Tok, Alaska

Day 729

     Since there are very few highways in the State of Alaska, we have to travel the same route over again. We want to go from Valdez, Alaska, to Chicken, Alaska. (Now, this is a really remote place. You have probably never heard of it). To do so, we have to backtrack on the Richardson Highway. We traveled 251 miles today back to Tox, Alaska (see Day 699), and will travel the rest of the way to Chicken tomorrow. Although it is only 77 more miles, it will take us over 2 hours because it is a winding road through the mountains, with sharp curves and switchbacks, some of which are not paved, and with lots of “frost heaves”. 

     There is no sewer, water, cell phone or internet in Chicken, Alaska. Other than the dirt road we will be coming in on (which goes up steep mountain passes, with no guard rails) there are no roads. So, I might be out of contact for a while. You won’t know if I am dead or alive. 

Technical Stuff:

Valdez, Alaska to Tox, Alaska: 251.1 miles

5 hours 4 minutes

10.6 MPG

Diesel: $3.45

Valdez, Alaska

Day 726

     In traveling from Glenallen to Valdez, we stopped to view a glacier

     and a waterfalls

     The port of Valdez was named in 1790 by the Spanish explorer Salvador Fidalgo after the Spanish naval officer Antonio Valdés y Fernández Bazán. A scam to lure prospectors off the Klondike Gold Rush trail led to the town being developed there in 1898.

     Some steamship companies promoted the Valdez Glacier Trail as a better route for miners to reach the Klondike gold fields than that from Skagway. The prospectors who believed the promotion found that they had been deceived. The glacier trail was twice as long and steep as reported, and many men died attempting the crossing. The deception was promoted because the steamship companies where returning to Valdez empty from delivering their fish from the port.

     Finding themselves stranded in Valdez, they settled there. However the town did not flourish until after the construction of the Richardson Highway in 1899, which connected Valdez and Fairbanks. With a new road and its ice-free port, Valdez became permanently established as the first overland supply route into the interior of Alaska. This was further enhanced when Valdez found itself the terminus of the Alaskan Pipeline.

     The Valdez fire department had a unique tribute to 9-11

     We went to Valdez Port to board a catamaran to take us to the Meares Glacier, which is on the Prince William Sound.

     Barbara was an able pilot

     On the way we saw eagles

     Waterfalls

     Sea lions

     Sea Otters

     Some of them brought their kids along

     Seals

     In fact, lots of seals

     Puffin

     Pigeon Guillemot

     You are probably impressed that I can name these birds. Actually, I have a book, Birds of North America, that helps me. 

     I am glad we are not the Titanic

    We saw whales, both humpback

     and orca

    The glacier is named for eighteenth century British naval captain John Meares.

     Meares Glacier is over a mile wide where it meets Prince William Sound.

     Tidbit of Information: There are over 100,000 glaciers in Alaska, only 800 have names. 

     Valdez is the terminus of the Alaska Pipeline

     Oil tankers come in and go out each day

     I am just a shadow of my former self

Technical Stuff:

Glenallen, Alaska to Valdez, Alaska: 117.3 miles

2 hours 48 minutes

10.1 MPG

Diesel: $3.30

Glennallen, Alaska

Day 724

     In 1899, the U.S. Army built a pack trail for summer use between the port of Valdez and Eagle, which passed through the Copper River Valley. In the early 1900’s, the trail was widened and became the Richardson Highway. We are camping just off that highway.

     Construction for the Glenn Highway began at a camp on the Richardson Highway in the Copper River Valley named Glennallen after two U.S. Army explorers of the late 19th century: Capt. Edwin Glenn and Lt. Henry T. Allen. The highway was completed in 1945. Glennallen developed as a small community around the site of the camp. It is now a commercial center for motor traffic along the Glenn and Richardson highways.

     We hiked a very small portion of the original Valdez Trail. It is now located in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Preserve. The preserve was established in 1980 and consists of a mere 13.2 million acres. The park is named after the Wrangell and St. Elias Mountain ranges.

     The Wrangell Mountains were named after Baron Ferdinand Petrovich von Wrangel, born 1796, who was a Russian Naval officer, arctic explorer, and government administrator. He was a governor of the Russian colonies in Alaska (1829-35), director of the Russian American company (1840-49), and Minister of the Navy (1855-57). He was highly critical of the sale of Alaska to the United States in 1867.

     Lt. Henry T. Allen, born April 13, 1859 in Sharpsburg, Kentucky, was a United States Army officer known for exploring the Copper River in Alaska. He was the one to actually name many of the Wrangell Mountains in his exploration of the Copper River Basin in 1885. He also named some of the peaks we saw today, such as Sanford, Drum, and Blackburn.

     Most of the Valdez Trail is through dense woods, but we did come upon this vista. Mt. Drum is 12,010 feet above sea level.

     Tidbit of Information: The difference between a National Park, and a National Preserve, is sport hunting is permitted in the Preserve.

     We decided we would not have enough time to hike the entire 13 million acres, so we decided to drive the above famed Richardson Highway, looking for the other 3 major mountains in the area. All within the The Wrangell Mountain Range. We saw Mt. Drum from a better view, although the clouds came in.

     Mt. Wrangell is 14,163 feet

     Mt. Blackburn at 16,390 feet

     And Mt. Sanford at 16,237 feet. It looks smaller than Drum because it is further away. It is also an active volcano.

     These pictures do not do justice to these views

Technical Stuff:

Palmer, Alaska to Glennallen, Alaska: 142.2 miles

3 hours 51 minutes

9.0 MPG

Diesel: $3.30

Independence Gold Mine, Willow Creek, Alaska

Day 723

     You have probably notice the snow capped mountains in my Alaska pictures over the last month. In visiting the Independence Gold Mine in Willow Creek, Alaska, we went up into those mountains. 

          Robert Lee Hatcher was born in 1867 in Montague County, Texas. In 1906 he discovered gold at this mountain top of Skyscraper Mountain, nearly 5,000 feet above sea level.

     This claim was sold numerous times until taken over by the Independence Gold Mine which was in operation from 1934 to 1950. At its peak, the Independence hard-rock gold mine was home to 206 workers and 16 families

     At this elevation, we were closer to the eagles.

     The mine closed for good in 1950, and laid abandoned for 30 years until the Independence Mine State Historical Park was established in 1980 and began restoring the area. While they managed to perserve the bunkhouse, mess hall, and some other buildings, the processing plant, railroad and mine working buildings have all deteriorated.

     We hiked up part of the mountain to get a view of one of it’s entrances.

      As we went up to the higher elevations we had to go through the not yet melted snow, even though it is now July.

     Going back down the mountain, the Little Susitna River made a nice view of the melting snow from the mountains.

Palmer, Alaska

Day 722

     Russians came to Alaska in 1741 and brought the Russian Orthodox religious tradition to the indigenous peoples of the region. In the early 1890s, an entrepreneur named George W. Palmer built a trading post on the Matanuska River, near present-day Palmer. The town was later named after Palmer.

     We did stop to see the salmon swim upstream. 

     Here they gather to wait their turn.

     You have to admit, this is cool.

Technical Stuff:

Seward, Alaska to Palmer, Alaska: 165.6 miles

3 hours and 22 minutes

10.0 MPG

Diesel: $3.77

Resurrection Bay, Alaska

Day 721

     To get a closer look at Resurrection Bay, at which Seward, Alaska is situated, we decided to kayak. 

     Resurrection Bay received its name from Alexander Baranov, who was forced to retreat into the bay during a bad storm in the Gulf of Alaska. When the storm settled it was Easter Sunday, so the bay was named in honor of it.

     This is our first time kayaking. Barbara is not sure how to use the oars.

     Now that she is tucked in, how do we get her into the water?

     I think she had the better view.

     Lunch time

     The Bay was very calm.

     Although it was overcast with some sprinkles, we had a great time.

     Tidbit of Information: Alaska is the only State you can spell using only one line of the keyboard. 

Seward, Alaska

Day 718

     The area of Seward, Alaska, was first explored by Russian trader and merchant, Alexander Andreyevich Baranov, born 1747 in St. Petersburg, Russia. He established a fur trade post on Resurrection Bay in 1793 where Seward is today. Seward is situated at the head of Resurrection Bay on the Kenai Peninsula.The founders and settlers of the town of Seward arrived in 1903 to build the railroad. They named the town in honor of William H. Seward, born May 16, 1801 in Florida, New York. He was the United States Secretary of State under Andrew Johnson when he negotiating the purchase of Alaska from Russia on March 30, 1867.

     Da-da, Da-da, Da-da

     Why are we in Seward, Alaska? Well Resurrection Bay flows into the Gulf of Alaska, where the whales hangout. 

     And, thar she blows:

     We saw whales,

     And whales

     And whales

     We also saw otters

    And harbor seals

     And puffin

     All kinds of birds

     I was going to delete this photo because I did not think my readers would recognize them as whales. But I was told that I had captured the rare photo of whales bubble netting. (In fact, I did delete mine, this is our leader’s photo of the same thing).

     We also saw three glaciers.

     I can tell you their names,       but do you really care?

     This glacier calved while we were there

     The crew picked up some of the glacier ice

     Which they then used to make margaritas

     Tidbit of Information: John Ben “Benny” Benson, Jr., a native Alutiiq, was born October 12, 1913 in Chignik, Territory of Alaska. In 1927, at age 13, he won a territory-wide American Legion contest to design a flag for Alaska, which is now the Alaskan State Flag.

     It looks like something a 13 year old would design.

     Goodbye:

Technical Stuff:

Homer, Alaska to Seward, Alaska: 160.0 miles

3 hours 49 minutes

9.8 MPG

Diesel: $3.64