Valdez

  • these blog pages are being posted after the Alaska trip ended.

There is so much to the beginning and middle of any journey. Somewhere between the middle and the end, the miles began to pass with alarming speed. The calendar said that three quarters of the journey had gone beneath our wheels. Barb and I were thinking about campground reservations beyond Prince George, BC, as were other women. 

And yet. Here we were passing Worthington Glacier (you followed the links and saw how interesting this thing is, right?) looking down on it from the highway.  

This road goes up – Thompson Pass is reputedly the snowiest place in Alaska (and famous for challenging ski and snowboard runs – heli-skiing anyone?). There are tall poles along the roadside with markers to let the snowplow drivers know where the edge of the road is and where the shoulder begins. 

After Thompson Pass we descended, way, way, way down passing Bridal Veil Falls and Horsetail falls (these must be the sixth so named since we left the US). Very pretty stops. 

In Valdez our group went on a Colombia Glacier Tour with Stan Stevens Glacier and Wildlife Tours. It was a day trip with soups and snacks provided. The captain narrated so we learned lots. Did you know that the glaciers on the sea side are named after US Universities? Harvard, Columbia etc. 

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Endings…

  • this was posted after the Alaska trip had wound down to its end. If you have questions, email us at twogalsgo@gmail.com

We are at the end of Adventure Caravan’s RVing Women 2019 59-day Alaska tour. Gosh it’s hard to say goodbye to our new friends.

Remembering group rig washes in Tok. Zip lining. Birding trips. That first long walk in Banff NP – where some saw bears, some saw three-toed wood peckers, most saw the herd of elk and got to experience the newest additions to the camping areas of the park. Gosh, so many memories.

Group travel is not for all but after 30 years of making our own way, our own discoveries and doing our own thing… well, it’s been mighty nice to be part of a community of folks doing those same things.

 

 

I paged back through photos posted here on the blog. What a terrific trip this has been. My secret? I know Barb and I will be back to do it again, to show another community of women BC, the Yukon Territory and Alaska. I know we’ll both be just as awed as we have been on this trip. I know we will make new friends to add the wealth of friends we’ve gained since we started traveling with Adventure.  Thank you to Tina Poole for the faith you have in the RVing Women – Adventure Caravan’s ‘partnership’ and in Barb and I. It was a wonderful learning experience traveling with you and Claudia. We look forward to our 2020 Gaspé Peninsula trip together!

Happy trails, y’all.

Breathe.

Home stretch…

 

Oh, gosh. It’s hard to leave Stewart – Hyder. Here’s a bit more. Hyder side of the border.

Then the border… with a sign of the frisky Hyder residents sentiments.

Then a wasps nest on the rock wall across from the border and a reminder to think Canadian numbers.

From Stewart – Hyder we made our way back to the Cassiar Highway and down to Prince George.  As the miles ticked under our tires, Barb and I reflected on the whole trip. There were stressful times, times of laughter, uncountable a-ha, great intakes of breath “hihhhh”, “Ohhhhh” and OMG! moments and discoveries – personal challenges met by those of us who stepped forward to take them.. Uncountable vistas more mind blowing than the last. People so friendly and welcoming, willing to share their stories and lives with us. Growth, personal and as a group – we grew into the things we saw and did along these many miles.

 

 

Stewart, BC – Hyder, AK

  • This post, like the previous ones and probably future one’s as well, is thrown out to our readers and the ether after the adventure has ended. For information about journeying with us… sent us a note at twogalsgo@gmail.com.

Well, first we had to leave Skagway – go back to Alaska – (Rotary International Inusuk). Then through the TORMENTS.

Then to change out a flat tire for our friend BE and her sister.

Then a quick stop at the famous BC Jade place where there was a couple from Chile on their motorcycles.

Then cool wooden deck bridges and Inuksuk placed by a fishing spot.

And, hard to imagine, more bears and glaciers.

And finally Stewart, BC and Hyder, AK.

Smashed together with a single border crossing between (the BC side, the US apparently doesn’t care since Hyder is darn small). Stewart is a respectable lumber town with small businesses, restaurants, traveler trade places, and a port for floating logs out to big ships to haul off to elsewhere (this is an Alaskan term, I borrow it here).

  • Gore alert. Stop reading HERE and do something else if you don’t want to look at how the natural world operates. Gore ahead.

What were we doing in this odd little valley? BEARS. Yup. Other than the rebelliousness of it’s citizens, Hyder boasts a National Park center that happens to perch over a creek into which spawning salmon pour each year. Of course spawning salmon, for the most part, are finished with their lives and die right there in the creek which attracts those most cumbersome looking of creatures – bears. grizzly and black bears like morning fishing. Real early morning!

Hyder, AK bear 2.jpegHyder AK bears.jpgHyder, AK bear 3.jpegHyder, AK Bear 4 .jpeg

And after noshing away, this big grizzly (reported by the rangers to be the largest they’d seen in a couple of years) hopped up, munched some berries that also bordered the raised walkway and moseyed off. That was the first morning when Barb got up early and I did not. So 8′ away she watched a grizzly tear into a salmon. Humph. The early bird does seem to get the worm.

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Not much was happening in the evening. Just lots of salmon dying and struggling to get upstream. Hope you can see the amount of salmon. It’s in the hundreds of thousands each season.

The fox hangs out at the border crossing. The logs are Stewart type industry. The place is just pretty though.

I want you to get cozy with bears here…

IMG_4796IMG_4799IMG_4804IMG_4808IMG_4812IMG_4815IMG_4822IMG_4824IMG_4832IMG_4833IMG_4839IMG_4845IMG_4852IMG_4855IMG_4811That orange stuff around the torn up salmon? Eggs. Not every egg makes a fry.

The bears put on a lot of weight this time of year. They eat a lot and salmon are not their only food. What an amazing thing to be close to! I have to say it: it was a beary-good-time.

Sure was pretty there. Quite an experience for those who got up early and stayed up late. The rangers talk about having to BAM! do noisy scares of grizzly who want to climb up onto the boardwalk. They talk about years of salmon decline and bear decline. So we who visit now, snapping photos and internally reveling in the experience of being here in this moment may be some of the hundreds who have it, while in the future many may not.

Tok to

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From Tok, we made our way to Skagway, AK.  If you have a map you see that once Anchorage is passed the second time, there is a main road – quite inland – and then spur roads that go down to the seaports. So from Valdez, we went back up the spur road to the main hi-way, then headed south then took another spur down to Skagway.

This spur road was my favorite! The landscape was incredible. Something one might see on a sci-fi movie or Game of Thrones. After gliding along gorgeous lakes and normal forests we came upon THE TORMENTS! Holy moly. Unbelievable.

 

4dWOK+XRSLysI6FM8imWSAxv5MkCHcQUuHXgt3DmKfHAIMG_0171Here are the TORMENTS (isn’t that name just perfect?). The land was potholed with lakes and ponds and pots of water all reflecting the amazing blue skied sunny day.fullsizeoutput_18edfullsizeoutput_18eafullsizeoutput_18e7The land went flat and TORMENTED for miles and then began it’s usual descent to the port.

On this trip we made eight border crossings between Canada including into and out of Skagway. (above). By this time, we were all old hands and kept our passports handy. It isn’t at all like crossing down at the lower 48 though. The agents were often funny and friendly and had good tips for the road.

So… what do you do in Skagway?

Go “gambling”

Go restored-building-visiting:

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Ummm… go dancing? In a dance hall? without a costume? with a friend who is a super good sport?

Or how about visit a building made of driftwood (they must have had a lot of time on their hands back in the 1800’s):

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eofimYT8Rgubwg9+H2OUnQIMG_0289Or… lets just get out of town. 3YeUFWhKSG+l15Z+FOLLDQIMG_4635fullsizeoutput_18d8IMG_4646On yet another nice day…fullsizeoutput_18bd7aSAhdv4QUKcUBQzX4aZyAfullsizeoutput_18befullsizeoutput_18c2When we reached Juneau, everyone headed off in their planned directions. Barb and I went to meet Susan and Robin, friends from the SF Bay Area, for lunch. They were heading out on a boat to go pelagic birding and wildlife viewing for a week. Though we were a bit jealous of the birds they would see. LOL.

The ship headed back to Skagway and we all went out to eat and talk about the day.

So what else do you do in Skagway? How about take an old (renovated) train up and around the canyon that the folks climbing from the sea to the goldfields took – well, when there was finally a train, the gold was mostly claimed.

Then we climbed out of there, back to the main road to make yet another trip down a spur road to Stewart, BC – Hyder, AK.

Valdez, another one…

  • this page is posted after the Alaska Trip ended. Better late than never.

If you dream of Alaska and fresh caught fish, of chartering out into water so cold and pure and fish wild as the day they were hatched, then this post is for you. Diane, Mary and I chartered with Dave and his lovely wife and went out for the day salmon fishing. We went out pretty deep. Dave uses outriggers to catch fish – seemed like cheating until he popped that weight off and you were on your own. No simple matter, outrigger let loose when the bite happened. We set the hook (or didn’t) and convinced the fish to come aboard (well, Dave hauled them in with his net…).

Look at this day!

IMG_4456prxNdelMTLGRlllxVuMacAsO5kGPqvT2WDIQbUgheX0QbHLGMFrcT8aZOwJP26HXQwCydDkQFmyJqm6YwAxrAgKlANP%9T+u8MALYOAwN9wwWLRuGb3SbK3hEjWYQMsyAQYFuXQi+JdjS78%SrjwbrSXapIPTM2QuJBwiasROA5b8%t2Q4R1CrLYusSnSQNgFxCypygHRVyZYok6yXaQlgzRYg8qtsT2GHCg3amlxr9g7aD7i6JuQeKiBUXzHV%oCAP+uK22jRR2+XbFy1ZZLmHgjf8tGC4KQrC8Fz5eRlkdJgcOKApQwLR5S%TqGfeWq4bwWe had an absolutely capital day. Sunny enough to take jackets off. Sea otters, puffins, murre, kittiwakes and murrelets iced the cake, for sure.

How did we do?

+gRL0FYhRiygIiPPc8vCFQ9EpZdLDjQ5O95XFS%vQeFwynU4WKYKTCyG2cncoIpruwI even kept the bellies and my son smoked them for me. My recipe was too salty, though. With hope we can try again another time.

That night at camp we had a pj party in the laundry room – everyone told of their days. Wait… What did other folks do? They went bear watching and to a salmon ladder and to the dump to watch eagles and messed around in Valdez. I wasn’t there so can’t really attest to the fun they had – though Barb was an eagle and bear watcher and she reported having an amazing time. I’ll see if she will write an edit to this post to talk about those days.

Remember Thompson Pass? Well, to get out of Valdez, we had to climb that mountain again. Phew. Scout is a trooper, she managed to get us out of the hole and back up to Tok.

We’ve turned the corner towards the Lower 48…

July 29, 2019

I always thought the drive down to Homer from the bluffs was breathtaking. The spit reaching out into the huge bay, the mountains, glaciers, glisten of the sea, the boats making their way… I hadn’t been to Seward though. 

The drive down and around to Seward was entirely different than the Homer experience had been. To Seward we drove through a pastoral valley… I talked about it here in my last post. It was… shoot, I’ve already used the word breathtaking. This drive raises the previous one by a power 2. So, Homer = 10,

Seward – 10* with the * being a tiny 2.

After enjoying the many offerings of Seward, we climbed back to the valley and back through Anchorage (with a stop at The Moose is Loose for more cinnamon bread) (smelling the toast as Barb prepared her breakfast made me resent my gut mightly, for it’s problem with gluten!).

From Anchorage, we made our way to Palmer. Palmer is the “bread basket” of Alaska. The soil is so rich, the sun so enduring (16+ hours a day), the water so laced with glacier minerals… well, they grow the HUGEST vegetables! Like a 247# pumpkin – in the 3 months before winter sets in! Beets that are 7# and cabbage heads the size of beach balls. 

After dramatic mountains, striking lakes ponds the color of emeralds (yes, Emerald Lake was on our route) and verdigris, this valley spoke calm soothing peaceful afternoons to me. 

Palmer started out a heavily forested valley. When the States were in desperate straits in the Great Depression our esteemed government decided to relocate farmers and their families to this outpost of civilization. So many people volunteered to make the journey folks had to be turned away. 

When the ships and wagons brought the original families to the valley, they were not met with farmland but instead huge trees. Since they had to travel when the ice had broken up, they arrived when summer was waning. The government  sent along trained engineers and proctors who held a generous bank and plenty of tools and supplies to set the valley up. By winters arrival, all the emigrants had a shack to shelter in, if not a home. 

In short order a school, trading post and government building were set up and life in Palmer began. Remember, this was during the depression – 1930’s and 40’s. For folks who were used to ‘civilization’ creating a life in Alaska must have been an incredibly difficult proposition!  The folks who talked to our group were all descendants and they shared family stories that really brought the settlement to life. 

AND then was the drive to Valdez, Alaska! Oh my gosh.

August 1, 2019

When we departed Palmer we drove the Glenn Highway. We turned right on Richardson Highway, AK 1, south. Passed through Glenallen and Copper Center. Typical Alaska towns of 100 to 500 people. 

Most of the roads in Alaska ribbon out for semi-trucks that bring in supplies of all kinds. They pick things up in the seaports and bring stuff up from the Lower 48 and Canada. They haul rocks, lumber and fish to ships. I talked to a trucker for a while one day. 

Getting gas after Glenn Hwy, I chatted with a full-time trucker who drives six trips back and forth per year through BC, the Yukon Territory and Alaska. No matter where you go in Alaska – road construction is happening. Gravel. My trucker pal said he especially dislikes the ‘weekenders’. Guys who drive on the weekends and are paid by the load, they make more money speeding like crazy from place to plac

Previously on the route, Scout’s windshield had been popped (and repaired) and we’d lost a fog light as well. Trucker said that every single trip (and he makes long distance six trips a year) he looses a windshield. He laughed and said that’s why he drives a split window tractor – he about always has one windshield that’s clear!

By this time, both Barb and I were feeling pretty inured to splendid mountains and blue laced glaciers… can you believe it?

First off, the road down to Valdez follows the usual rivers and streams. In this case, as in much of Alaska, the water flowed north. Yup. Not down to the sea. Clue – mountain range ahead.

Once again, no matter how jaded I thought we were, Barb and I had our minds blown. The drive down to Valdez is more striking, more astounding than the previous two had been! It’s nuts. 

Barb and I, as Wagon Masters, needed to boogie ahead of everyone else. We check in to each campground, designate sites for each rig based on size and folks need to be near the bathrooms and to put gals who like to park in adjacent spaces together. It’s a bit complicated depending on the amount of time we had before the first rigs arrive as well as the state of the campground map. 

So, boogie we must, but on this drive we were not going to miss an important stop, the Wrangell – St. Elias National Park! Barb and I are avid National Park visitors and we have an ancient NP Passport book we’ve been filling with stamps since we started RVing together 33 years ago. 

Wrangell – St. Elias NP is similar to Denali NP in that there are few roads and much wilderness that is nearly untouched. The Visitors Center is small and serves mostly hunters and travelers like us. It wasn’t a lengthy stop but we saw tons of pictures of the park and it’s wildlife. Along AK 1 drivers are treated to views of the Wrangell Mountains – Mt. Blackburn 16,390’, Mt. Wrangell 14,163’, Mt. Sanford 16,237’ and Mt. Drum 12,011. 

https://www.nps.gov/wrst/learn/nature/geology.htm

Within the park are four mountain ranges, the Wrangell, the St. Elias, the Chugach, and the Alaska Range. Ten volcanos have been identified within the park with Mt. Blackburn being the most recently active. This is where that massive 7.9 earthquake hit in Nov. 2002. The earthquake literally upended, flipped, cracked, slid and shook the park into a completely different sort of topography than had been quietly resting for thousands of years.

Okay. Maybe not so jaded. 

Then around a bend comes an eye popping view of Worthington Glacier.

https://www.alaska.org/detail/worthington-glacier

https://www.alaska.org/guide/valdez-to-worthington-glacier

The drive from Valdez to Worthington Glacier –https://www.alaska.org/guide/valdez-to-worthington-glacier

Unlike many of the glaciers we’ve seen, Worthington isn’t in a high mountain pass or valley dripping into the sea – this is a valley glacier.  It’s about 5000 acres. The road we’re on is above the glacier so we can see its blunt face, charcoal colored top layer and cracks glistening with blue ice.