

IMAG0121Kennecott/McCarthy

The next morning, we walked across the river foot bridge. The water was rushing beneath us, shaking the pilings. DH recalled having to use a hand-operated tram when he and his friends visited 30 years prior. I was very glad the National Park Service had opted to build the footbridge when they purchased the area in the 90’s. A shuttle van would take us to McCarthy a mile away or to Kennecott, 5 miles in. We opted to start at Kennecott, a self-contained town back in the day at the base of what was a huge copper mine.

As with the Edgerton, the road was pitted and rough, but we had a nice time chatting with fellow passengers. Something that surprised me was the number of private homes/lands within the boundaries of the Park. Apparently, when the NPS opted to buy the site, there were so many private holders that they arranged to let them stay. People who live there mark their property so visitors don’t trespass unwittingly. Part of me was envious of their “backyard” but then I’d recall the effort of getting to it. Not something to do on a regular basis.

The van pulled into the Kennecott town site and I was immediately in awe. Pictures don’t do it justice, and the combination of renovated, partially renovated, and “left as is” buildings is an amazing testament of what was and how time and nature ravage what man makes. The NPS have been restoring Kennecott, recreating a town site that was essentially abandoned in the late 1930s and hardly looked at for the next 60 years. People were more or less free to come and go. Somehow, over all that time and neglect, a good number of the buildings were still standing, or standing enough to be fixed. Some, however, were beyond help and had deteriorated on their own or were razed for safety’s sake.

There are a number of buildings the public has access to on their own,DSCN3630 but to get a better sense of the main mining operation (a goal for the research portion of the trip) we took the 2-hour long mill tour offered by St. Elias Alpine Guide Day Adventures. Our tour guide, Annie, gook the 14 of us through the town and into several closed buildings, including the huge mill where copper ore was processed. The mill, the town, everything is incredible in its engineering and self-sustainability (for the most part). The people who made it work, from the engineers to the manager to the miners to the supporting townsfolk, were made of sterner stuff than any of us 21st century dwellers could imagine.

DSCN3713We spent 8 hours or so in Kennecott, putting 10 miles on DH’s pedometer, then took the shuttle over to McCarthy, 4 miles away, so we could catch the museum there during open hours. McCarthy was the answer to Kennecott’s more upright/uptight rules, providing miners with drinking, gambling, and women that the company town forbade or frowned upon.IMAG0124

My head full of history and story bits, we returned to our cabin across the river and fell into deep sleep.

 Back Toward Civilization

The next morning, we woke relatively early and headed to the café down the road for some coffee before facing the Edgerton’s 63 miles of window-snatching surface. As we were not in a great rush, we stopped along the way for pictures. The scenery was more incredible in the full light of day, and I easily imagined Charlotte being awed by it as she passed through on the train. And I imagined it was a MUCH smoother ride. The railway was trestled in a number of places to avoid sharp turns and hills.

IMAG0163Along the way, we kept an eye out for our missing window. My fear was it had broken and I didn’t want anyone to get a flat tire on that highway. Lo and behold, 43 miles from Kennecott, I spotted the window leaning against a rock on the side of the road. Someone had seen it, set it on the out-going side, probably figuring, “They’ll be by sooner or later.” Yep! Thank you, anonymous person! And to our surprise, the window wasn’t broken nor the frame bent. DH was sure he could get it back in place with the right materials (he did).

The next couple of hours took us through more gorgeous country as we headed to Anchorage. It’s impossible to travel through Alaska without finding amazing scenery. There are times I don’t see the beauty of the place where I live, as there are often too many distractions of mundane life. But a trip like this, short as it was, is a great reminder.

DSCN3804

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Wild Adventures (AK and otherwise) with Rue Allyn


I can’t say that my adventures in Alaska were wild. Yes, I’ve actually been to the land of the midnight sun (when I was thirteen—so it’s been a while). The train that follows the gold rush trail from Skagway to Whitehorse, Yukon (in Canada) is a treat. I’ll bet that despite the passage of a decade or three you can still see some of the stuff left behind by people following the trail. Things take longer to deteriorate in Alaska because of the permafrost. I spent most of that summer in Fairbanks with my folks who were exchange professors at the U of A. I had my first fresh salmon (delicious, frozen can’t compare). I saw my first midnight sun (R. W. Service’s The Cremation of Sam McGee has been one of my favorite poems since I started reading) and had my first experience of sleeping with aluminum foil covering the windows to block out the light.

I repeated that last experience when the Navy sent me and my husband to duty in Keflavik, Iceland. Our eldest child was three months old. Imagine trying to establish a night time routine when there wasn’t much of any night for several months. Add watch duty rotations (Days, Afternoons, Midnights) and parenting becomes a really wild adventure. Military service throws all sorts of monkey wrenches in to what civilians think of as ‘normal’ life.

That happens to Senior Chief Hank O’Mara and Lieutenant Bethany Morton in my erotic romance Off Limits (available now from Red Sage Publishing and other fine e-retailers). Both are happy in their lives as career Navy personnel and neither expects to have that life turned upside down by falling in love with someone who is literally Off Limits. But these two seasoned sailors roll with the punches. Like military parents, newlyweds, students and all our service members they make sacrifices to be able to love each other and serve their country too. Off Limits is available now from Red Sage Publishing. You can find an excerpt here. I’d love to have you leave comments either on this post or any other topic you choose.


A bit about Rue Allyn—I wrote my first story around the age of five and read my first romance at the age of eight. I’ve been in love with being in love ever since. I’m happily married to my sweetheart of many, many years. We share the home of two cats, who condescend to allow me to feed them and clean their litter box. They occasionally permit me to pet them but demand my love and attention as their right. I am in awe of their feline ability to dominate with half a glance or a mere twitch of tail. I am insatiably curious, an avid reader and traveler. I love to hear from readers about your favorite books and real life adventures. I also love my work. Seriously, what could be more fun than sharing love and adventure with all your friends? For more about me and my books go to http://RueAllyn.com.

Posted in adventure, Alaska, books out, guest | 6 Comments

“It’s Time, Not Age” with Guest Natalie Damschroder

The other day, Cathy mentioned being 3F (female, fertile, and forty). Well, I’m 3F too, and the last F is really annoying me.

When I was younger, I used to get really annoyed by my “elders” (like my mother) blaming age on everything. Their minds were going because they left the coffee in the microwave after heating it. Three times. Short-term memory lapses, putting things where they weren’t supposed to be, and a million other details of daily living were blamed on getting old. It always sounded like a cop-out to me.

I didn’t want to be that way. And I’m fighting it, believe me! In fact, I think the problem is really a convergence of two things. Yes, we’re older, and maybe our brains are aging like our bodies. Or maybe, aging just happens to coincide with the busiest time of our lives. We have way too many things to think about, too much on our to-do lists and filling our schedule books.

Of course, I don’t like to blame my body breakdown on age, either. I’m not full of aches and pains because I’m 40, I’m full of aches and pains because I have three completely sedentary jobs that take too many hours a day and leave me behind and feeling guilty if I take time to exercise. I feel like I’m approaching a point of no return, though. I’m going to have to find a way to compromise.

One specific thing I used to make fun of my mother for, I now completely understand, though. It’s a function of time, though not of age. She used to have this super-old, super-stuffed address book. I’d look for something in it, and 20-year-old pieces of paper would fall out. Sections would be so full stuff was written in the margins. I picked on her for not cleaning it out, at least, and really thought she should have gotten a new one, transferred over the relevant, current dates.

Yeah. *snort* I so get it now.

My address book? I bought it my freshman year of college. Some of the people in it, I haven’t talked to since I graduated from high school. In 1988. I’m proud to say I only have four pieces of paper stuck in the front… You know what? Forget it. At least here, I can be self-righteous. My brother came home from Afghanistan months ago. *recycle* That business card can go in my business card file. *set aside* Those directions to Number One’s best friend’s house when she was 5? I used it once. And she’s 16 now. *recycle* And that username and password are for a credit card I haven’t used in a decade. *shred*

Where was I?

Oh, yeah! Call me a hypocrite, because I’m not giving up this book. Yes, the binding dried out and separated years ago. And the Js (my maiden name is Jacobus) and Rs (the Raffenetti branch moved a lot) are full and encroaching on nearby sections. But this is living history! I can’t remember Mark-from-Ichabod’s last name? I just flip through the first pages of each letter until I find him. (Daley!) It amuses me that in 23 years, I’ve never picked up a friend with a last name starting with E or I (Q, V, etc., are expected).

And you know what else? It will take too damned long to copy the current stuff over. And that’s what really matters.

~~~~~~~~~~~
The heroines in Natalie J. Damschroder’s upcoming releases may not be 3F quite yet, but they’re not ingenues, either. And they totally kick ass, literally as well as figuratively (which is the only way Natalie can manage it, herself).

Behind the Scenes October 31, 2011
A romantic adventure about a security expert who refuses to let her attraction to the movie star under her protection be a distraction…especially when it makes him a direct target.

Carina Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible coming soon.

Under the Moon November 1, 2011
A paranormal romance about a modern-day goddess who teams up with her protector—and forbidden soulmate—to track down the leech who’s been stealing power from other goddesses.

Entangled Publishing | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

You can learn more about Natalie and her books at her website, eHarlequin, Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook. She blogs with four other obsessed passionate Supernatural fans at Supernatural Sisters, with a number of fantastic romance authors at Everybody Needs a Little Romance, and just to hear herself talk at Indulge Yourself.

Posted in adventure, book coming out, books out, Carina, guest, paranormal, romance | 19 Comments