Tag Archives: Valdez

Detour to Valdez Well Worthwhile

The drive from Palmer to Valdez is arguably the most scenic we’ve had in over five weeks. We’ve had a lot of driving days (16 already) on the caravan, and none seemed as packed with spectacular vistas. Lest you become concerned about our bogging you down with bunches of amazing photos from this scenic drive, we promise to limit both the number and the file size of the photos we share below.

This is my favorite picture with the clouds beginning to open up to a little sunshine. Our weather in Palmer was no great deal, we had some sunshine and a bunch of rain. We left Palmer at 08:00 a.m. in a heavy fog. Within one half-hour we gained some promise of clearing skies.

Twenty minutes later the Matanuska Glacier surprises us. It seems so close we wonder how few years ago it might have covered this roadway.

Most of the glaciers we see from the ground (vs from window of small plane) rise high above us. We often cannot see much of the glacier’s flow. The view of the Matanuska Glacier unfolds a few miles east down the Glenn Highway. Cool how it winds back up between the surrounding mountains for miles and miles.

Our path took us southward along Richardson Highway, aiming for Valdez. The mountain views, like this one, became markedly more breathtaking.

The day started so foggy and then this. What a gorgeous driving day we enjoyed from Palmer to Valdez. We shot eight rolls of film this driving day, so you’re only seeing 1/20th of the amazing views we had. Hopefully the best ones are here.

Just east of Devil’s Elbow on the Klutina River, this section of river wrecked plans and provisions of many gold stampeders. The river takes a 90 degree left turn almost immediately under the bridge and the river took few prisoners amongst those early home-made boats.

We first saw Worthington Glacier from the Klutina River bridge above Devil’s Elbow. Took a lot of pictures from this spot, some with motorcycles bearing down on us, some like this with clear view.

Not just another pretty picture, I guess, we don’t know the lake or mountain name. Just a really pretty picture we couldn’t pass up when we saw it. Our biggest challenge, some days, is throwing out the extra pictures. So many good ones, which ones go into the trash?

This one, in Keystone Canyon on Richardson Highway, we shot from the truck window without slowing down. Coolest thing about it is the perspective gained by accidentally posing a redhead gal in the shot at bottom right. Sometimes accidents are lucky and everything works.

Soon after passing through Keystone Canyon we arrived in Valdez AK. Valdez is a cool little town that also unfortunately lays claim to two huge 20th century disasters. The 1964 Good Friday 9.2 earthquake killed 33 people here and nearly erased Valdez AK. Valdez also was host to the recovery efforts from the infamous Exxon Valdez tanker grounding and oil spill in 1989.

We visited the Valdez Museum and annex, situated several blocks apart, and enjoyed the history lessons. The annex dealt almost entirely with 1964 earthquake stuff, and the main museum covered early history through Exxon Valdez oil spill. The Whitney Museum, adjacent to the Prince William Sound Community College, had a tremendous number of articles. Unfortunately the collector and benefactress didn’t keep records of her finds. The museum therefore can’t do much to explain what would otherwise be important histories.

Valdez proudly holds the world record for greatest snow accumulation for a sea-level city. Their average snow fall is 320 inches. This year (2012) they hit 339 inches by February 3, with many weeks still to go and apparently topped out at 437 inches for winter 2011-2012. Thompson Pass on the Richardson Highway (which incidentally stays open all winter) recorded 974″ snowfall in 1952-53. We’ll probably miss the first snowfall there by a few weeks, at least.

Speaking of wintry weather, here’s a fellow fattening for a long winter’s nap. We watched this one for ten minutes. Each time he dropped his snout into the water he pulled up with a big salmon. Back to the water, again with a mouthful of salmon.

This is serious stuff, no fishing around for this guy. Every bite’s a winner. After all, salmon and berries, he’s got lots to fill up on and time’s running short. Winter’s just around the corner, trees are changing color here. We even saw Christmas decorations on one house on our way out of Palmer.

Despite the failing light, we were able to get this picture of the spawning salmon thrashing about in the stream just below us. I think we could have reached into the water with our snout and pulled up a fish. But we wouldn’t want to be so close to the bear’s table.

But for this caravan we probably would have skipped this long detour down to Valdez. Valdez sits at the bottom of a 110 mile dead-end, or 220 miles out of our way from Palmer to Tok, Alaska. We wouldn’t have known what we missed, but we know now it would have been a lot. Valdez is well worth the detour.

Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey, chasing 75 degrees

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©2007-2012 Dreamstreamr

Columbia Glacier and Sea Lions and Otters and Orcas

These guys welcomed us on our Columbia Glacier cruise this afternoon. We were just on our way out of Valdez port when we encountered a couple rafts of otters. They were having a great time, it looked like they were wrestling and burning off extra energy.

Despite the drizzly and foggy weather today, we had a few clear moments to see things like this spectacular glacial-fed waterfall cascading down into Prince William Sound.

The otters and orcas surely seem to be in cahoots with the tour companies. The glacier boats know just where to pick these guys up, and the sea critters perform with a smile for us. We had almost ten minutes running alongside or just behind this orca whale. Too bad his contract didn’t include it today, but you can see a very cool photo of a breaching orca here on Wiki.

Onward we slogged through chilly seas and colder air. This is but one of many little and not so little icebergs we run close to. We’re on a date with Columbia Glacier and our captain says he’ll get us as near to it as conditions allow. We suspect he already knows conditions and how close it will be, but he plays it well for his audience.

Whenever the captain or one of his spotters sees something to recommend, he calls out, “such and such on your 2 o’clock”. And everyone slides over to whichever side he recommends, and tries to catch a photo or a good look through binoculars. Predictably, the boat lists with the imbalance of dynamic human cargo.

This time, everyone was on the starboard side to watch Columbia Glacier for any calving action. Several times it obliged, releasing a large mass of ice to fall a hundred feet or more into the sound. We were far enough away that we couldn’t hear it, and the picture quality is compromised by very poor lighting and the distance. This is far and away the largest glacier we’ve seen in our travels.

Some glacier cruises will net a block of glacial ice, land it, and chip it for drinks. This cruise is pleasantly low-key — he walked around with this large chunk of very hard very old ice and let us pet it. Nice ice, nice ice. . .

This photograph best captures today’s weather conditions. You might not feel the cold (high of 52 in Valdez, and colder on the sound) but see the low ceiling and imagine rain almost all day. When we returned to Valdez we were in the rain and 48 degrees.

A good day of touring on this, our sixth cruise of the caravan. We dressed most warmly for this one and it paid off — we were able to sit on the outdoor deck the entire cruise. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to sit indoors for any length of time — way too warm in there with our clothing layers. We enjoyed it all and are glad we could see these sights today.

Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey, chasing 75 degrees

locate us here

visit our website

©2007-2012 Dreamstreamr