Day 95/96/97 - Are we Back in Switzerland???
Trip Start May 01, 2013
186Trip End May 01, 2014
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Well, we are promised "abundant wildlife viewing" - some 20 miles of bear and moose! As well as beavers, Dall Sheep and lots of wildflowers. I am on HIGH alert? For what I'm not sure - but we did see 2 moose (if you can call it that), 2 trumpeter swans, one eagle, one hawk and did you hear me mention "bear" no I didn't think so!!!!! BUT, there is a fish hatchery here and they say the bear frequent that place all the time, so we wanted to go last night, but we went out to eat with 3 other couples and by the time we walked home by the marina we went home and everyone was too tired to go look.
Day 96 - August 3rd. Today we wake up to on and off rain and we are socked in for the day. I hope we luck out again tomorrow since we will be out on a boat hopefully viewing the Columbia and Mears Glaciers. So, today is shopping day (all the town is within walking distance) and we may go with another couple later to see if any bear are about at the canning facility. The history here goes back to the 1700's when the Eskimo (Chugach) were here trading pelts, jade, copper and other furs. In 1964 a 9.2 earthquake hit west of Valdez and lasted for 4 minutes which triggered an underwater landslide creating a huge wave that washed over the port here and killed 30 people standing on the docks and three men on a steamer. In 1967, the town was condemned due to unstable ground and they moved 54 buildings 4 miles west to this present site. Quite a history and that's only a smidgen!! Your history lesson for today!!!
I went over to the "cannery" with another couple (Nick was waiting for a friend to help him change the air filter. Here is where you can see the salmon spawning - tonight when the tide is lower we will go back to see the bears which feed on all the ones that can't manage the fish ladder that I talked about from Dawson City. There were thousands of them trying to negotiate the "ladder"...it's hard to watch - some continually get pushed back and have to try again...some don't look like they can make another attempt. The seagulls are all over the place and the Eagles come and go with the Bears...hopefully later today it will be worth going back. It continues to rain on and off. Tomorrow's forecast is for 40% rain - today's was 70%.
Went back last night to see if we could see the bears feeding on the salmon in the river, and sure enough after about 10-15 minutes around the bend comes momma and baby GRIZZLY!!!! OMG...what an amazing sight. It was pouring rain and no one cared. We were watching from a bridge over looking Abercrombie River - here were only 6 of us in the beginning and there had to be 20 or more by the time we left. Very cool.
Day 97 -August 4th - Today we take a full day boat trip out through the Port of Valdez, through the narrows and out into the Prince William Sound to see the glaciers and whatever else we might happen across. It rained again over night and it is very overcast right now. I heard that once the rain comes in the summer it stays! The average snowfall here is 300 inches and the record is 540 feet! Whose moving here? So, we start out at 9:30 a.m. for a 9 hour trip out to the Mears Glacier and back a 168 mile trip (or so I hear)...the day is overcast and foggy and even a bit of drizzle now and then
Birds: Black-Legged Kittiwakes (a type of seagull, only smaller); Marbled Murrelet; Pigeon Guillemot; Horned Puffin; Tufted Puffin; Bald Eagles; Loon, Arctic tern and Jaeger! Wow
Mammals: Steller Sea Lion, Sea Otter, Dall's Porpoise; Harbor Seal and ORCA WHALES!!!!!
I can practically die and go to heaven, but wait - we get out to the Mears Glacier and get to 1/4 mile of it and the weather gets brighter (it had just turned the worst 5 minutes before) and we have spectacular viewing of this 250' high and about 1/2 mile wide
On the way back, the Captain shows us where and tells us about, the Valdez Oil Spill. As we come in to port we see evidence of the changes they have made since this disaster. Any tanker is now escorted in and out of the harbor with 2 tug boats. One is tethered to the tanker (with the strongest cable possible) in case there is a problem and the other one follows until the tanker is out of the harbor and out of any danger of running aground. We also see the end of the Alaska Pipeline facility. It is huge and contains a hospital, restaurant and all the tanks to store the gas. Eventually it will be dismantled and the town will be given the land in the best possible condition.
All in all one fantastic day!!! We loved Valdez.