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Saturday, January 25, 2020

Alaska - Travel Update #10

From Willow Lake we were about 85 miles from Valdez. Starting out about 10A the first six miles of the road were terrible. Pavement breaks, frost heaves, ruts, the whole cadre of poor road. In this case the pavement breaks were not the usual patched or gravel spots, these were like joints running at angles across the lane and each gave a distinctive thump as you crossed it. Then there was three miles of nice smooth new pavement, and about the time you got used to it, it was back to the terrible road. About 40 miles out of Valdez there was a major road construction project. A pilot car was taking traffic through. The pilot car came from the other direction and we watched Class A Motor Homes go up hills and down into gullies.

Now it was our turn. One lane track of gravel dirt, and did I mention it was raining? The road did go down into small gullies then came steeply up the other side, then a short smooth kind of level section, then into the gulley and up the other side.

The photographs do help to get the conditions across, but these video clip will really bring it home.

This was probably two miles long. They were pulling out old culverts and replacing them with larger ones. Once we passed this it was relatively good road for about 10 miles when we found the next major road construction project. Again, we waited for the pilot car to take us through. Again it was single lane but just climbs up slippery looking mud and gravel. This was about a two mile project, then the road continued up hill, then down.

This section was at least a 6% grade and it was probably two miles long. Not straight down, curvy down.

Once through this section the road became smooth and great condition. 

The Welcome to Valdez sign on the right hand side of the road had a little segment that read - City Center 22 miles. 
Through this section were residences, and a few tour companies and other businesses. Once we got into Valdez proper it was less than a mile to the Bayside RV Park. 

Again we found a large gravel area with facilities throughout. These are tight, but roomier than some we have stayed in. They are all back in sites, unless the person behind you is not there, then it is a pull through, for the first one in. 

Jacks down, utilities hooked up and we are good for the next four nights. The neighbor on one side is from Gainesville, TX. Since it was not raining, it looked like a good time to tackle the front left marker light problem. I got a new socket and a flat four pin connector plug, normally used for hooking up trailers. At the Motor Home, I removed the headlight assembly. Cut the wires to the marker light socket and brought the whole thing into the house. I attached one of the parts of the flat plug to the wires of the new light socket. I modified the new socket and installed it into the head lamp assembly, again using silicone and duct tape. I put the other half of the flat plug on the Motor Home side of the wiring. Now, I can simply unplug the socket if it needs further maintenance. - Job done, then it was Miller time - OK, Alaskan Amber time

Sunday, July 28 - After taking Annie to the Dog Park a couple times, we decided to drive the area in and surrounding the City of Valdez.

 We started at the Valdez Glacier View Point.

The glacier is about 150 yards from the viewing area. You can walk along the shore of the glacier lake and get a little closer, but in a kayak, canoe or other small water craft you can get much closer.

The melting water of the Valdez Glacier creates the Valdez Glacier Lake and that creates the Valdez Glacier Stream which flows into the Valdez Port.

We followed along the Valdez Glacier Stream to where the highway crossed it.

We then crossed the main highway so we could explore the old Valdez Townsite. The town of Valdez was mostly destroyed in the 1964 earthquake. It was moved about two miles down the road to more stable ground. 31 people many of them children, in the Valdez area lost their lives in that earthquake event. The epicenter was 45 miles west of Valdez and the tremors lasted more than 5 minutes.

From there we went to the other side of town to Mineral Creek, checked out Blueberry Hill road and then stopped by the Valdez Petroleum Depot. Here tank trucks load fuel and transport it to other sections of Alaska. The Port facility for the Alyeska Pipeline is on the other side of the Port of Valdez, across from the current town.

Valdez, with its ice free Port was a supply point back in the late 1800's. A road was built from Valdez to the Tok area. This road was built in the early 1900's pre-dating the ALCAN by almost 40 years. Now, by road, we mean this in the very primitive sense. Wagon trail might be a more appropriate term.

A tour of the small boat harbor completed our outing.

This morning we started with breakfast at Trada's restaurant.

This is a breakfast and lunch place. Like most of these small places it was a two person show. One cooking and the other waiting tables. We both had Ham and eggs. The meal was good, but not a place to return to. 

On the way back, I dropped Debbie and the laundry off at the laundromat. While she started the laundry, I took Annie to the Dog Park. Annie got to run with a Labrador mix. They had a great time and the owner and I talked about our adventures in coming to Alaska. She stated that they had gone to just about the same places that we had. They were from Kansas and they liked the beauty of Alaska and the people. I reminded her that winter might be a different. She agreed and stated that she would need to spend a winter here before making a commitment. She and her husband both fish and she talked about halibut fishing in Homer. She stated that they were out on the water, the fishing line had a two pound weight on it, you fish on the bottom and the bottom was 240 ft. She stated that when you got the fish on, you had to bring in the 240 ft of line, the weight and the fish. She stated that it was a lot of work. On top of that, there was a bunch of whales in the area circling the boat and she was more interested in the whales at that point then fishing. I had noticed kayaks on her truck and she stated that both she and her husband kayaked. She stated it was a lot of fun and that they did do a lot of fishing on them.

After returning from the Dog Park, I went over and helped Debbie with the laundry. She was in a conversation with another lady also talking about their trip to Alaska. This lady and her husband had gone into the Northwest Territory, "way up there." She said that they had encountered some bugs that literally chased them as they drove in their truck. She showed us a video of these black bugs, probably a half to three quarters of an inch long flying alongside the truck. It was incredible.

After completing the laundry we took off on a road trip to take some pictures of Horsetail Falls,

and Bridal Veil Falls.

Same names as a couple of waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge. The Alaska ones are along Alaska Highway 4. The first stop was Robe Lake, located a couple miles from downtown Valdez.

While we were at the lake there was a machine on the lake that was being used to clear the grass out of the lake. The operator did not seem to want to answer any questions in regards to the machine and why they were clearing the lake.

An older gentleman came while we were there. He stated that he had lived in Valdez for many years and remembers ice skating on the lake when it froze over in the winter time. He was a little vague on the amount of snow, stating it could be four feet to a lot more.

From there we continued through Keystone Canyon and over the top of Thompson Pass to the Worthington Glacier.

My attempt at a selfie using Deb's iPhone is kind of a failure - need longer arms
This glacier, which is split by a rock outcropping has receded probably 1/2 mile in the last 100 years. Scientist think that it will continue to recede.

Then we continued down Alaska Highway 4 toward Glenallen looking for a waterfall that we had seen on the way into Valdez. Not finding it by mile post 50, we turned around and headed back toward Valdez. We did find waterfalls and rivers to take pictures of.

We made a stop at Blueberry Lake and Campground. We found a couple folks fishing for trout and grayling.

On the way through Keystone Canyon, we stopped at a wide spot that had what looked like a tunnel through the rock. A sign described this as a hand cut tunnel for a railroad venture that never came to fruition. Seems that there was a dispute that lead to a gunfight and there the story ended.

At this same turn out we found another beautiful waterfall. There were two other photographers there with tripods taking pictures.

Returning to Valdez, we ventured to the other side of the port. Across the water so to speak. There we found a small island covered with sea lions.

Then a little ways further down the road we found out why. There was a fish hatchery with scores of returning salmon.

I think when we saw they sea lions they were relaxing after a big feast. The tide was out and these salmon were having a hard time getting up the stream by the fish ladder. We turned around at the Alyeska Valdez pipeline terminal.

Then it was back to the Motor Home for the evening.