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The drive into Valdez is absolutely amazing. Mountains, glaciers, canyons, waterfalls… gorgeous. Valdez itself… David Lynch. It somehow manages to showcase life, death and everything in-between all at the same time with some of the most amazing oil painted vistas as a backdrop.
We began our stay by spoiling ourselves at a full service camp site facing the bay. No kids, 20ish available spots, waterfront property, full hookups, showers and laundry. Aside from some unleashed dogs, pretty high class living! We only did this for 4 nights before bouncing to several other dry camping spots around the area. It was amazing how quickly you could become aclimated to having unlimited power again.
One draw of Valdez was to go on a charter to fish for silver salmon in the ocean. We stopped by an outfitter and asked about availability for the two of us. Without looking up, the gentleman said “Nope… but I can get YOU out tomorrow” while pointing at Sarah. It was the women’s silver salmon derby and no men allowed on the boat (other than crew). She looked at me with huge eyes and a massive grin. I looked at her and said, “You have to go.”.
The next day she went out with 3 other fisherwomen and a captain for 10 hours on the “shittiest leaky ass death trap of a boat” (yes, I quote) while I hung out with Iggy and enjoyed the sun!
They all returned alive with fish and a crazy ass adventure on the high seas, just in time to weigh in! Sarah’s fish were no derby winners, but they sure were tasty!
Across the bay is Allison Point Campground, a hydro-electric power plant, a salmon hatchery, wild life and the end of the Alaskan oil pipeline.
The salmon hatchery was built in 1981 to help re-establish the salmon population for fisheries after harsh cold winters devestated several of the natural runs in the Prince William Sound. With the success of the hatchery and hundreds of thousands of fish returning each year, it is the perfect feeding ground for harbor seals, sea lions, bears, eagles and lots of other birds. It is truly impossible to describe the beauty, chaos and slaughter all happening simultaneously. Not to mention the stench…
Oil companies spend millions of dollars to pump oil out of the ground, push it through a 4′ diameter pipe over thousands of miles and it ends up here. This is also the site if the Exon Valdez oil spill in 1989. Many species have recovered, but oil is still being found on shorelines… 30 years later.
Along with many other coastal towns in Alaska, Valdez was devastated by the earthquake of 1964. Lives were lost, the shoreline sank by 6 feet and the town was flooded. The ground that the town sat on was not solid and therefore uninhabitable. So… they moved the town! Old Valdez still exists and is accessible, but now as a monument to what it was. We were able to spend a couple of nights in the old town site, which were beautiful and sobering at the same time.
Valdez Glacier is one of the more accessible glaciers. You can drive to Glacier Lake and still see large ice formations in the water. This is all glacier ice and is thousands of years old but is melting quickly. It is a beautiful site that may not be there the next time we visit.
The beginning of the end… of the beginning
And now is the point that we have been postponing as much as possible. We have discussed the possibility of thinking about considering leaving Alaska. The leaves are changing on the trees and the fireweed is going to seed. These are the signs that summer is coming to a close and the harsh snows of winter will soon be upon us. We have already seen pictures of people traveling through sleet and snow on our proposed rout back to the lower 48 and wonder at the forecast of Utah being in the 100s.
We will have seen so many things on this trip and learned so much about this state, country, planet… and ourselves. They say that Alaska will change you; that once you visit you are never the same. Well… “they” are right, whoever the hell “they” are. We have discussed what our priorities are in life, where we would be happy living, and how we want to live. Right now we are pretty happy with the status quo, so I think we will keep on doing this for a while. There is business and family back home and we will return in the next few months, but not before seeing some more awesome stuff, visiting some national parks, and maybe buying some dress shoes for a wedding in Colorado.
So Alaska, so long and thanks for all the fish.