Day 95/96/97 - Are we Back in Switzerland???

Trip Start May 01, 2013
Trip End May 01, 2014

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Where I stayed
Eagles Rest RV campground

Flag of United States  , Alaska
Friday, August 2, 2013

Day 95 - August 2nd.  No, we are in Valdez Alaska.  As you all know this is where the big oil spill was in 1989.  But all these years later this is a beautiful little port city opening up to the Port of Valdez.  As we drive in we see several glaciers and some very impressive mountains.  We have a beautiful day for driving - EXCEPT - that we start to be the ones with the problems, and we experience having no power going up the hills (same problem in Glacier) but once we stop, it gets going again.  Luckily this didn't start to happen until we were only 47 miles out of Valdez on our 238 mile trip.  So, we limp along, stop and wait, limp along, stop and wait, and we finally make it. We made lots of stops along the way for the beautiful scenery and this trip ends up taking 9 hours. But, as we like to say "this is not a race to the next destination" it should be about seeing all that there is to experience along the way.  We pass the Slana River (coming from one of the many glaciers), Cooper River Valley and Wrangell Mountains, Mount Sanford and Mount Drum, the Gakona Lodge (on the NHR since 1977), a former road house still on property.  Thompson's Pass, Bridal Veil and Horsetail Falls and the Alaska Pipeline running at the base of the Mountains.  We have sun the whole way and spectacular mountain and glacier views.  

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"'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.  Doesn't look promising.  But it IS a lot better than yesterday and our full rain event. The boat has two decks and two large indoor compartments, so what ever will be (will be - oh no another song reference)..We head out through the harbor and into the open waters and we see a chance of brightening - yea!  As we are leaving and not too far out we see several groups of sea otters - sleeping!  Yes, sleeping on top of the water on their backs - too cute!  The captain takes us closer for a good look and we try not to wake them.  Once we have had our fill of these, we continue on and find Steller Sea Lions sleeping on a buoy...this is starting to look very permitting or not!!  Now, to make a long story short, here is what we see:

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!  Because it was still overcast, the blue in the ice was spectacular!

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. 

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Cathy on

Really great pics. The glacier is spectacular! Amazing wildlife, so up close and personal.

Pamela on

What amazing photos Sandy. I have goose bumps from memories of the Alaskan landscape. What an amazing place it is. Only the hardy can survive there. I hope your coach is feeling better. Maybe it ingested too much dust from the gravel roads? Perhaps a fuel filter issue? Hopefully nothing serious.

Avery on

WOW guys...magnificent!!! Of course the bears are my favorite...what a wonderful sight. Stay safe.

Diane Ambur on

We are so enjoying this trip with you!!!

Caroline Jenkins on

Beautiful pictures, Sandy. I'm still enjoying your trip!

Johnny M. on

Sounds like you might need a new fuel filter for the coach .We Really like seeing all those great pictures.Watch out for the bears they are not as friendly as they are cute.

Claudia on

You must be in heaven!

jerrygolfboyer on

All your photos have been fabulous! Do I need to FedEx you more film! (Yes, I remember film.)

The photos are all great. But now the subject matter is making them even more exciting to see. Thanks for taking us along on this journey.

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