When an Alaskan River Trip Becomes a Journey Into Memory
On a packrafting trip in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, our scout finds what lies behind the mythology of the landscape—and her own past.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is absolutely massive; the Alaskan park covers an area larger than Vermont and New Hampshire combined, with a wilderness larger than any other in the United States. It is a rugged park, defined by towering mountains, infinite ice-fields, unstoppable glaciers and dormant volcanoes. The park is so expansive and remote that many travelers, unable to trek through Wrangell-St. Elias’s interior, see the park from above in air taxis. A 5-day trek on the Goat Trail is enough to give hikers a taste of Wrangll-St. Elias, as is the climb through Dixie Pass. The backcountry has few marked or maintained trails, and backpackers must forge their own path through the wild. True Wrangell-St. Elias backpacking trips often stretch into weeks.