Latitude Adjustment

McCarthy & Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve

McCarthy, Alaska     Photo: courtesy, Douglas Miller

3. GIANT MOUNTAIN FUN MCCARTHY, ALASKA
McCarthy, a tiny southeastern Alaska hamlet, is at the end of a 60-mile dirt track that has the dubious distinction of being the worst road in North America. Why risk the stress on your CV joints? So you can get to Ma Johnson's Hotel (doubles $149, including breakfast; 907-544-4402, www.mccarthylodge.com), a renovated historic inn, and a surrounding wilderness the size of Switzerland. First, kick back on Ma's porch, which overlooks the 6,300-foot Bonanza Ridge, then go play in the backyard: 13.2-million-acre Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Still feel too civilized? Pay an outfitter to fly you to a backcountry base camp, like Skolai Pass, the start of 28-mile Goat Trail, which offers views of the 16,000-foot University Range, including the jagged Twa Harpies. Round-trip flights on McCarthy Air (907-554-4440, www.mccarthyair.com) are $200 per person.

4. JUST YOU AND A CANOE YUKON-CHARLEY RIVERS NATIONAL PRESERVE, ALASKA
There isn't a single road into or out of the 2.5-million-acre Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, one of Alaska's least visited parks, but there is an utterly wild river—the key ingredient for a do-it-yourself canoe trip. Drive to Eagle, about 379 miles east of Fairbanks, rent a boat, and paddle the calm waters of the Yukon River for five days and 160 miles through spruce and birch forests and beneath thousand-foot bluffs, looking for grizzlies and waterfowl. You'll find several public-use cabins (each sleeping four people), maintained by the National Park Service, scattered at intervals along the shore. Haul out at Circle, on the northwest edge of the park, and hit the Arctic Circle Hot Springs, 50 miles away, before catching the floatplane back to Eagle. For $175, Eagle Canoe Rentals (907-547-2203, www.aptalaska.net/~paddleak) will provide a boat that you can drop off in Circle.

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