Valdez, Alaska

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Road trip to Valdez

Well the drive from Glennallen to Valdez was two things – first Joe classified it as the “worst road” we have been on in Alaska (but he will change his mind a few days later) and second one of the prettiest drives we have been on.

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From Glennallen to Valdez is about 120 miles and about the first 90 miles were terrible frost heaves and expansion repairs.  To say the least it was a very slow, bumpy ride.  Our speed was between 45 and 50 mph.  Once we hit Worthington Glacier about 25 miles north of Valdez the road got better but then we were stopping constantly for the beautiful views.

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Our first stop was Worthington Glacier which was pretty and we could have hiked to the base of the glacier or farther but decided to catch it on the way out of Valdez.  It was rather cold and very windy so a short walk to snap a few pictures and watch the hikers on top of the glacier and we were back on the road.

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As we entered Thompson Pass we were again awestruck by the beauty Alaska has to offer.  We keep wondering how it can get any better but we are always amazed that it does.  Maybe it isn’t any better but maybe just a little different or maybe because at our age we just forget what we saw a week ago.  Who knows but it was beautiful.  From here we drove into Keystone Canyon with Bridal Veil Falls and Horsetail Falls.  This was a wonderful drive through the canyon looking at many waterfalls and making many stops for photos.  But after the terrible roads Joe was happy to get set-up at Bear Paw RV Park in Valdez.    This was a nice park located right in the center of town.  Valdez is a very small community made up mostly of fishing industry.  It was a very nice community to walk in so we ended up extending our three night stay to a four night stay.

Bridal Veil Falls Horsetail Falls Marina View of Valdez Oil Tanks from Alaska pipeline View around Valdez

We took a wildlife/glacier tour cruise on the Lu-Lu Belle on a nice 60 degree day.  The cruise was scheduled to be a seven hour cruise but ended up being a little over nine hours.  Captain Fred warned us before we left the dock that he is not a stickler on time so if we came in an hour or so late he didn’t care and if we did we should probably leave the boat.  We had heard this was a great cruise because it was a smaller boat and he could get so close to the glacier.  The other tour boat got to within five miles of the glacier while Capt. Fred came within ¼ mile of the face of the glacier.  Of course to get that close it took us an hour to go through the 5 miles of ice field before we got to the glacier and about one and a half hours to get out of the ice field.  Wasn’t so bad going in but it got a little boring on the way out.

Columbia Glacier

Big Iceberg Weaving thru ice chuck Columbia Glacier Getting Closer very slowly Half Mile away Glacier

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The glacier was beautiful and we saw several calving (big ice chunks falling off the front of the glacier) which is not only spectacular to watch but the sound is unbelievable.  We also stopped at a cave on our way out to the glacier to catch a glimpse of a horned puffin.  We both love those birds.  We also watched a huge colony of stellar seals but didn’t get to see any whale which was a disappointment.  We were told that because there were so many commercial fishing boats out the whales stay away from the nets.  I guess that is a good thing for the whales.  We did get to watch a fishing boat bring in their catch with a net full of pink salmon.   It was interesting to watch.

On the Lu-Lu Belle  Puffin nesting cave Puffin Stellar seals  Group of Sea Otters Very happy Otter

The cruise on the Lu-Lu Belle was a nice day even if it did get a little long and Capt. Fred talked continuously for eight of the nine hours.  Unlike our Bear Adventure tour and the Rainbow Cruise we would not do the Lu-Lu Belle again and would have a hard time recommending it.  And that is just us because we heard many people praising it and Capt. Fred.  He just wasn’t our cup of tea and nine hours on a smaller boat was way too long.

Solomon wating for Hatchery We also visited the Salmon Hatchery in Valdez hoping to see a bear or two but no such luck.  The scenery around the hatchery was nice and it brought us to the gates of the big oil storage tanks where the tankers pick-up oil from the pipeline.  A very impressive place.

To leave the Valdez peninsula we had to drive those same 120 miles to Glennallen so we had another slow drive.  We made an overnight stop in Glennallen and then headed north to go to Tok so we could go south to Haines.  From Glennallen north to Tok is about 130 Getting more wrinkles from driving on these terrible roadsmiles and now Joe said this is the worst Alaskan highway we have been on and if you judge it by the mph we were driving we would have to say it was the worst highway.  In most areas our speed didn’t get over 35mph.  There were terrible frost heaves, pot holes, and broken pavement.  Very slow drive so again we were so glad to get to Tok.

We are leaving Tok tomorrow heading south to Haines and the Alaskan Marine Highway for a 4 ½ hr ferry ride to Juneau on July 31st for a visit with our niece Sheila and husband Marc.  We are excited both to be able to try out the ferry system and also to see Sheila and Marc.  We will spend a weekend with them and then get on the ferry again for a 7 ½ hour trip to Skagway.  We are always on the move and looking forward to the next Alaskan adventure.

Just a little side note about our adventure in our mini –  when we left Minnesota on May 26th Amanda and Ron gave us a television with a DVD player in it to use on our trip.  We bought season 1 and season 2 of the House of Cards and brought several of our favorite movies with to watch on rainy days.  We have had many rainy days and have yet to bring the television out of the closet where we put it in on the day we let MN.  For two people who watched way to much TV we are surprised at how we can do without.  We love beating each other at cribbage, reading, walking and sometimes just sitting in our camp chairs and enjoying the scenery that surrounds us.  We also are amazed at how our Lily has handled the mini.  She is a real trooper!   Dogs are such creatures of habit and yet we ask her almost every day to find a new place to potty and take her walks.  She lies in the dirt, the wet ground, on top of rocks and maybe sometimes on a lap.  She has to stay in the mini some days for 7 to 10 hours when we take a tour but never one accident or someone telling us that she was barking.  She has been an excellent traveler and has even got better in riding in the truck.  She has been a great little companion on this Alaskan adventure.

Our Lilly   Here favorite past time   Lilly sleeps anywhere   Not again   Lilly has her own bed

Off for a little hike – Stay safe!

Love to friends and family – hugs and kisses Cate and Alex – Papa and grandma miss you both!