Wednesday, May 30, 2012

More Valdez

Yesterday we drove around the area including over to the former town site.
The most impressive remnant was the foundation of the post office building. A nice brick building that had been dedicated only 2 years before the earthquake.  There are a few bricks that look like they are available as souvenirs.  We passed on the bricks.
We drove over to the oil terminal. No trespassing and certainly no tours. The fish hatchery is just waiting for fish. So not open now.
Since William's fish trip was cancelled due to high seas outside the sound, we just ran a few errands today. Went out to Peter Pan Seafood market to buy some fish.  This is a huge cannery that is just starting to gear up.
We have had lunch at most of the rated restaurants and cafes in Valdez. Our ratings: 1) THC Off the Hook, 2) The Harbor Cafe, 3) Mike's Palace, 4) Old Time Burgers and bringing up the rear 5) The Fat Mermaid.
Today we were at Mike's Palace. The ladies room is unusual. Heated toilet seats with a built in bidet.
Before dinner we walked up to the top of the hill above the convention center.  You can look down on this nice little town. I could live here except for the 8 months of winter and the 20 feet of snow.

There are still huge piles of snow in town, snow dump sites, that range from 20 to 30 feet high.
The snow took out the railing on the walkway.
We had a hysterical bit of post dinner entertainment.  We had finished our fresh Copper River Red Sockeye salmon with stir fry vegetables and were sipping a bit of wine when our new RV neighbors, a young couple from Texas decided to walk out on the rock jetty.
They got about 2/3 of the way out when the sea gulls ferociously attacked.  A few gulls are nesting in the rocks and all the gulls around defend the nests.  The same thing happened to Bill a few days ago. So we had a laugh at their expense as they beat a hasty retreat.  They were laughing when they passed our RV, so no harm.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Valdez race and museums

Today dawned cold and rainy. Just the right weather for the summit2sound race. The entrants climbed up a mountainside then skied or snowboarded down to a spot where they hopped on a bike for a 28 mile ride ending across the sound from Valdez. They then kayaked to Valdez and ran a 5 mile loop to finish just around the corner from us. We walked over to see the first kayaks come out of the water and stayed to see the winner cross the line.
Kayaks arrive

The winner 2:54:51
We then walked over to the Old Valdez exhibit about the earthquake in 1964 that destroyed the town. I remember the newspaper coverage of that quake with the buckled up streets.  They had to move the town 4 miles away.  The town had been built on the glacial alluvial fan.
Fire bell from the old town in front of the Valdez Museum
Next on the agenda was a great lunch at The Harbor Cafe. We both had the grilled halibut on salad.  Then we walked to the Valdez Museum. Both the Old Valdez Museum and the Valdez Museum were very good museums.
We drove on the Richardson from Chitina to Valdez. Thankfully it has been upgraded from the one lane dirt road it was when this sign hung over it.
The Perry survived both the earth quake on Good Friday in 64 and the Exxon Valdez oil spill  on Good Friday 1989. When it was decommissioned it was donated to the city and is at the side of the Valdez Museum.
At the Valdez Museum I learned about all the bunnies you see running around.  Black bunnies over here at this RV park.  Adults and small bunnies.  Someone brought 50 pairs of rabbits here many years ago because he thought it was a good idea.  The bunnies are spreading and eating gardens.  Coyotes have moved in and people are concerned because WOLVES have come over the pass. Coyotes are bad enough. But no one wants wolves in town. The town is going to reinforce an ordinance against feeding wild animals as some people feed the bunnies and make sure people know it is OK to trap the bunnies. I would trap them if I lived here. Yummy rabbit stew and a rabbit fur coat.

Friday, May 25, 2012

From Liberty Falls to Valdez

We wanted to stay in the area around Chitina another day, so we drove from Kenny Lake to Chitina and onto the McCarthy Road where we had seen the Fish wheels laid out at the Copper River Campground.  You drive through the train wide Railroad cut in the mountain to start the road.
We head back to Chitina

  But at the river the glacier was kicking up a storm with the local weather.  Gale force winds were howling down the river kicking up a wall of dust.  We are not camping here.

A few miles back down the Edgerton Highway was Liberty Falls, a small campground next to a rushing waterfall.  We picked the nicest spot of the four and set up camp.  The big information board next to the bathroom was all about bears and I was a bit concerned being out here all by ourselves.  I needn't have worried. We hadn't been there 1/2 hour when the next campers showed up.  All the places were eventually filled.  We had a great time dancing by the fire. Dr. John is great fire dancing music.
Dancing to Dr. John

Add a glass of wine
On our way back out we stopped by Kenny Lake store to use the internet and check in the store for supplies which they did not have.  The older gal who is running the store today and I got to chatting.  She said that when she got the job it was with the condition that she had to wear a bra and her teeth whenever she was working.  

It was lunchtime when we stopped at the Tonsina River Lodge.  They serve Russian and American food.  We are always attracted by something different, so we had a Russian lunch.  I had some sort of boiled meat dumpling and William had some fried meat pies.  They were very good and we saved 1/2 for dinner.

On the way up to the pass we stop at the informational turnout at the Worthington Glacier.  This place has barely had the road plowed out and is not really open.  It is raining and only a bit of the toe of the glacier is visible.
The bathrooms are not open yet

The hat keeps off the rain

pretty rain shoes

What we can see of the glacier  is behind William.

A hole in the snow at the edge of the road reflects glacial blue.
The pass wasn't too bad, with rain rather than snow. We are parked for the week next to the harbor in Valdez.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

McCarthy and Kennicott

We wake up at 5:45. In an hour Bob is here to take us to the footbridge in McCarthy.  We decided to not shake the Pleasure Way to pieces on the bad road.  Better someone else's jeep.

William and Bob looking at the former RR trestle that the McCarthy road goes over. The whole road is a RR grade. The rails were just pulled off and dirt put over the ties.

Me at the footbridge after a 3 hour ride. The facilities are in the background.

It is a beautiful day for this trip.

We are met on the other side of the footbridge by Jarrod and driven to Kennicott. In Kennicot Jarrod walks us around a bit then leaves us to tour the town while he finds someone to take us on the promised mine tour. We see a RR turn around, some old houses and some being fixed up and some old vehicles.  Nothing is really opening until the weekend. Other than a special group of Aussies, we are the first regular tourists.
The park is renovating some of the buildings.

We will tour the huge 14 story mine building in back of me.

The park rebuilt this bridge.

The bridge washed out in 2006.
We are taken on up to the mine and given a bit of time to explore on our own prior to the tour.  Even the Park office won't open until Friday.
There is still a lot of water here.

We head up a steep trail next to the side of the mine building. Here we are at the top.  The hard hats and the skills of our guide Lucas will keep us safe as we enter this old building.

It's a long way down.

We climb down through the mine building on many steep flights of stairs while Lucas tells us all about the concentration procedures. 
Thankfully the Golden Bar in McCarthy is open so we can have dinner at 5:30 prior to our 3 hour trip back with Bob.
William on the footbridge, ready to ride back to our little home.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Copper Center

From the Gakona Alaska RV Park we head to Glenallen to stock up on food and gas. The Wrangell-Saint Elias Visitor Center is just down the road.  We spend hours here as there is the main visitor center, an exhibit hall, theater and Cultural Center.
Out in front of the cultural center there was a fish trap that the local native people use for catching their allotment of salmon from the Copper River.

We also walked briskly along the nature trail through the boreal forest which was complete with authentic swarms of mosquitoes. The mosquito population is light as it is early in the season.
Looking into the National Park
William in the boreal forest on the trail
One leg of the trail was on part of the old Fairbanks to Valdez trail.  We could have just walked to Valdez. The boreal forest often looks much worse on the roadside. The trees are often growing in shallow soil on permafrost. The freeze and thaw causes them to grow poorly and often lean drunkenly.  The path here is quite dry. In the permafrost areas it would be boggy.
A tragedy in Copper Center

Last Saturday at about 2AM the Copper Center Roadhouse caught fire and burnt.  You could still smell it.  This was one of the original roadhouses along the Richardson Highway and was still in operation as a lodge and restaurant.  Just as things in the area were gearing up for Memorial Day weekend and the start of fishing season June first.  There are salmon in the river now.

A lot of the venues stay closed until the start of fishing season. So we are here at a place called Kenny Lake RV and Mercantile.  It is open because it is a combination store and gas station.  We have signed up for a drive and tour into the old Kennicott mine along the McCarthy Road.  The road is gravel in poor condition and we do not wish to rattle the old Pleasure Way to death.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Tok Cutoff

May 21
Instead of taking the road on from Tok to Fairbanks, where there is now 24 hours of light, we head off into the wilderness. The road is called the Tok Cutoff to Valdez.

The morning started poorly with the RV park hot water not working in the showers and my laptop being balky. But eventually the water heater came on and the laptop issues resolved.

The road is fairly bad with miles under construction. Alaska has a ready made road sign that indicates when you are going from paved to gravel. The only pieces of road equipment we saw were a lone road grader smoothing some gravel and a water truck.

More lovely boreal forest. The trees have a malevolent look. They remind me of the trees when Snow White is first lost in the woods.

But we see some magnificent mountains, part of the Wrangell Saint Elias NP. Mt Drum has its head in the clouds, but Mt Sanford is exposed. William stopped on the bridge over the Chistochina River. Put on his hazard lights and took pictures. No one came by. Not a lot of traffic here.

We stopped at the Hart D Ranch, Slana, AK to visit an art gallery. One woman who looks close to our age is now running an RV Park, lodge rooms, nearby park campground and the town post office by herself now. Her mom, who used to run the post office, and her husband are dead now so she is hanging on by herself. Though she has a for sale sign on the front. We bought a tapestry bag that I can make into a pillow cover. The pillows she had in the same design came already stuffed and we have room for only small souvenirs. Her bronze statuary is lovely, but too pricey for us. She took us into her rooms to run the Visa card. She has a huge beautiful macaw named Yukon in the living room. He said bye, bye to us when we left.

We made a blistering 121 miles today and are spending the night at the Gakona Alaska RV Park by the Copper River.

 The river looks very silty from the winter run-off. But I guess the fish don't mind as there apparently are a lot. Fishing season won't start until June 1, but the directions for fishermen say that because of bears you must clean your fish at the river and throw the guts in the river. It will get down to freezing tonight. That is fine with us. The breeze and the cold keep the mosquitoes at bay.

From Haines Junction to Tok

May 19
At Haines Junction we have connected with the Alaska Highway and continue north. We must be part of the early run of tourists because we continue to find that venues are either just open or not open yet.
The Kluane NP Visitor Center in Haines Junction had only been open a couple days. Further along we stop at the Sheep Mountain Visitor Center and it also had only been open 2 days. The rangers said they counted 60 Dall Sheep on the mountain this morning. The tiny white spots on the mountain are sheep. I tried taking some shots as close as I could get my camera to focus and on the big lap top screen you can tell they are white animals.
William at Sheep Mountain. A few sheep are the white specks.

Closeup of the sheep

cropped picture of sheep


It is cold and windy here. The wind blows off of the glacier that is just around the bend in this flat glaciated valley at the bottom of Kluane Lake. Sometimes the wind blows up the glacial dust, loess, enveloping the whole place in a dust storm.
Last night we landed in Burwash Landing on Kluane Lake, Yukon, Canada. After looking at the menu at the Lodge restaurant we decide to try breakfast in the morning.
We hook up right next to the lake. I think the lake comes closer when the snow finishes melting.

Frozen Kluane Lake

After dinner we try the walking tour around Burwash Landing.
 Picture  of me and the Josephine 
William out on an old pier

Much of this town seems to now be First Nation. 
The Catholic Church probably has mass about as often as the church in Sawyers Bar, once a month.
 The Our Lady of Kluane shrine.

The museum was open, just.
 A picture of me with a stuffed Dall Sheep.

We also climb a bank to find the first spring flowers, crocus, have sprung open here.


We walked on a sort of path along the top of the bank. This was fine until the coming down part. As usual my foot slipped. Luckily I did not land in the mud.

May 20
We started out the morning with a hearty breakfast. William had the Burwash Landing Special. Two large pancakes, two eggs and two pieces of bacon. I had an egg sandwich. One egg, one piece of bacon in two pieces of toast.

The Alaska Highway is rough in spots here in the Yukon. Little red flags mark the spots they are thinking about repairing. Bump signs mark the spots they have given up on. A bit of the road was washboard gravel.

We stop at most everyplace with interpretive sign boards.
 This was Pick Handle Lake about 63 miles from Burwash Landing.

The road gets much better after we leave Canada and get back into Alaska.
We are spending the night at the Sourdough Campground in Tok, Alaska. Before we came over here we stopped at a couple of shops in town. One was the Burnt Paw which advertized itself as having sled dog outfitting gear and husky puppies. No puppies. The owner had just sold the last one. She said it was getting hard to keep puppies around as prices were high for feed and the breeders did not breed as many. I asked what she was selling the pups for and she said $300. I suggested she ought to double the price. Make it really hurt for those tourists who would buy those cold weather pups and take them to Florida.
The Sourdough Campground does not have all their popular entertainments up and running yet. No pancake throw. No buffet pancake breakfast with entertainment. But the mosquitoes are up and running. William says they are twice the size of those at home. Personally I try to avoid mosquitoes everywhere. The wifi is strong only right next to the office. So I will try to upload this in the AM if the Mosquitoes have settled down.