Sunday, June 26, 2016

2016 Epic Road Trip - Day 40

June 22, 2016

Day 40 - Slana, AK to Glennallen, AK - 77 Miles

Today may have been one of the most scenic days on this trip.  I left Slana, AK, which is situated at the edge of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.  The park is the largest of the US National Parks, and the mountains are among the most beautiful.

The first stop was the Gakona Lodge and Trading Post.  It was an old roadhouse back in the late 1800s, is still available for lodging and has a general store – and a ghost who smokes a pipe!

I had planned to head to Glennallen, AK, about 80 miles down the road. Since it was such a short drive, I decided to catch a bit more sightseeing in the general area, which I had planned to do later in the trip after Marnie arrives.

I visited the national park where they had a salmon fishing wheel on display.  Quite ingenious and simple.

I saw my first Alaskan wildlife, other than a bunny.  Today’s animal of the day was a moose, which crossed in front of me so fast that I missed getting a picture...I decided slamming on the brakes was the best course of action...

Next I headed for a Tibetian Yak farm. The yaks have a very soft undercoat, which can be cleaned, carded and spun into a fine yarn for sweaters, hats, socks, etc. The leather hide is very strong and yet supple, making for a really nice baseball glove.  These items were available in the gift shop with really exclusive pricing.

The final stop was a visit to Valdez, AK (Remember the Exxon-Valdez???) The drive to Valdez took me about a 100 miles on the Richardson Highway through the Chugach Mountain range. I drove alongside the Alaskan Pipeline for much of the day. It is 48 inches in diameter, by the way. 

The poles are about 15+ feet high and are used by the snowplowers as a road guide. Not that they do much good when there is 50 feet of snow!

Worthington Glacier.
The Richardson Highway was Alaska’s first road and was used by the gold stampeders in 1898 to travel from Valdez up through Alaska’s interior to Fairbanks.

 The mountains get higher and more spectacular with each mile.  I went over Thompson Pass which gets 50 feet of snow each year and went by Worthington glacier. I traveled through some avalanche areas (Posted “Avalanche area – Do not Stop”) and through the Keystone canyon.

I passed an old railroad tunnel through the mountains which was never used.  The tunnel was hand-cut back in the early 1900s to carry oil out of the Alaska territory.  Before the track was laid, about 9 oil companies fought to take advantage of the short route from the Valdez coast to the copper country to the east.  However, a feud interrupted progress.  A gun battle was fought and the railroad was never finished.

The highway has mile-markers posted, although I learned that milepost “0” is actually 4 miles from the Valdez village that I saw today.  The reason is that the mileposts were erected before 1964, when a large earthquake hit in Valdez and wiped out the old town.  New Valdez was rebuilt 4 miles beyond the Old Valdez.

This cut in the mountain was made a few years ago to improve the road.  About 200 tons of rock were removed.
 It was almost 7pm by the time I arrived, but I just made it to the visitor’s center before they closed at 7.  There was a quilt shop in Valdez also, which stays open until 8 on Wednesdays; I made it there just in time as well.  Then I headed to Roma’s Italian restaurant overlooking the port of Valdez.  The food was awesome!

Just gorgeous....
So what do you think? Adds to the wardrobe, right?
Bridal Veil falls on the way to Valdez.
Horsetail falls on the way to Valdez.
Port of Valdez.
 Ryder is just chillin’ at my feet.

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