Our fifth wheel and the truck

Monday, August 13, 2012

Valdez, Whales, Glaciers and So Much More!!!!!

OOPS!!!!! We have been so busy I have fallen behind with my posts so I will have to try to catch up really quickly otherwise I will forget everything we have done. I am sure some of you already know about ‘Old Timers”.

I left the last post in Glenallen heading for Valdez. We set out early in the morning with a stop at Wrangell St Elias National Park. In a word - WOW!!! This National Park is six times the size of Yellowstone and is a virtually inaccessible wilderness. We watched a film about the park and were absolutely dumbfounded! It is absolutely spectacular and almost untouched with almost no camping and one dirt road in and out of the park. Many areas of the park are untouched and you cannot get to them except to fly over. While I would have loved to have gone into the park I can understand the need to maintain the limited numbers who do go in - it is absolutely spectacular!!

As we drew closer to Valdez we found ourselves in the most beautiful country - glaciers, waterfalls and yep, many snow capped mountains. Worthington Glacier was really worth a stop - just gorgeous! The last part of our drive was down from the mountains to the town of Valdez which is on the coast and the end of the Alaska Pipeline. This part of the journey was shrouded in fog and was quite eerie.

Rain - I am so over it!!! This is supposed to be summer!!!

While in Valdez we went to watch the salmon run at one of the creeks where we had been assured that we would see a mama bear and her cubs catching the salmon. Well guess what? No bears - they appeared later in the day - after we had left!! Just our luck!! We did see lots of bald eagles and salmon though!!!

We also took a cruise up to the Meares Glacier and were rewarded with the chance to see the glacier calving. The noise from the calving is unreal. It is a bit like thunder and as the captain of the ship told us if you hear the sound then you have missed the calving. I was lucky enough to see the calving actually happening. We were actually able to get within about ¼ mile of the face of the glacier. Needless to say I have lots of photos!!! We were also fortunate enough to see porpoises, sea otters, lots of harbour seals, stellar sea lions and humpback whales as well as beautiful waterfalls and stunning icebergs. We were very lucky that although the day was cold we did get some sunshine on the way back. Apparently it is better to see glaciers in overcast weather as when the sun is out the blue of the glacier is less visible. So I guess we are thankful for at least some overcast weather.

Driving from Valdez to our next destination.
Paula - What is that running on the side of the road? A dog?
Norm - Looks like it.
Paula - Poor thing it must have lost its owner. Don’t hit it. (as it ran across the road between Jim and Jan’s rv and us and ran past us)

When we stopped for fuel
Jim - Did you see that wolf running down the road and then crossing between the rv’s??
Paula - I thought that was a dog! (Duh and I didn’t even lift the camera!!!)

Later in the day we pulled into a state park and found some sites designated for ‘big rigs’. Well Steve and Nancy and Norm and I managed to get into the only two pull throughs that were available but Jim nearly got stuck in one spot so decided to move to a ‘pull along’. There was one other vehicle in the area - camping in a tent but shortly after we arrived they pulled up stakes and left. Was it something we said????? Anyway no one else pulled in so we had the entire place to ourselves and Jim and Steve found some (lots) of firewood which was cut up and neatly stacked so we had the most amazing campfire that night. The highlight of the evening would have to have been Steve’s final s’mores’. It was so big he had trouble le getting his mouth around it and he had marshmallow everywhere. And of course I didn’t have my camera out - AGAIN!!!

Our next stop was Cottonwood RV Park which was just the most gorgeous place. Right on Kluane Lake. All the others went on a long hike up into the mountains but of course the photography teacher wouldn’t take the camera so - no photos of that either. I didn’t go as my knee was just a tad tender. But while they were away I took a walk around the lake which was just glorious. Later in the day two very hardy souls decided to go for a swim in the lake! The lake is fed by glaciers!!!! Some people should have their heads read!!! Another campfire that night - I have really got used to these campfires - a wonderful way to end some glorious days.

An overnight stop in Whitehorse again - shopping and laundry then off again towards Skagway. The drive down was wonderful with a mama grizzly crossing the road between our rv’s. Baby grizzly _probably a two year old - on one side of the road with mama calling it. We were behind Jim so we were able to pull up in time to get some great photos of both mama in the shrubs and baby crossing the road in front of us. It doesn’t matter how often we see these animals, or how many photos we take, we are always eager to see more and take more photos.

As we got closer to the Canadian/US border Norm and I were able to recognize features that we had seen when we came up this way on our cruise in 2010. It was exciting to be able to pinpoint the spot where we had a photo taken of the two of us that I use as my computer background.

Skagway is a real tourist town and exists for the cruise ships that come in daily through the summer. One day we were there, there were four in port and people everywhere. Every second shop is a jewellery store and the one in between sells t-shirts and jackets and all the knick knacks found in tourist shops! We were only overnighting in the campground as the next day we were putting the rv’s into storage for nine days while we took the ferry down to Juneau then Sitka and Petersburg.

The next afternoon we left Skagway and arrived in Juneau in time to hit the hay ready for a busy day the next day. We got an early start and took the bus into Juneau and took a ride on the Mount Roberts tram to the top of the mountain. We took a hike and took in wonderful view from the top of the mountain, across the inlet to Douglas Island and down to the cruise ships tied up along the dock. There was also a bald eagle that was being rehabilitated and would be going back to the Alaska Raptor Refuge in Sitka. She had lost the use of an eye and would not survive in the wild.

A walk through town - lots of shops for the tourists - and then we made our way to the Capitol Building. We took an interesting tour through the building and learned quite a bit about the government of Alaska - funny that I am sure most people (other than Americans) would not know where Juneau was let alone that it is the capital of Alaska.

After all this we went back to the motel and had dinner and crashed. The next day we were planning on joining Steve and Nancy for a hike to Mendenhall Glacier however the weather was pretty horrible - very overcast and very light drizzle - yuck!! Anyway, Steve and Nancy cried off but the rest of us caught the bus out to the Mendenhall Loop Road and set off to walk the 1½ mile to the glacier. I will be really interested to compare the photos I have of Mendenhall when we were there in 2010 and the ones I took this time. Apparently the glacier is retreating about 500ft per year.

While we were there in 2010 we didn’t get an opportunity to walk around to the waterfall next to the glacier so the four of us set off to walk the 1½ mile round trip to the waterfall. Of course the cruise ships were still in town so the place was full of tourists coming and going all day.

After the waterfall we had to find a place to sit and have our lunch as no one is allowed to eat outside because of the bears. Anyway one of the rangers told us we could eat inside the visitor centre as long as we were discreet. Wolfed down lunch and Jim and Jan headed off for a 3½ mile hike while Norm and I would take a shorter, less strenuous one as his hip was bothering him a bit.

Norm and I head off and went past the place where we were meeting up with the others. A tour guide with a group of tourists came towards us and told us that a mama bear with her baby were down by the river catching fish. Woo hoo up close and personal with a black bear!!! Norm and I started walking down towards the bridge and we noticed lots of movement in the bushes just below us. I crept forward and the next thing this big, black bear lifted her head and just looked at me. I backed up to where Norm was and we stood and watched her for a few minutes before she made her way back to the river. There was plenty of evidence around us of her previous catches and although we looked carefully we couldn’t find the baby that she had left in a tree.

That night we met up with Steve and Nancy and went out to dinner at the Thane Ore House which was an ’interesting’ place. Very rustic but the food was plentiful and tasted great. The only d5rawback to the evening was being left standing at the Coast Guard building for over an hour. The motel we were staying in, had agreed to send their shuttle to pick us up when we called to say we were there. Well the shuttle passed us and went into town, then went back to the motel. So an hour and a half and three phone calls later we arrived back at the motel. We were all so cranky that we didn’t say a word to the staff figuring it was best done when we weren’t quite so upset.

The next day was a bit of a fizz as well with horrible weather - rainy and foggy - for our whale watching cruise. We did see whales. although we didn’t get to see the orcas that we were hoping for but did get to see a humpback breach right in front of the boat. Way too quick for the camera but what an amazing sight. We also saw them fluking and just swimming and slapping their fins on the water. They are just so big!! We also saw a mum playing with a baby.

Back to our motel for the last night before heading to Sitka the next morning however an interesting night was had by Norm and I. Lying in bed, just falling asleep when we hear someone at our door. The door opens and we hear the safety chain spring up. The door closes, we hear a bloke muttering as the door opens again and the chain snaps up again. Norm gets out of bed and yells at him and then opens the door to see what is happening. The bloke is taking off down the passage in an awful hurry.

Considering that the door had to be opened with one of those key card things it was a bit scary that he was able to open our door so Norm got dressed and heading off down to the desk to tell the staff. “I find that hard to believe but I do believe you” Yeah right!!!! Needless to say we were glad to be leaving early the next morning.

I was hoping to catch up with this post but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen without me writing a book so I will end here and take up the story in the next post.

Take care of you and yours and we send our love and hugs to all our family and friends.


PS Good luck to our son Bryce as he starts his new academic year at Northern Kentucky University.

PPS I promise the photos are coming really soon.

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