Bonkoski's Alaskan Trip Journal 2008 travel blog

The first site of Worthington Glacier, only 30 miles outside of Valdez,...

Getting a closer look at the Worthington Glacier

A small figure dressed in burgandy; would that be Jacob?

A waterfall along side of Worthington Glacier

Rob, along side of the lake near Worthington Glacier

The lake that was near the Worthington Glacier

Jacob at the glacier lake

Rob & Bob leaving the glacier area

The Chugach Mountains as we near Valdez, Alaska

The three guys ( from the Alfa) looking over a beautiful vista...

Entering into the Eagles Nest Campground as they're preparing for the Salmon...

Bob, coming into line of the Salmon Bake in Valdez

The long line for the Salmon Potluck at the Ealges Nest CG...

Happy Fourth of July! ONT SIZE=3>We awoke to yet another day of sunshine on our fine country’s Birthday (and also my mothers of 83 years), and headed to camps kitchen for a “all you can eat” breakfast of sourdough pancakes and reindeer sausage! 245 miles was the planned drive of the day. We were headed for Valdez, the Eagles Nest Campground and their generous Salmon Bake by 6:00 p.m.

Upon leaving Tok, we also left the Alcan behind us… for now! We headed southwesterly towards Anchorage, on the Glenn Highway; (named after some famous Alaskan pioneer), then planned to drop down to the Richardson Highway, also named after someone that pioneered the area in the late 1800’s. The Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve was to our left as we headed down the road. One of Alaska’s nine National Parks, Wrangell-St. Elias was the “daddy of them all”. Over 13 million acres, this park is home to nine of the United States sixteen highest peaks, and a premier collections of glaciers. It would take almost six Yellowstone Parks to equal the size of Wrangell- St. Elias. We did not include any adventurous plans of camping in the interior of this massive and rugged park, however we were able to be graced by the awesome sight of at least five of its’ nine snow-covered peaks during our drive. Past the town of Glennallen, the crossroads of the Glenn & Richardson Highway, we spotted our first glimpse of one of Alaska’s ten highest peaks. At 16,237 feet, Mount Sanford, a dormant volcano, glistened with its’ completely snow-covered peak against the blue sky. Following this breathtaking mountainous sight, we continued south as continuous smaller peaks came into view. Mt. Drum, (12,010 ft.) was another mass of beauty as it peered through the clouds that started to filter into the blue skies. More rugged peaks in

Wrangell as we continued, from a distance, for our viewing pleasures!

We had a deadline to make! 6:00 for the Salmon Bake. The pink salmon were running offshore in Valdez. We were looking forward to joining in the salmon bake “potluck” so we continued on. However, we did get slightly side-tracked by stopping to see the Worthington Glacier, about 30 miles from Valdez. Unlike the Mendenhall, in Juneau, this glacier was “touchable”. Fed from one of the many ice fields in the Chugach Mountains, Worthington Glacier was also retreating. Without the massiveness as Mendenhall, we were able to spot folks walking up to the side of it like they were just going for a stroll. Jacob had been yearning to walk upon one; instantly, he was out of our sight and trekking his way upward. Along with a few others, I could spot his tiny figure jumping over rocks, and inching his way to where he could no longer hike. The Milepost did caution sightseers not to venture onto the glacier without having the necessary equipment for being pulled out of one of the many crevasses, if you unfortunately fell in to one. I never had the chance to warn Jake of what I had just completed reading. So as he skirted the edge of the glacier, still on the rocks, I watched him through the only telescopic viewfinder that was offered by the park. After some time, he was in natural visible sight, and my anxiousness ceased!

It was now getting late, and we were still hoping to make the salmon bake. Like I had mentioned earlier, this road is not like traveling most other roads. With many sections of 30 m.p.h. or so for the frost heaves, construction and uphill grades, you cannot accurately determine a precise time of arrival. We continued south to Valdez on the one and only road that goes to Valdez. 82 beautiful miles of thick lush forest, scattered with lakes, waterfalls and streams full of various types of fish; Dolly Vardon, Grayling, Salmon, etc. Occasionally we would spot the Trans-Alaska Pipeline poking out of the forest and running the hillsides, crossing underneath the roadway and eventually finding a home at the end of its’ line, in Valdez; the northern most ice-free harbor in the United States. The pipeline originates 800 miles to the north, in Prudhoe Bay. As we neared another summit of approximately 2800 feet, we crossed over the Thompson Pass. This area received over 500 inches of snow this past winter and the road commission makes sure that the pass is open every day of the year. Being the only road in and out of Valdez, this pass is extremely important to the small fishing village of 4,000 people.

Keystone Canyon, about 20 miles from Valdez, was probably one of the prettiest 4 mile trek of Alaska that I’ve seen so far. The Lowe River carves its way thru this canyon that once was used by the gold and copper pioneers of Alaska’s’ history. Bridal Veil and Horsetail Falls erupt over the Chugach Mountains with glaciated waters that plummet over the rocks and fill the river of fury, below. Traveling through these walls of rock, and onward to Valdez, we didn’t stop for photos! We had a deadline! A Salmon Bake Potluck, deadline. 6:00 in the afternoon came quickly on the Fourth of July, and we were in the Eagles Nest Campground…on time for the Salmon Bake.

After our fill of salmon and potluck delicacies, we were tired from the two days of travel but knew we had to stay awake until 11:00 that night…for the Valdez fireworks! Bob, Rob and Jacob traveled to grab a seat near the Civic Center for the anticipated display of color to the somewhat dusk colored skies. I watched from the comforts of our leather sofa of the Alfa with a glass of brandy. Not the same effective display that our little town of Grayling offers when there is no darkness in the sky! Nevertheless, it was the Fourth of July and we were in our great country of America….we enjoyed the celebration!

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