DO NOT TRAVEL to ALASKA, if…

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DO NOT TRAVEL TO ALASKA, if…

1)   You don’t like dealing with unpredictable weather.

2)   You hate it when your GPS signal sometimes gets lost because you’re so far north.

3)   You don’t like people who work at a more leisurely pace than you’re used to.

4)   You get aggravated when a Bear or Moose walk near the road you’re driving on.

5)   You don’t like being in areas away from supermarkets or an internet connection.

6)   You can’t stand to drive a dirty car.

7)   You don’t like to fish, hunt or spend a lot of time outdoors.

8)   You hate it when other drivers wave Hello at you all the time.

9)   You think up to 20 hours of sunlight per day during the summer is a bad thing.

10)  You get tired of eating the Best salmon and halibut in the world all the time.

But, if like us you think these are just some of the “minor inconveniences” that make Alaska an interesting and charming place, YOU MUST TRAVEL TO ALASKA for one of the best experiences of your life!

~Steve

From peaks to port – Valdez pt. 1

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Leaving Glennallen, our adventure to Valdez (pronounced Val-DEEZ) began on the Richardson Highway.  We crawled along at a slow pace, negotiating 17 pavement breaks (yes I counted them) with abrupt edges, dips and frost heaves.  That meant Steve had to slow way down for every encounter so we wouldn’t empty our cabinets of their contents as Betsy displayed some serious hip action.

Richardson Highway

One of the 17 pavement breaks on our route

We climbed to the 2,800 ft. summit of Thompson Pass, where we encountered rain and fog. Visibility was so bad that we decided to pull off and take a break for lunch at the top. Thompson Pass received 26 feet of snow during January 2012, and there was still plenty on the mountain during our August visit.

Thompson Pass

Snow still on the mountaintops in August

Thompson Pass

Valdez is the snowiest place in Alaska.  Notice how tall the snow markers are here – they look like streetlights!

Our drive continued over Lowe River (Steve smiled), four beautiful waterfalls and through Keystone Canyon where we saw some gorgeous 5,000 ft. peaks.

Lowe River

This sign put a smile on Steve’s face

Keystone Canyon, Alaska

There were waterfalls all along the road at Keystone Canyon

As we entered the town of Valdez, the lush Chugach mountains and shimmering clear water were just breathtaking.  The sun was shining during our four-day stay here, allowing us to hike, bike and take a walk around the quaint town to learn a why it is called the “Switzerland of Alaska.”

It was also here that we enjoyed the amazing sight of salmon running at Solomon Gulch.  I’ll give more details about that fascinating experience in my next blog.

Town of Valdez

Valdez is surrounded by the lush snowcapped Chugach Mountains

Port of Valdez

Yet another place to go fishing

Lowe Street,Valdez

Steve also has a street named after him!

Bridal Veil Falls at Keystone Canyon

Hiking Goat Trail at Keystone Canyon – the trailhead was at Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls at Keystone Canyon

Looking down at Lowe River from a trail along the gulch

Biking at Valdez

Valdez is also a great town to bike around

Valdez Glacier

Valdez Glacier in the background

Chugach mountains

The towering Chugach Mountains surround the area

Valdez is rich in history that helped shaped this community.  In 1898, it was all about the gold stampede and railroad industry.  Then on March 27, 1964 a 4-minute, 9.2 earthquake triggered an underwater landslide which created a tsunami.  The tremendous waves washed away the entire Valdez waterfront.  Due to the fact that the town had been built on unstable soil, it was abandoned and a whole new town was built 4 miles to the east.

Gold Rush Days Story

Gold Rush Days Story

The 800-mile long Trans-Alaska oil pipeline was completed between Prudhoe Bay in the north and Valdez to the south in 1977.  And the town became a household name in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez tanker ship ran aground, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound.  Although the town was not direcly impacted by the oil spill, thousands of people arrived in response to the crisis.

Terminus of Trans-Alaska pipeline

Terminus of the Trans-Alaska pipeline at the base of the mountains

We visited two museums while here.  Both the Valdez Historical Museum and the Old Town Valdez Museum were excellent and a great learning experience.

Old Valdez now

Old Valdez now

Tsunami warning loudspeaker

A strange looking loudspeaker used for Tsunami warnings

The new Port of Valdez

The new Port of Valdez

Valdez Historical Museum

Valdez Historical Museum

We loved this town and the surrounding area so much that I couldn’t capture it all in a single blog.  To read about the rest of our adventure here, check out Valdez pt. 2!



 

Lazy Days at Tolsona Wilderness -Glennallen

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Continuing east we headed out to the town of Glenn Allen, 187 miles from Anchorage. The drive along the Glenn Highway designated as a National Scenic Byway  is one of Alaska’s most beautiful, traversing a broad tundra and because of that we are reminded once again of frost heaves, damaged roads, dips… The road winds through gorgeous mountain ranges with spectacular scary drop offs. One of the most breathtaking sight is another glacier, the Matanuska Glacier. We even had a glimpse of the Wrangell Mountains as we arrived in Glenallen.

Glenn Highway

Wildflowers along the Glenn Highway

Chugach mountain ranges

Snack break facing the Chugach mountain ranges

Sheep Mountain,AK

Sheep Mountain

Matanuska Glacier

Glimpse of Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Rive

Matanuska River flows through the valleys

We spent our days at Tolsona wilderness catching our breath and taking a break  from all the fun activities that we had. This is our 47th day since we arrived in Alaska and time is moving so fast.  We played scrabble and had a camp fire for the first time in a long while.  We were able to finally enjoy the sun, which made its rare appearance once again.

Wrangell Mountains

Plaque about Wrangell Mountains

Mt Sanford on the left and Mt Drum on the right

Mt Sanford on the left and Mt Drum on the right

Mt Drum

Mt Drum as seen from the highway

BearFooting in the Kenai Peninsula

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We completed our “bear footing” (having a good time), in Alaska’s playground – the Kenai Peninsula. It left us full of wonderful experiences and spectacular scenery.  The bountiful wildlife in the peninsula borough allowed us to meet the real locals (critters) in Cooper Landing.  We got hooked, we clammed and then traded clams for Halibut in Ninilchik. We gazed at volcanoes and walked and biked the well-maintained pathways in Soldotna.  We went all the way to the end of the road in Homer and to the most westerly point in North America at Anchor Point.  The Harding Icefields and Kenai Fjords National Park formed the backdrop of stunning scenery on the horizon at Seward.  We witnessed frenzy Salmon fishing (or combat fishing as they refer to it) and dip netting for subsistence at the Kenai River in Kenai.  ML even met in person, for the first time, Gemma,  whom  she has been communicating with through FB for eight years.   We spent an afternoon with her, her husband also named Steve and sisters at their home in Nikiski.  The sea life, the Alaskan life,  the glaciers and everything else in between were just astonishing to watch and to experience.

Kenai Peninsula

Kenai Peninsula

The two weeks we spent traveling through the area were not enough. The pictures below are some of the many we took, attempting to capture the essence of what its like to be in the Kenai Peninsula.  We had a great time and we urge you to come and play in Alaska’s playground!

Anchor Point, AK

ML modestly posing at another sign

Homer Spit

Viewing snowcapped mountains from Homer Spit

Homer Spit

Beautiful Sunset at Homer

Anchor Point

North Fork Loop road in Anchor Point

Floatplane

Steve’s first floatplane trip, out of Homer.

Harding IceField

The Harding IceField covers over 700 square miles at the top of the mountain ranges, and spills over the peaks as hundreds of glaciers.

Grewingk Glacier

Grewingk Glacier

Glacier view

Yet another glacier, as seen from the plane from Homer during Steve’s flight.

Mt Redoubt

Mt Redoubt

Mt Iliamna

Mt Iliamna

Gemma, ML, Joy and Wennah

Ninilchik, AK

Steve attempts to fly with the seagulls. They were very graceful, he crash-landed.

Bald Eagle

Bald eagle hanging out near our RV site

Rivers of Ice, Knik Glacier – Palmer

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From Portage we drove to the east on the scenic Glenn Highway and spent a few days in Palmer  located 42 miles northeast of Anchorage. This town is  considered as the garden hub of Alaska due to its microclimate which produces amazing giant vegetables but we missed seeing most of them since it is too late in the season.

Palmer Alaska

Record of giant veggies in Palmer through the years

Palmer Alaska

A sampling of these giant veggies at the Visitor Center

During our stay at the Mountain View RV Park we found out about the Knik Glacier tour via a brochure, which advised that we would be whisked away via 4-wheel-drive van, airboat and jetboat to the glacier.  Airboat was the magic word for Steve, who wants to experience every form of transportation known to man before he dies.  It was a fairly short trip (3 hours) and very affordable, so off we went. On our way there a mama Moose and calf crossed the highway.  We didn’t have to pay extra for that!

Knik Glacier

Mama moose showing baby moose the right way to get hit by a car.

We met our guides Tom and Tom, who split up the group and took us in 2 vans over some very rough roads and across streams that were at least a couple of feet deep and quite wide.  That part of the trip was exciting, but it was only to get us to the boats.  Then half of the tourists got in the airboat (us included) and the other half in the jetboat.  Off we went for a 20-minute ride to the Knik Glacier where Tom  skirted several large chucks of ice as we got to the edge of the glacier and then we turned to dock at the camp.  The drive was beautiful as the riverbed was adorned with pink and white wildflowers, and the sight of ice in front of us from the boats was amazing.

Knik Glacier, Palmer, AK

The airboat

River Bed at Knik Glacier, Palmer

Drive onto a river bed

Knick Glacier, Palmer

Driving around the icebergs

Knik Glacier, Palmer

Flowers looking like ice or snow

Knik Glacier

Icebergs are actually clear, not blue.  But in large chunks you will see blue in the parts of ice that have been compressed to the point that hardly any oxygen remains.  This allows only the color blue from the light spectrum to reflect into our eyes.

Once on shore, we were served hot drinks and snacks while relaxing across from the glacier.  The icebergs were too numerous to allow us to get right up to the glacier, but since the boats were so small we were able to navigate closely around them to check them out on our.  Pretty cool to be able to actually reach out and touch an iceberg!  Knik is stunning, so vast and quite different from the other glaciers that we have seen on previous tours or hikes.

Knik Glacier

Amazing iceberg formation

Knik Glacier

Venturing out into the bank of glaciers

Knik Glacier

Rivers of Ice, Knik Glacier

Rivers of Ice, Knik Glacier

After kicking back and exploring around the area for wildlife (we saw only one black bear from a distance), we switched places in the boats so we could ride the jetboat and headed back to “headquarters.”

Looking for wild animals, Knik Glacier

Looking for wild animals

It was a fun trip and the weather was decent.  A nice way to spend an afternoon on a bit of an adventure in yet another beautiful part of Alaska.  If you are in the area, check them out at:   www.knikglacier.com

The RV park we stayed at has mountain views and the sites were grass.  While there, we had company one day, 20 motorhomes and fifth wheelers on an Alaskan Tour caravan.

Mountain View RV Park, Palmer Alaska

Mountain View RV Park