Saturday, June 4, 2011

A REALLY Laid-back Day in Valdez

We got energetic enough to get our fresh water tank filled this morning. The campground host brought a water tank (with a heavily leaking hose – put almost as much water in the road as in our tank) in the back of his pickup truck along with the man who runs the fishing boat tours. Together with Don, they BS’ed for awhile, and finally Don got tired of the ‘talk’ and said the tank was full enough.

Then we took care of another necessity of life – laundry – a good facility ($2 wash $2 dry) inside the Tesoro fuel station. Ran into Mary and Gary who came back to do their laundry later, then Carol and Dennis in the hamburger joint next door to have lunch. If you want to see the size of my burger, look at the pic Dennis took and posted on his blog. In fact, even if you don’t want to see that, go there to see some excellent pics he took with his ‘whale’ lens of the eagles in our campground. What a photographer! (And, by the way, I couldn’t finish the burger. As for the ice worms, you had to be there!)

Also, be sure to read Larry and Marilyn’s blog as they did some different things today.

After putting away clean clothes, making the bed, etc. we took a ride up to the Valdez Glacier, a short drive from our campsite. The day was still overcast and drizzly, but at least we got a few glimpses.




Tonight we watched “Unstoppable” a 2010 movie about a runaway train, starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine. Good flick. If you haven’t seen it, look for it as a rental or cheap purchase.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Laid-back Day in Valdez

Today it rained on and off, so it gave us a chance to sleep in a little and leisurely get ready to explore Valdez. We visited the Valdez Museum, in two locations with the second one focusing on the original site of the town.

Outside the main museum is this scraper pig.


Scraper pigs are used to remove wax deposits inside the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Wax is a natural component of crude oil, and it collects on the walls of the pipe, reducing the oil flow.


The pig travels along with the oil at about 6 mph, and is removed at a pump station. There are also “smart pigs” that not only remove wax from the pipes but also collect information about the inside of the pipes, such as deformities and corrosion.

Here are a few items displayed inside the museum: 1907 Ahrens steam fire engine.


1866 Gleason & Bailey handpumped fire engine.


Washing machines.



This bar was manufactured in Chicago in the late 1880s and brought to the Pacific Coast around the tip of South America and used in the Seattle area before being brought to Valdez. There were two sections, making the bar 40 feet long.


Rock-Ola Jukebox, 1936, which played 78 RPM records from the late 1920s.


Diamond Willow, a collector’s item because of its size and the number of diamonds, found near Fairbanks.


The other location of the museum is near the ferry dock, and is called “Remembering Old Valdez Exhibit.” Old Valdez was located 4 miles away from the current site, closer to the route north toward the Klondike where hopeful stampeders traversed, hoping to find gold. An excellent 30-minute movie tells the story of how the 1964 Alaska earthquake and resulting tsunami killed 32 people in Valdez and literally destroyed the town. A scale model of the original town was carefully created by a local woman and is on display here, in a series of glass cases. I wasn’t able to get any good pictures due to reflections on the glass. Survivors realized that the ground beneath the town would always be subject to liquefaction whenever earthquakes occurred, and decided to reconstruct the town in a better location, on bedrock.

One display in this museum was a little troublesome.


When I was a teenager, I had a dress very similar to this one, and I graduated from high school in 1964. This letterman’s jacket is from 1965, and isn’t that different from the one my boyfriend let me wear. That wasn’t that long ago, at least in my mind! I can’t possibly be old enough to have worn clothes like the ones displayed in a museum!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Columbia Glacier and Wildlife Cruise

It was a wonderful day for a cruise, despite the morning fog and chilly temps. As the day progressed and we found sunshine further out in the water, our group agreed we had made the right decision to go on this trip today!

I took 199 shots, but will spare you most of them. Here are a chosen few.

Waiting to board.



Some of our group decided to sit outside.



We chose a table inside with Jim and Pat.


Sea otters playing with each other. We saw a hundred or more during the day. The brochure said, “Known as the ‘Old man of the sea,’ sea otters are the largest members of the weasel family in North America, males weighing up to 100 pounds.”


Oil tanker in port receiving oil from the pipeline.


Sea lions on a buoy.


Tiny islands.


Big islands. Notice the dark line on the rocks above the water. Below it is an algae like seaweed; the dark line marks high tide. Tides in Prince William Sound average 12 feet, but they can go to 17-20 feet.


Humpback whale. We saw four during the day, but my camera and I never quite got together for a good shot. The brochure said, “These whales are baleen feeders, consuming nearly a ton of food a day, mostly plankton and krill. They migrate 6000 miles to reach their summer feeding grounds in Alaska. Humpbacks average 45 feet and weigh 35-40 tons.”


Columbia Glacier.


As we got closer, the floating ice “calves” became larger and more numerous.





Notice the striking blue color in some of the ice calves. The brochure said “Glacier ice is blue because the physical properties of the water molecule absorbs all of the colors in the spectrum except the blue, which is transmitted.” The dark colors indicate dirt and rocks scraped off the mountains by the glacier ice and carried down to the water.


One of the crew members brought a piece of ice on board so we could see how clear and pure it is. Later we had chips from it in our lemonade.


Our captain Randy got as close to the glacier as he thought safe. Some days the ice calves have melted so the boat can get closer.


The brochure said, “The Columbia Glacier was the last of Alaska’s tidewater glaciers to go into a retreat. The retreat began in 1978, and by 1983 it had moved off its terminal moraine, losing an increasing amount of ice. In 2002, it had retreated for a distance of 7.5 miles, leaving approximately 18 miles to go before reaching bedrock on shore. This retreat is truly ‘history in the making.’ ”

A bald eagle sits atop a piece of ice.


Steller Sea Lions. The brochure said, “Large males average 1,200 pounds, females up to 650 pounds. They eat during the night, sunning and resting on rocks during the day.”


Don’s watching something off the back of the boat.


Dennis is wondering if I’ll notice he stole my cap.


The tanker we saw earlier in port, Polar Enterprise, heading out to sea with two escorts. It's heading for Anacortes, Washington, a place we’ve visited and hope to return to someday.


Animals we saw but couldn’t get pics: Mammals – dall’s porpoise, mountain goat. Birds – cormorant, horned puffin, black-legged kittiwake, pigeon guillemot.

It was a very good day shared with our friends. We look forward to many more.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


We had a short drive today, about 75 miles. On the way, we saw a porcupine on the side of the road. There was no traffic, so we stopped, but it took a few minutes to get my camera ready so I only got a porcupine rear view! It was a very well-fed critter, as evidenced by the size of its belly!


There were lots of spectacular waterfalls, some partially frozen. I took this using my digital zoom, where it’s very hard to keep the camera still enough to focus.


I think I got lucky for it to come out as clear as it did. Here’s the un-zoomed view.


There were beautiful views everywhere we looked, even on a cloudy day.


We saw Worthington Glacier from the road.


The mountains were enshrouded in a cloud.


And one of the clouds descended on us. It was a little scary for a few miles, but we finally descended enough to get below it.


Then we saw more waterfalls.




We arrived at our destination in what might be called a ‘mist.’ Or maybe a ‘drizzle.’ Just enough moisture to make the car muddy and make us want to wear rain gear outside. On a clear day, I’m sure this would be a spectacular view.


We’re parked at Allison Point, which isn’t really a campground in the traditional sense, but rather a place to park with excellent views across the fiord to Valdez. There are no hookups, but vault toilets and drinking water from a tank that’s trucked in, are provided for a $12/night fee. And there was plenty of room for our “Last Frontier Gang” to park together, leaving a little space in between. During fishing season, this place would be packed tight.


Our neighbor at the end of the road is the Valdez Marine Terminal, covering 1,000 acres of land with restricted access. This is the southern end of the Alaska pipeline, where crude oil is stored and loaded onto tankers.


Don and I drove into town, about 7-8 miles around the other side of the fiord. We saw the Silver Shadow, a cruise ship so large I couldn’t get it in one picture. We saw it in the distance from our campsite across the water.



There was no evidence of passengers in town, and by the time we returned to our motor home, the ship was gone.

We ate lunch at the Mexican restaurant. It was time for me to have a fix! Not bad food for being this far north. Certainly better than what we ate in North Dakota last summer.


Tonight our group met for happy hour and dinner at the Fat Mermaid.


And we celebrated Jean Fradette’s 70th birthday. He may be the oldster in our group, but he’s probably the most physically fit!


He got lots of cards and a few cute gifts, including this shot glass, for prune juice of course!


He even got a hug from the waitress, at Claudette’s request! Happy Birthday, Jean, and here’s wishing you many more!


The final event of importance today is that my Kindle died. It simply wouldn’t turn on. I called Amazon customer support and they walked me through a hard reset (which I had already tried) without results. The Kindle is still under warranty, so Amazon is sending me a replacement, no charge for the new Kindle or shipping, and no charge for shipping the dead one back. The challenge was finding a place where I could receive a UPS shipment and figuring out the time it might arrive. Without going into details, we settled on the Fort Richardson Black Spruce Campground near Anchorage, where we plan to be in about 10 days. The normal one- or two-day shipping that Amazon uses doesn’t apply to shipments to Alaska or Hawaii, due to the distances involved. So I’m now reading every magazine I can get my hands on until I can get back to reading books on my Kindle! Thank goodness for Amazon’s superior customer support and excellent warranty coverage. It’s a very nice company to do business with. Taking care of this bit of ‘business’ took about 7 phone calls, and I’m glad to have it resolved.

Tomorrow we’re going out in the Prince William Sound. Hope to have some pics of whales and/or other creatures to share with you. Thanks for following our adventures!