March 6th, 2011 by Carl
Here’s a shot of one of my favorite places in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve; Viking Lodge Cabin. The cabin is not far off the Nabesna Road, which is nice; accessible. Unlike most public use cabins in the park, this cabin requires reservations, though that also means when you arrive, you know ahead of time you don’t have to share the cabin with anyone else who might show up. There is no fee to use the cabin, which is nice. It’s quite a treat, being able to head out in the winter and have a cozy, comfortable cabin to relax in.
An old barrel stove sits in the middle of the cabin, and warms the cabin pretty quickly, even in the depths of winter. It makes the world of difference after a day out in the mountains, skiing or snowshoeing, to come back to a warm cabin, rather than a cold tent. Perhaps in the morning it makes even more difference, waking up and having a nice warm pair of boots sitting by the cabin, rather than crusty frozen boots outside the door.
Viking Lodge Cabin was built in the 1970s, as a private, summertime residence, and the National Park Service renovated it in 2000. It’s in great shape, has an outhouse nearby, and a great view out the large window of Mt Sanford. Available year round, the cabin is really a treat in the winter. It’s only a 1/4 to half mile off the road, which means it’s easy to lug gear in; some of the other cabins are quite a bit further, making the jaunt in quite a mission.
The NPS suggests the cabin sleeps 4, but it can easily hold, comfortably, a few more. There are only 2 bunks (bring your own sleeping pad), but plenty of floor space, and a great big loft. Just be sure to not overpack your sleeping bag if you want to sleep upstairs (or even on the top bunk); you’ll roast, with even a small fire. There’s no bug screen on the door, so you won’t want to leave the door open to cool the cabin down if you’re there during the summer.
If you do decide to stay in the cabin, please, please, please don’t leave any of your gear behind. People seem to think ‘Oh, I’ll just leave these batteries/this candle/this book/etc behind and someone else can use it’. The cabin quickly accumulates all your crap. Pack it in, Pack it out, folks. And lastly, PLEASE don’t leave the cabin bereft of wood. By all means, use the wood in the cabin when you arrive, but make an effort to go gather/cut wood before you leave, and make sure there’s plenty of wood cut for the next visitor. I try to make sure I leave more wood than I used, and I think is a good approach. Arriving at a cabin in the dead of winter, at 40below Zero degrees, in the dark, only to find the last folks didn’t leave any wood behind, isn’t a great start to a trip.
Park regulations allow you to cut dead trees, or gather/cut any dead down wood you find. Do not cut any green trees. I’d suggest you check with the Ranger Station at Slana before your stay if you’re not sure about any of this. You can also buy wood in the area.
There are a lot of great hiking/skiing/snowshoeing options in the area, so be sure to allow a few days at least. And at least one day to spend sipping coffee by the fire, reading a good book, enjoying the view of the mountain out your window. Viking Lodge Cabin is really a little gem in the woods. And the best thing about a winter trip? It’s no problem to bring a pint of Ice Cream (or several). Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk, to be specific. Mmmhhhmmmmm!!!! Enjoy.