Thursday, June 21, 2018

Day 19 Valdez

Today, we pack up and head for Valdez.  We will have to backtrack all the way back to Anchorage where we will pick up Hwy 1 and head for Glennallen.  The entire trip will be 423 miles.  Long day.

I had emptied the holding tank the night before and filled up the fresh water tank at our campsite, so we were ready to go.  This campground has pay showers, flush toilets and sinks.   We didn't use them as they were always very crowded and when they clean them, the floor gets very wet with about an inch of standing water.  No thanks!

We head out on Hwy 9 over Moose Pass to the Hwy 1 junction.  From there we heads towards Portage and the Turnagain Arm.  As we are heading up towards Portage, I see motion on the right side of the vehicle.  Something is moving fast.  We are both always scanning the sides of the roads for wildlife and we've gotten pretty good at spotting things.  This time, it is a moose cow running at full speed.  Now, that in itself is very comical as these things weren't designed to run like that.  As we are watching, I also see that the moose is actually chasing something.  I couldn't tell what that was, but it looks like it might be a bear or a wolf.  The moose seems to be running along on her hind feet and flinging her front legs out trying to make contact with whatever it is she is chasing.  It is very funny looking.  We figure she must have had a calf in the area that the predator was trying to have for breakfast.  The whole scenario lasts about 5 seconds.  Way to fast for cameras to come out.  Also, we are still moving along at highway speeds.

The trip into Anchorage is much less stressful than the trip in as the wind is not nearly as bad as the trip out and there is less traffic.  Soon, we are in Anchorage and looking for the Walmart for a resupply.  This will be the last Walmart we see until we get back to Whitehorse.  The Walmart was easy to find even without GPS and having to negotiate one way streets.  Shopping done, we continue on our way.  Once we leave Anchorage and get back to Wasilla, we are back on new roads that we haven't traveled before.

The road follows through a valley with panoramic views along both sides.  About halfway to Glennallen, there is a place where you can stop and see a huge glacier.  There is a road that you can take which will allow you to get close enough to go walk on the glacier.  The road has signs that tell you it is unsafe so we just head to the viewing area and take our pictures from there.  It is a big glacier.

After that, we continue on our way stopping at a pull over area for lunch.  Once we arrive in Glennallen, we are shocked to see the highest price for diesel we have seen in Alaska...$3.86 per gallon.  I don't buy any, hoping that prices will be better in Valdez as there is a refinery there.  We turn south on Hwy 4 for the trip into Valdez.  But first there is the visitor center for the Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve.  We stop in and check with the information desk about possible campgrounds along the road. Turns out, there is little to choose from and we decide to press on into Valdez.

Just south of the visitor center, you can take Hwy 10 out to McCarthy which is a privately owned town at the end of a tough gravel road.  The town is featured on a TV show called "Edge of Alaska".  You are not allowed to drive into the town and must park and walk into the town.  The whole things rubs me the wrong way and I decide it is not worth the effort to go all that way to pay to visit an old gold mining town.   YMMV.

We continue our trip into Valdez.  At one point, we see a sign for "Flagman Ahead, Prepare to Stop"  This sign is almost as common as a speed limit sign and we start preparing to stop.  As we approached the line of cars that are stopped in the road, we see a helicopter hovering in the sky right over the road.  Dangling precariously from the chopper are two workers who are trying to remove an aerial marker ball from the power line.  They work for a few minutes to remove the old one and then install a new one.  Who knew these things had to be changed?  As soon as the new one is fitted, they are lifted away and fly off.  The road reopens and we are on our way again.

As we get closer to Valdez, we start to climb.  The scenery is fantastic as we approach Thompson Pass.  It is starting to get late and we drive on through noting places we want to stop and see on the way back out.  As we approach the summit, we feel like we must be at 10,000 feet in elevation as there is snow everywhere.  We are shocked to see that the actual elevation is only 2,805 feet!

The ride down was just as nice as the ride up and we are treated to many waterfalls and rivers along the road.  Due to the all the rain, the waterfalls are all running at 100% or more.  Valdez in located in a temperate rain forest and gets lots of rain and is also the snowiest city in AK averaging 300 inches of snow.  The road into Valdez is kept open year round and the port is the northernmost ice free port in North America.  There are several RV parks in town, most out on the main road into town, we decide we want to be closer to the docks and head for Bear Paw RV park.  They have 2 locations, one being an adult only park and the one right downtown for everyone.  We choose the latter and are assigned a spot.  It's a moderately large RV park with a gravel parking lot, full hookups with picnic tables.  I back in and get our electricity and water connected.

After resting up a bit, we head out for a walk around town.  It isn't a very large town and you can easily walk anywhere you need to go.  We check out the restaurants and decide on a seafood place right across the street from the docks.  The food and service were pretty good and we leave stuffed to the gills.  We continue our walk though town.  As we reached the end of our circular walk, we arrive back at the RV park and we retire to our little house on the gravel.

Valdez was destroyed by the 1964 earthquake and the town had to be relocated to a new location.  I still remember seeing the video from the destructive earthquake.  The original location has been repurposed into an oil terminal.

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