Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Kenai to Valdez to Haines


Somewhere in the last day or so we blew past the 5,000 mile mark on our trip! Wow, that's the longest road trip any of us have been on. We're well into week six on the road now and still have only stayed in a hotel two nights. I never expected that we'd become this fond of Byron and his confined space, but it's become quite comfortable for all of us. The only really challenging nights have been those that are especially buggy outside, or with consistent rain. We have some gear that we normally put 'out' on arrival (such as camp chairs, etc...) that is a real pain to put away wet, so we figure a way to stack these inside, and that's when things get tight (as we now define the word).

Over the past few days we've had a great time traveling from Whittier, AK (after leaving the Kenai) to Valdez via ferry, to Tok, AK (where we rejoined the Alaska Highway), back into Canada for the trip south to Haines, AK in preparation for our next ferry ride through the Inside Passage.

In Whittier, while waiting for our ferry departure time, we got to tour around the town. As many places in Alaska, the town has a significant military history as it was an ice-free port where the military brought in fuel that eventually ended up in Fairbanks via train/tanker. We traveled through a ~2.5 mile long single-lane tunnel that also has train tracks. Until not too long ago, cars were loaded onto the train and ferried through the tunnel rather than driving. My previous post showed a pic of the tunnel entrance. Below is a very rough photo from inside the tunnel.

Train tracks visible in the middle of the road in the tunnel.

Once in Whittier, we explored the dock area and town a bit. We saw an obviously abandoned building and found out it was a former army building, The Buckner Building, that was an all-in-on facility with housing, mess hall, entertainment, training etc...

The Buckner building in Whittier

Each day, we try to note the oddest thing we've seen that day. In Whittier, it had to be this guy walking a Caribou on a leash.

Taking the caribou for a walk!

Our purpose for traveling to Whittier was to board the ferry to Valdez. We traveled on the MV Aurora, which helped lay booms and with the extensive cleanup effort from the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster. I believe that this trip was the first time that I've purchased Exxon gasoline since then (my own little protest of how they handled it), and only because it was the only choice when we needed fuel.

The MV Aurora. 36 vehicles fit in this thing! (including Byron on this day)
The ferry trip was as much to avoid some driving as it was to travel across Prince William Sound for the scenery. During the crossing we saw tons of glaciers, 'icebergs', whales, eagles, etc...

Glaciers, glaciers everywhere!

This guy popped up close enough to say hi!

The Columbia glacier moves at ~80 feet per day, and calves about TWO CUBIC MILES of ice in the sound per year!
We arrived in Valdez on 04-Jul in time for their evening festivities and fireworks. Unfortunately, they choose to shoot them off at 10pm, which is just not dark enough this far north. Still really loud though!

Wildlife sightings included bear, otters, sea lions, and more bald eagles than you could count!

Two juvenile bald eagles 

Bear taking some easy salmon at the hatchery weir

At this point, we decided to leave the area

Yep, they really are all over up here!
Waterfalls galore in & around Valdez, and on the drive out to Tok, AK! The Thompson Canyon regularly is closed in the winter due to snow slides...up to 150 feet deep! We saw some of the remnants still remaining from this year's.

We've seen lots of glaciers on this trip, and hiked to many as well. Here's yet another from around Valdez.

Finally, we traveled from Valdez to just across the Canadian border and camped at Porcupine Creek. It was rainy all night there,and we pretty much pulled in, ate, slept, and left. From there, we went to Haines Junction and stayed at a private cabin / campground property where we met some folks from Greeley, CO visiting their relatives who run the place. Meghan made friends with Caitlyn and Willow made friends with Jazz. Caitlyn even came with us on a hike to Rock Glacier in the Kluane NP. I wish we had a clear day here because we might just have popped for a flight tour of this park to see the enormous ice fields, glaciers, and Mt Logan, the highest in Canada.

The Haines Junction town monument. We said it's a giant cupcake with animals!

Meghan and Caitlyn on Rock Glacier.

Rock Glacier

Lake Dezadeash view from Rock Glacier

We are now in Haines, AK with a ferry reservation for Friday to travel to Juneau, and on eventually to Prince Rupert, BC.  More to come!

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