Copper River Record October 2016
By Robin Mayo
It always feels sad to drive past the boarded-up Copper Center School, remembering trade fares and many good times when the school was the center of the community. One way to keep the place alive is to keep using the sweet little trail behind the playing field. It is short on drama but full of charm, and an easy destination for young families, or those who want a gentle walk. The bugs can be fierce in early summer, so come prepared, or wait until August to sample this pretty hidden gem.
Take the Old Richardson Highway, then turn east on Silver Springs Road, which is about a mile from the north end of the Old Rich. At the bottom of the hill is Copper Center School, where you can park in the lot. It is heartening to see that the playground and grounds are clean and in good condition, I suspect local families have worked hard to keep the site inviting. At the edge of the parking lot is a small sign with history and a sketch map of the trail, so you know when to take a turn off of Ancestors Ave and onto Windchime Way.
Walk through the playground to the playing field beyond, then along the north end of the field to the log arch and trailhead at the Northeast corner. The trail consists of two easy joined loops, so you can choose the length that suits you. The forest is mostly Quaking Aspen, with some White Spruce and Balsam Poplar. As the Aspen mature some of them are falling down, and one can see signs of succession in action, where the spruce are pushing their way up through the Aspen and shading them out.
Along the way are delightful birdhouses and windchimes built by the students, and an outdoor classroom with benches and firepit. You can explore it all in an hour, with time to frolic in the dandelion-filled field. We held Youth Environmental Summit there in 2014, and the youth made us laugh by dusting their skin with the abundant pollen.
This nice level trail also makes a nice ski or snowshoe outing. I must confess that I have not walked it recently, so there may be trees down across the trail. This trail and school hold so many memories for the community, it is a delight to wander down the paths.
The motto above the log arch was perfectly chosen for this walk down memory lane.
The dandelion strewn field at the beginning of the trail is a treat for all.
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.