Mountain Power

In the heart of Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park there’s the tiny abandoned copper mining town of Kennecott/McCarthy. 30-40 people still live there, even though the mine was closed, suddenly, in the 1930s. It’s only in the last ten years that the pool table was removed from the local hall. Back in its hey-day, the only way into town was by rails that were laid across moving glaciers. Some say Armand Bombardier developed the snowmobile here, an innovation to deal with the 8 months of snow. Today the best way in is by bush plane.

McCarthy is a great place to hang out. The main drag of town is a narrow dirt road with the old brothel on one side and the saloon/mercantile on the other. And just down the way toward the river is the abandoned power plant, America’s oldest, now home to a posse of young alpine guides. The St. Elias Mountain Guides keep things simple. They bathe with water from the river, grow some of their own food, and light the power plant with the help of a solar panel on the roof.

And now they can have two lights on at once, thanks to a Porchlight bulb. America’s Oldest Power plant has been retrofitted with energy efficient lighting.

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