We left bright and early on Friday morning to get to Valdez. Along Alaska Highway 1 we saw our first Dahl Sheep specimens and caught another glimpse of Denali from about 5 miles outside of Anchorage. We traveled through Palmer, home of the Alaska State Fair—makes sense since it is a big agricultural area. And we saw some really cool glaciers and waterfalls along Glenn and Richardson Highways.
We arrived at Bear Paw Campground for check-in. We were thrilled that we reserved at the “adult” park known as Bear Paw II, which was about a block away. It was smaller, much more private, quieter, and right on the waterfront. It was quite nice, but it ought to be for $50 a night. That’s a lot of cheese!
On Saturday, we walked to the Visitor Center, got our hiking info, and walked to the trailhead of Homestead Trail. This wide, flat, heavily vegetated trail lead us to an inlet on Prince William Sound, where we marveled at the panoramic views, the many eagles that inhabited the area, and the delicious berries we got to pick and eat. By the time we arrived back at the campground for lunch, we clocked 5 miles.
Two eagles courting
After nourishing ourselves, we hoofed it back through town. Along the way we noticed Valdez is infested with rodents! No, I’m not talking about the likes of Popo the Rambling RV Rat or my cousins Ben or Willard. I’m talking about rampant rabbits! They are everywhere: in the campground, along the docks, outside the hotels and homes. And they come in every shade: white, black, brown, even multi-colored. One night we counted 50 rabbits within just a mile. Not sure how, why, when, where or by whom things got started, but I’d say the situation has reached epidemic proportions. They should recruit Elmer Fudd to catch these silly rabbits. Strangely, no one complains about these rodents, as I’m sure they would do if my rodent family hit the streets—talk about discrimination! But even I must admit they are quite lovable with their soft, cuddly fur and cute twitching noses.
We visited the Valdez Museum, which imparted lots of local history. Valdez, officially incorporated in 1901, is the most northern ice-free deep water port in the U.S. It was billed by the steamship companies as “The All American Route” to the gold fields. It is the terminus of the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, an 800-mile line built between 1974 and 1977 that channels crude oil from the platforms of Prudhoe Bay. Valdez was the staging area for clean-up from the devastating Exxon Valdez oil spill within Prince William Sound in 1989. The horrific Good Friday 1964 earthquake, the largest recorded earthquake in North American history, wiped out the entire town of Valdez. A prominent local resident, Owen Meals, did a land swap with the State of Alaska, providing the site on which the new town was built. Several structures from the old town were actually moved to the new site, like the Fraternal Order of Eagles building and the present day Masonic Hall, which previously housed the Chugach Baptist Association Auditorium on Hobart Street in Old Valdez. Buildings that were structurally unsound were burned to the ground, and the site of Old Valdez is now mostly wilderness.
Valdez tourism slogan from gold rush days
Poignant 3-D sculpture depicting the devastation of the 1964 earthquake and the rebirth of Valdez
Fraternal Order of Eagles building relocated from old town site to New Valdez location on Hazelet Street
Masons bought the Chugach Baptist Association Auditorium after the earthquake and relocated the building to Hazelet Steet in New Valdez
On Sunday we utilized another B-O-G-O coupon from our Tour Saver book and embarked on the Stan Stephens Glacier and Wildlife Cruise along Prince William Sound. What an awesome trip! Beautiful weather, spectacular views of Columbia Glacier, and lots of animal sightings: sea lions, harbor seals, humpback whales, porpoises, tufted puffins, cormorants, and my personal favorites, sea otters. The Chugach Mountains that surround the Sound are some of the tallest coastal mountains in the world.
Prince William Sound has lots of coastline; in fact it has more than the states of Oregon, Washington, and California combined.
Human profile on rock formation
Bachelor sea lions hanging out at the man cave
Sea lions and Cormorants
Pretty poopy sea otters
We ended our day's activities with a nighttime stroll along Dock Point Trail.
With the days getting shorter, the evening skies are getting dark once again, resulting in some pretty photos.
Now it’s time to say goodnight. Will speak to you again in a few days from Copper Center.