Wednesday, August 5, 2015


Left Palmer and headed to Valdez--a really beautiful drive!  Just constantly amazed by the spectacular scenery we see every day.  Sometimes as we're driving along it reminds us of other places we've been, with the mountains appearing similar to what we've seen in Colorado or Switzerland.  Then, all of a sudden the uniqueness of this place hits, when you round a curve and look up and see glaciers all around!  Throughout Alaska there are so many glaciers--some huge and some fairly small, but glaciers nonetheless.  And as you look up into the mountains or into the streams and rivers, you can see both the effects of millions of years of glacier activity and the still ongoing changes being wrought by them.  All in all, just fantastic!

Another braided river, where the silt from the glacier crush forms these little island like mounds and the water is "braided" around them.
Some lush green mountains
And some brilliant fireweed--just some of the most beautiful flowers we've seen, and it's so ever present throughout Alaska

Early morning sun just painted a beautiful landscape here!

And suddenly we see some beige rock formations, reminiscent of the southwest mountains

Love to see the different cloud formations, especially, as here, when they are below the mountain peaks

And wham!  Here comes a glacier!
Looking down on a glacier fed stream, heavy with the glacier crush, making it gray

There were some mighty steep and sharp curves on this drive

And then you're hit with this unbelievably beautiful scene when you come around the curve!!

Fascinating mix of colors here, something we've not seen too much of

And all these beautiful wildflowers among the fireweed
Stopped at the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park visitor center--learned that this 13.2 million acre national park is the largest park in the system.  In fact, you could fit all of Switzerland, Yosemite and Yellowstone within its borders!  Watched a super video of all the wild and rugged parts of this park, explaining the history of its coming into being, culminating in its establishment as a national park when President Carter signed the enabling legislation.  Below is a fish trap like those built by native people in the area years ago.  The video showed some spectacular arial shots of the huge mountains covered in snow, and some folks roped together, climbing some of the mountains on cross country snow skis--pretty amazing.

Passing the TransAlaska pipeline, bringing the oil from Prudhoe Bay down to the Port of Valdez to be loaded onto tankers to ship to west coast ports in the lower 48

Some glaciers appear much smaller than others, and indeed some are, though when you realize how far away they are, you know they are still pretty big if you were to get right up to them

Some sort of taper down into gradual slopes to the ground as they melt, and then there are those, like in these shots below, where there is still a pretty massive vertical wall of ice on the leading edge of the glacier

And you can see lots of places where there are runoffs, like small waterfalls, carrying the ice melt down the mountain

Pretty impressive to see bicyclists like these three, with their panniers loaded, making it up and down these steep mountains!
Just everywhere you turn you're surrounded by incredible scenery!!  Being in the vastness of this place really humbles you, makes you realize how small you really are!
By the way, just so you know, Trisha is the one taking all these incredible photos as we're driving  down the road--and it's no easy task, as so often just as she gets the camera into focus for a perfect shot, a tree or truck or something blocks the shot.  So these beautiful shots reflect a lot of effort and concentration on her part, but all worth it!!

Keystone Canyon
Bridal Veil Falls near Valdez

Horsetail Falls

Looking down into the harbor at Valdez.  The first evening we were here we suddenly heard two big explosions and, of course, first thought there may be another earthquake going on!  Then we saw smoke rising from the edge of the harbor so we thought maybe a boat had exploded.  We later learned, though, that it was construction blasting going on, as they are enlarging the harbor on the other side of the road that goes around the present one.

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