After a nice days reprieve in Anchorage, we were off to Valdez via Glennallen. The road from Glennallen south to Valdez follows the Alaska pipeline which brings all of the oil extracted from the north slopes of Alaska (the ANWR region) down to the port of Valdez where the infamous Exxon oil spill in ’89 occurred. Of course that is now dwarfed by the recent gulf spill but anyways…
It started off rainy and just down right miserable. We were upset that we probably wouldn’t see anything, but about an hour into the drive, the clouds lifted just enough that we could see many of the mountain peaks and distant glaciers. We stopped for some photos of the Matanuska Glacier, which is a rare valley glacier just kind of hanging out in southern Alaska not really doing much. It is kind of disconnected from the climate changes that are causing most of the other Alaska glaciers to retreat at an alarming rate due to global warming. This one hasn’t moved much over the last 1,000 or 2 years.
Reaching Glennallen before lunch, you come to a T intersection. The road sign there gives you options to go left or right and points out the 3 main points of interest (aka the next closest location of civilization). If you go right, you head to Valdez (which we did). Left takes you to Fairbanks (which we took on my first visit to Alaska back in March), as well as Canada! (see the picture). Despite being at least 500 miles away, there isn’t much between Glennallen and Canada in the way of civilization!
The drive south on the Richardson Highway to Valdez was quite scenic (minus the Thompson Pass which had visibility around maybe 100 ft). There were copious amounts of waterfalls down the steep rock faces, and several glaciers including the two tongued Worthington glacier (photo). We found out fairly early in the day that the weather was also crummy in the Valdez area, so our flight up to the lake was not going to happen. This meant we needed a place to stay, which we found just outside of the town of Valdez. Before arriving, we passed a group of cars parked on the side of the road with a ton of people out with their cameras. There was a black bear in the creek! The salmon were spawning, and dying (pink salmon go back to the river to spawn, and die within a day or two of it, so the creek gets pretty well filled with dying and dead fish). The birds have a field day, and apparently the bears do too. Better they eat the fish than me! Anyways, we got several shots and videos of the bear splashing into the water, grabbing a flopping salmon, then scurrying back into the woods to eat his catch. He did this several times, and at one point was within 30 feet of me! He actually gave some of the closer photographers a dirty look at one point causing them to back off.
With our extra time we checked out a hydroelectric plant that dammed the sister lake to the one we were interested in. This one is accessible via a gated road which the nice person manning the plant was happy to lend us. The road was quite steep, it reminded me of climbing the Superman roller coaster at Six Flags New England and then going down that first steep drop, except we used our brakes. (I’m not even exaggerating, I’ll hopefully get a photo or video up of it).
After a night of camping, we woke Sunday morning to more rain, which meant no flight out. We went back and checked out the lake, put the boat in, and took some cores. They looked to be pretty much worthless to us, the dam really messed up the sediment we were interested in so we called it quits. The forecast sounds for better weather tomorrow, so we are praying for an early flight up to Allison Lake.
I'll try to add some pictures tonight before my flight back to Flagstaff.. as well as lots of other notes on our adventure (getting stuck at the lake for 2 days in the rain etc)