Saturday, July 30, 2011

On to Valdez, AK, July 22-23, 2011

The morning was clear and bright and a great day to travel. It was interesting to see the mountains illuminated by the sun from the east. Different look altogether. We took our time but still got on the road early. We ran into some construction right away and had to wait for about 10 minutes to be guided through it. It gave me some time to take some photos of the mountains. The roads were full of frost heaves so the ride was a little like a roller coaster. No major problems. We stopped at Wragnell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve on the Richardson Highway. Watched a film about the park. It was made by a man who came to the park for the first time when he was six years old. He came with his dad and family. It was a very good film about the park and the mountains in the park. Wish we could explore more of the park but we don’t have time.

We talked to a native Alaskan who made the fish wheel and he explained how they work. He actually uses one on his property which fronts the Copper River. He has four deep freezers at his home to hold all his catch for the winter. So glad we stopped to talk to him. He’s getting ready for hunting season. He can have two caribou and one moose. I love meeting the local people.

The drive to our campground was beautiful. First we crossed an alpine meadow mountain top with snow still sitting in the low areas. Then we went through Keystone Canyon…very deep with waterfalls coming over the walls right by the road. Finally came out to roads surrounded by snow and ice covered mountain tops. Glaciers were visible everywhere. Our campground is right on the edge of Valdez, the Eagle’s Rest RV Park. Just a large gravel parking lot. We came to the park without reservations but had no trouble getting a spot. When cars drive through the sound reminds me of a drive-in movie. We have full hookups with WiFi (some) and cable. We set up camp, listened to our audio book for awhile then set off to explore. We drove to the other side of the bay to a place called Allison Point. There is a fish hatchery on the road so we stopped when we saw lots of people around a fish weir. There were tons of salmon and sea lions, seals and otters feasting on the fish. We stayed for awhile and I took some photos and film. Amazing to see those animals so close feeding in the wild. Someone there said a bear usually comes later in the day to fill up on salmon. We left there and went to see Valdez Glacier. The road to the glacier went right beside the airport. We were just going along when over the top of trees was an airplane right over us coming to land. Wish I had my camera ready. We arrived at the glacier driving up a dirt road and parked at the edge of a glacier lake with icebergs in the water. The glacier was high up in the mountain so I don’t know where the icebergs came from. We came back to the rig for the night. We’ll go into town to the visitor’s center in the morning.
Had a wonderful and cool night at the campground. Had breakfast then set off for a day of touring. We stopped first at the Valdez Museum and looked at all their exhibits. I always think I can’t look at another museum but we always find new and interesting things in each one. There was lots in the Valdez Museum about the gold rush, the Alaska Pipeline construction and, of course, the Exxon Valdez spill. I still can’t believe how the people of the gold rush survived the conditions they found here. There was also a special annex which housed information about the 1964 earthquake. Old Valdez was complete destroyed…buildings did survive with damage but the whole town was moved to a new location. We saw a miniature model of the complete town of Old Valdez before the earthquake. The gentleman who took our tickets walked around with us and explained all about the model and showed us the homes and businesses which had been moved to the new town. His grandmother’s home was one of them. He shared lots of information about the people, the day the earthquake hit and the aftermath and creation of New Valdez. Well worth the visit. We finally made it to the Visitor’s Center. We couldn’t find it before because the sign had been removed during painting. The girl there told us about a hike to a viewpoint in the city. It was near Ruth’s Lake. Jim and I parked at the trailhead and started climbing the steps. Caution tape was all over the handrails with a note to be cautious because of bear activity! The steps seemed to have been rocked by an earthquake…a little bit leaning and uneven. At the top was a covered area with picnic table. There was a good view of the bay and the city. The girl at the visitor’s center also mentioned a scenic drive above the city. We decided to take the drive. We had to go through streets with homes and finally got to a dirt road and went on. We soon came to a board bridge over a creek but continued on up the road…just a one lane path. I started to think we shouldn’t be driving up there. Finally we saw where some other cars were parked up ahead so we parked as well. There were kids and dogs playing in the water coming across the road. Actually the water had broken down the road and there was no way across with a car. We crossed at the foot of the waterfall on a broken wood footpath. Talked to some ladies picking berries…salmon berries. I took some pics then we left and headed back to town. We parked down at the docks and walked along the shops until we found somewhere to stop for lunch. It was a beautiful day so we sat outside. I ordered halibut with fries but when they came it was cold. I took it back and had to wait for another. The next meal was hot…not the best I’ve had on this trip but it satisfied my growling stomach. We walked back to the car and decided to head back to Allison Point to see the sea lions again. This time the tide was out so I could walk out far on the rocks. The salmon were actually jumping up the fish weir trying to get to the ladder. There were still otters and sea lions around. We saw one big sea lion coming close to where we were to feast on the fish. I’m sure he just had to open his mouth to get a fish. He must be enormous…he looked big from what I saw but can imagine what was lurking under the water! I met a young man who was there from Palmer, AK. He is in the military, originally from Washington, DC, and getting ready to be deployed to Afghanistan. He loves Palmer and Alaska…he said he might never want to leave. Jim and I also met a couple from upstate New York. It was their first trip to Alaska too. We compared stories on our travels and had a nice time visiting. We left there and stopped by the Forest Service shack to see if any silver salmon had come to the spawning area…not yet! Went to town and found a place to have a beer then went back to the rig for the night. We had a full day and a good one in Valdez. We’re leaving in the morning and headed towards Tok and our way out of Alaska.

1 comment:

  1. Beverly, we are enjoying your blogs so much. It's just like we are sitting, walking, hiking, driving right beside you! What a wonderful trip you are having. Hoping to have a personal slide show of all your pictures with your input on all one of these days!!!