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Old 07-02-2010, 01:47 AM   #127
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I forgot the photos—
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Old 07-02-2010, 01:54 AM   #128
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And two more:

#5 A bar in McCarthy. One of the upscale buildings catering to tourists.
#6 A deteriorating railroad trestle on the way to Kennicott. The original was 900' long and built in midwinter in 8 days; a flood destroyed it and it was rebuilt in 10 days.
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Old 07-02-2010, 07:40 AM   #129
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Thanks for the detailed tour Gene.

I'm getting the itch to follow your tracks. That first shot of the village with th mine works rising above the town is a great shot: like some sort of new world industrial parody of a medieval village.

Say Hi! to Barb & have a great time on your next leg.

-evan
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Old 07-02-2010, 11:04 PM   #130
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Friday. Yesterday we left Chitina and drove to Valdez. We have been in the Chugach Mountains for days We passed Worthington Glacier and crossed Thompson Pass, a place we tent camped in 2002. This was an especially hard place to cross with the pipeline because of the steep drop from 2,000+ feet to near sea level. The last miles into Valdez we and the Lowe River pass through Keystone Canyon with a number of impressive waterfalls, and then to the flats around Valdez.

We took a side trip to the south side of the estuary for lunch. On the way back to the highway, we saw a mother grizzly and her 3 cubs munching on grass and unconcerned with all the people watching. We were about 150’ away. Earlier we had seen a female moose with a baby moose cross the road, but they disappear into the forest so fast it’s hard to get a picture.

Then to the RV park to store our rig and walk to the ferry. They had told me it was 4 or 5 blocks, but it was more like twice that and my computer bag weighed about 500 lbs by then. Eventually the Chenega came, a new ferry and a catamaran. It cuts the time by more than half compared to the older ferries. Unfortunately, you cannot go outside except at the back, so taking pictures through sometimes dirty windows is difficult. Other ferries have fairly decent food, but not this one—mostly junk food. Among strange things was a bottle of water was $2.00 and a bottle of orange juice was $1.75.

It took 2 1/2 hours to get to Cordova. Prince William Sound is supposed to be beautiful, but the ceiling was around 1,000’ and it was dim. Barb saw a sea otter and some people saw a whale. I had hoped to see the enormous Columbia Glacier, but it has retreated so far up a fjord in recent years, it is impossible to see. There were ice floes from the glacier in the distance. We also passed over Bligh Reef, but unlike the Exxon Valdez, we did not run aground.

Cordova is a fishing village, much hurt by the oil spill. Some species have not recovered, but there are a number of active canneries here. The village, more than 2,000, got it’s start when the railroad to Kennicott was built. It consists of closely packed undistinguished buildings and looks old. Like many Alaskan towns, the town does not match the surroundings. The ferry docks a mile from our motel and the motel doesn’t pick up people. We called the shuttle as we were getting into port, but they didn’t answer. We had decided not to take the truck on the ferry because the fares are high. So far, we find cell service in every small town south of Fairbanks, even minute Chitina and Kennicott.

So we trudged into town with the 500 lb. computer and all the other stuff we brought. And then we saw it, a red “Open” sign calling us forward with a “Pizza” sign “pizza” over the door. This was the aptly named Ambrosia restaurant. It was like crawling across the desert and there’s a bottle of water in the distance and it’s not a mirage. The pizza was pretty good, though we were not in the most critical state of mind. The motel was a block away and we gratefully checked in.

The place we wanted to stay at was booked up, the others inconveniently located for people on foot. This is a very expensive ($120/night), older ordinary place, but it has wifi, bed is semi-comfortable and it is close to most things in town (but not the ferry).

Cordova was named for Córdoba, Spain, somtimes spelled with a “v” in Spain. The man who built the railroad named it because he liked the Spanish city, but anglicized the name and accentation.

Today we look around town and take it easy.

Later: So we walked around. We had breakfast at the Killer Whale and it was greasy. We’ll look for another place tomorrow. A woman, Becky, who owns a B&B, car rental and a real estate office (and maybe more) is infamously hard to track down. She doesn’t return calls in a timely manner. By asking around, we found someone who got ahold of one of her realtors. For an SUV, for one day $75 + tax of $16 + pick up fee at ferry terminal $10 = $101. Still cheaper than bringing our truck on the ferry, but maybe renting a compact in Valdez and bringing it may make more sense. On the ferry you pay more the longer the vehicle, so our truck costs a lot. If you want to stay at the Northern Nights B&B or rent a car, be prepared for difficulties.

There are lots of breakfast and lunch places, but not as much for dinner. We did stop in an art gallery, Harbor Art, that was also a gathering place for local artists. They love to talk and offer a beer. Comfy sofas too. So we hung out there for a while. I have no idea of the name of the place, but it’s on Nicholoff near Baja Taco and the “new” boat harbor.

For dinner we went to the Reluctant Fisherman, a much fancier place and with a lot of nice woodwork and a view of the harbor. This is fine dining in Cordova, and although it wouldn’t quite pass in other places, it was fine enough.

Each street paralleling the water is up higher and the trown is squeezed between mountains and sea. Coming through Prince William Sound, it looks like a hundreds of mountains with their bases submerged. During the ice age, maybe the water level was low enough that these were valleys though probably full of glaciers. Unlike Valdez with it’s average 27’ of snow, they get snow and it may rain on the snow turning it into ice. That sounds dreadful.

The real reason to be here is to see the Copper River delta, the wildlife there, and Child’s Glacier.

Gene

Photos:

#1 The old school, built in 1925, appears to be undergoing renovation, perhaps condos, apartments, or tourist lodging. There was an attempt to make this plain concrete building attractive with some decoration including shingles over the windows.
#2 A view from town toward the bay.
#3 This building (note the sign in front) had a heated sidewalk on the side. The concrete has deteriorated and you can see the pipes. They had heated sidewalks in Kennicott because they ran the steam lines under them, so perhaps this was the railroad office here.
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Old 07-03-2010, 08:54 AM   #131
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Man, sounds like you are having a great time Gene. Been raining some around here. but we still get those sunny mornings. It's great to see all the photos. My wife went up to alaska when she was a kid and we hope to make the trip with our kids someday.

Question, we are looking for one night trips to take with the new 5 month old twins. made the fist trip to ridgeway SP upper camp ground. very nice. What is the Crawford SP like. we are just looking for one night trips with electric hook up. Gotta brake those twins in for our annual 5 day trip to Zion in Oct.
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Old 07-03-2010, 10:46 AM   #132
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Jason, the campgrounds at Crawford State Park are stretched along the reservoir. Seems like a nice place with views of the West Elk Range. Since it's a BOR reservoir it gets steadily lower during the summer as they use the water for irrigation, so the earlier the better. I know it has a dump station and probably options for electric and water, but best to check exactly what it has.

It's raining here too and supposed to all day. In the past month I've seen enough rain for the next year. Not sure if I remember what the sun is like because if it's not raining it did not long ago and will soon; in between, clouds.

Gene
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Old 07-03-2010, 11:08 PM   #133
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Saturday. The car—a Suzuki station wagon—arrived this morning and we had wheels! Of course it was more like a rent a wreck, but it kept going, though it seemed to need new shocks. The gravel road was painful.

We drove out of town, still unable to see mountain tops, and after several miles entered the Copper River delta. First we crossed various rivers from the Sheridan Glacier, then started crossing many branches of the Copper River. Other than that, most views were obscurred by willows along the road. At one place—a mile or two long—the river is changing it’s flow patterns and last year flooded the road. They have piled up rock in a dike several feet high and built up the road to keep it open, but it’s disconcerting to have this powerful water several feet away at the same level as the road only protected by this makeshift dike. Is it undermining the road? Were the dikes built by the same people who built them in New Orleans? It seems like when the river rises, and it will at times, this will wash out the road again. Maybe access to Child’s Clacier by road will be over.

The glacier is 300’ high. It was once 400’, but climate change is diminishing it. It stretches 3 miles along the river. The river is a quarter mile wide. All sense of proportion is thown away. Are those chunks falling into the river the size of a football or a car? Whole sheets of ice crash into the water that must by well over 150’ high, but at a quarter mile look much smaller—but because the glacier is so big, it looks more like 100 yards away.

While most, maybe all, calving glaciers are by the sea or in a fjord, because this one is across a river, you can drive to it and stay there as long as you want. It’s easy to just stare at it. You’ll hear cracking and booms, but nothing happens as the ice changes inside—remember the glacier is moving, though you can’t see it move. Then, suddenly, little or enormous chunks of ice fall off into the water. When they fall, more cracks and booms, then a really big splash, more like a boom, as contact with the slightly warmer river water shatters some of the ice, and if the piece is big, a wave starts across the river. By the time it reachs your side, it may be imperceptible or a few feet high. There was once a 30’ wave which would have sent several feet or perhaps more into the viewing area, campground and parked cars. People are warned to not walk down off the bluff to the river’s edge, but they do anyway. Want to be swept into the silt laden Cooper River? Besides the bonechilling cold, your pockets and shoes fill with silt quickly. A 10’ wave occurs every few years.

People are mesmerized by calving glaciers and we are no exception. The glacier is many shades of blue as light refracts through it. Some ice at the bottom almost black, so compressed that light cannot get through. We stayed for hours. Sometimes hardly anything happens for a half hour, then in the next 15 or 20 minutes there are many ice falls. Because our camera takes several seconds to take a picture after the button is pushed, all I could get were the splashes.

After about three hours, we decided to go see the Million Dollar Bridge. That’s the bridge over the Copper River for the former railroad from Kennicott. One span fell into the river during the 1964 earthquake, but 40 years later the bridge was repaired. The bridge looked rusty and I wonder if they are taking care of it. In Cordova, there are bumper stickers saying “No Road”. I imagine this is in opposition to proposals to rebuild the road all the way to Chitina, something that has been debated for decades.

The Child’s Glacier is impressive and a unique experience. You can get close to some glaciers and you can see lots of glaciers, but the viewing here is unique. It’s not cheap or easy to come here, but is worth it.

Tomorrow, back on the ferry to Valdez. Seems like there’s no place here open that early serving breakfast, so Barb bought some muffins and organic junk food and we can buy orange juice on the ferry. Although we are still seeing things we haven’t seen before, we are zigzagging east and will soon by going more towards home. Monday is 6 weeks on the road, 2 to go. Sometimes road fever (a form of insanity or just plain exhausted stupidness) has hit, but mostly it’s been weariness. More sleep cures it for a while.

Gene

Photos:

#1 Child’s Glacier from the Million Dollar Bridge.
#2 A big piece and a big splash. If you blow these two photos up, especially the second one (#3) below, you can see pieces still falling.
#3 Another big piece. These did not create big waves. One that created a 2' wave would be much, much bigger than these were.
#4 Miles Glacier is upstream from the bridge and threatened the bridge when it was being built.
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Old 07-03-2010, 11:14 PM   #134
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#5 Million Dollar Bridge. It was once called the Million and a Half Dollar Bridge.
#6 This is in the area where the river is changing course. They built an approximately 3' dike and restored the road to the height of the river.
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Old 07-05-2010, 10:27 PM   #135
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Sunday, July 4. As we left Cordova, the sun shone briefly, a rare sight. Cordova is a workingman’s town. Buildings are square, unadorned and getting rundown. The recession and periods of poor fishing have been cruel to Cordova. We were returning to Valdez, a town with even more troubles over it’s history. In the ‘64 earthquake Valdez was hit by a gigantic wave and destroyed. Cordova was moved 46 feet sideways, but no wave. In Valdez, 33 people died. Everyone knows about the Exxon Valdez.

Every winter Valdez is buried in massive amounts of snow. After 1964, they moved the town 4 miles and it appears to be higher than before. It is undistinguished, dwarfed by the majesty of the mountains, though it appears you can’t see a lot of them often. The recession has hit here too, but we were told things are picking up.

We are at Eagle’s Rest RV Park, simply a gravel parking lot where many scores of RV’s are crammed in. Wifi seems to be so weak as not to work for me and others, though some are getting some reception.

There was a salmon fish fry and potluck here tonight where we met some people from New Mexico and Orange Co., Cal. Everyone has been or is thinking of going to the same places and we all compare notes. One person says a certain road is bad, another says it’s ok. If you never drive on dirt roads, I guess they seem pretty bad, but if you want to see a lot of Alaska, you will drive on dirt roads. One place few go is the Dalton Hwy and it no worse than the ones they do on, just a lot longer.

There are fireworks at 10:30 tonight, but I don’t know that we’ll be able to see them or that we can stay up. It’s been drizzling for hours and is turning into real rain. Today is six weeks on the road and well over 6,000 miles. After the motel with the bed that became less comfortable each night, the trailer feels really good. Why is it that motel fitted sheets never fit right and bunch up?

Monday. An uneventful drive to Tok (long "o" like Tokyo). Everyone who drives to Alaska, or at least the big part, not SE Alaska, has to go through Tok. The Alaska Hwy goes through and junctions with the Tok Cutoff which in turn goes to the Richardson Hwy and eventually Anchorage or Valdez. Mostly good road except for parts of the Tok Cutoff which had gravel breaks and lots of bumps. Just outside of Valdez, we stopped in a parking lot so Barb could make a call and I noticed smoke, then fire at a gas station across the road. It looked like it was at a gas pump where a truck was parked. Then we heard a fire engine. Not wanting to see a ball of fire only 150' away, we left fast. The fire was in dumpster about 20' from the pumps, but where we were parked the angle made it look like it was at the pump. That was today's excitement.

Tomorrow we go to Chicken, 77 miles north. The story is when it came time to name the town, the miners wanted to name it "Ptarmigan", but no one was sure how to spell it, so they picked "Chicken". Fortunately they didn't spell it "chiken". The next day we probably will go further north to Eagle, once the biggest city in Alaska. We have to ask about the road since it's been raining a lot and it may be too muddy. But, it's sunny and there's hardly a cloud in the sky. It's around 70˚. We are really sick of rain (it rained almost all night and into the morning).

Gene

Photos:

#1 A bit of sun in the Cordova harbor as we wait for the Chenega to leave.
#2 On our way back to Valdez.
#3 Getting closer to Valdez as the sun has disappeared and the clouds thickened.
#4 The mountain behind the RV Park.
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Old 07-05-2010, 10:31 PM   #136
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#5 How the gas station fire looked from across the road.
#6 Bridal Veil Falls (the other one) in Keystone Canyon outside of Valdez.
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Old 07-06-2010, 02:20 AM   #137
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Dear Crawford's, Sure enjoying the "trip" around Alaska. What a trip! Roberta Stackhouse
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Old 07-06-2010, 06:44 AM   #138
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Love, love, love the glacier photos, especially. Thanks for sharing your trip.

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Old 07-08-2010, 11:45 PM   #139
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Tuesday. After gassing up, getting propane, rinsing more dirt off the truck and trailer and stopping at a health food store in Tok, we started north on a sunny and warm day. Where’s the rain? I feel cheated. We drove 12 miles east on the Alaska Hwy—a symbol of going home—and turned north on the Taylor Hwy to Chicken. The road is paved to just short of Chicken, but often bumpy with several long gravel breaks. The 66 miles went pretty fast, but the bumps raised havoc in the trailer with things flying out of cabinets and cushion tossing. I guess I drove a little fast.

Chicken has, according to the Milepost, 33 summer residents and 8 year ‘round. Access during winter (starts in October) is by snowmobile, plane or dog sled. There are 3 tourist businesses catering to RV’s, seekers of T-shirts, caps and other trinkets, and food and drink. Two seem to have some nastiness in their advertising since the Busby family, owners of the Original Gold Camp, have been so successful. Mike has been placer mining gold here for some years and in 2001 he and his wife opened a small store and offered tours of the historic Pedro Dredge. A dredge moves through a river and washes gravel and sands to separate gold flakes out of it. This is thousands of times more efficient than gold panning. This one has been all over Alaska, but ended up here and I don’t think it is operating anymore. We visited here in 2002 and things have changed. The store now includes a restaurant; there’s an RV park getting bigger with more electric sites, and there are showers and bathrooms. We had a good lunch, took a nap, Barb made dinner, and there’s internet here. It’s very quiet.

It’s 94 miles to Eagle. The road report is good. Eagle was an important Yukon River port before the Klondike gold rush. More than 100 years ago the US government built a telegraph line from Valdez to Eagle for military purposes, though it received more civilian use than military. But gold was discovered around Fairbanks and Eagle shrunk. Road access was not available until the early 1950’s, but Eagle never really recovered. More than 100 people live there and it is an access to the NE interior of Alaska which includes Indian villages and wilderness tourism, primarily at Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. Tourism is now an important part of the economy as more people discover the area. Last year an ice jam on the Yukon River devastated part of the town and all of neighboring Eagle Village, a Han Indian town.

Wednesday. We took the 94 mile trip to Eagle. The road was pretty good for a remote dirt road and it took 2:50. It travels on ridge tops above tree line with incredible views, hanging on the side of mountains, in some places one lane, and through river valleys. The day has been sunny and temps as high as 72˚—after weeks of 50˚, it feels hot.

We stopped at the Park Service office, saw a movie about Yukon-Charley, and had lunch (they do not provide lunch, we brought ours as there’s no restaurant in Eagle). The National Preserve is down river from there and I’ve seen TV programs about it. I wish I were younger and could go backpacking there. Well, I often wish I were younger anyway. It’s a beautiful place.

The town is a mix of old log cabins, nondescript houses, a few trailers, and very few businesses. Some buildings that were flooded by the ice jam last year have not been rebuilt, some have. Most of the town wasn’t flooded, but a lot was. Indian oral traditions do not recount an ice jam and flood like that one. It rose 10’ above flood stage. The one restaurant was destroyed. The Han village was moved 7 miles upstream and is almost in Canada now.

So, after driving around town for a while, having finally made it to Eagle after 2 previous tries, we have seen it and the spectacular country around it. This is our 5th trip to the Yukon River—twice on this trip. One of the things about visiting Alaska is that you are always driving to somewhere at the end of a road and then coming back. It almost impossible to make a circle because there are so few roads, but so many miles.

Tomorrow we re-enter Canada and start south, where there really is a nighttime. We are more of less used to dusk anywhere from 11:00 to midnight to never, but we end up staying up much later than at home. We have two days to get to Haines (back in Alaska) which means 357 miles to Haines Jct. and staying at a campground that doesn’t sound too great. Haines is also problematical about campgrounds and charges, where it’s available, $7 or more for wifi—and it appears no one will pay it. I check out places on RV Park Reviews, and like all forums, you have to be careful what to believe, but it’s often more informative than the books we have. After Haines Jct., it’s 216 miles to Haines, a trip through some beautiful alpine scenery. We’ve traveled it at the end of May and in mid-September, so this will be a different trime of year. And we look forward to the Hammer Museum.

Thus, we are starting home and there’ll be some long grinding days of driving ahead and at the end of the road—acres of cheat grass gone crazy and a riding mower that broke before we left home. Home sweet home.

Gene

Photos:
#1 A few miles before Eagle, Ms. Moose crossed the road and instead of running away, waited for us to take her photo.
#2 Yukon R. looking upstream from Eagle. The ice jam rose above the retaining wall in the middle distance.
#3 Yukon R. looking west.
#4 Former federal courthouse on right when Eagle was Alaska's metropolis and the town well on the left.
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Old 07-08-2010, 11:57 PM   #140
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#5 That's a British phone booth on the right side of the building, or, perhaps Dr. Who was there today.
#6 Along one of the town streets. Those are birdhouses along each roof.
#7 A not well kept aluminum trailer, a cousin of our Airstream.
#8 Fireweed grows all over Alaska and especially where there have been forest fires as here. It's not the color of fire and since people grow it in their gardens, it's not a weed.
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