Saturday, August 17, 2013

Flowers

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Alaska’s long days and short nights make for some beautiful flowers; both in nature and those that are planted!

010082 P1040634 - CopyFrom Fairbanks to Acnchorage, Soldotna to Homer, Seward to Valdez. 016
067013 And everywhere in between!076077 P1040633007

The country side has been full of Lupine, Alaska Cotton and especially Fireweed! The story is that when the Fireweed flowers bloom at the top of their stems summer is over. Time to head out of Alaska!

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Back in the Lower 48

060(Jan) With stops in Valleyview & Lethbridge, Alberta, Butte & Broadus, Montana and Box Elder & Beresford, South Dakota we are nearly back to Carroll, Iowa.

We made a couple of interesting stops along the way. Edmonton, Alberta is home to North America’s Largest Mall. There is an Ice Skating Palace,the Galaxyland amusement park and a005 large water park with wave pool all indoors. We spend a couple of hours there browsing the shops and having lunch at one of the food courts. We shared Arabic and Thai food and enjoyed them both.

We were in contact with our friends Ron & Bernita and Dean & Judy as we traveled through Canada and we all managed to meet in Lethbridge, Alberta. It was great to share one final visit, talking about our Alaska adventures and sharing dinner at the nearby casino. The following day we were all off in different directions.

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002(Chuck) Our stop in Butte, Montana took us to the Berkeley Pit. The Berkley Pit is a former copper mine that is a mile long and a half mile wide. It is seventeen hundred feet deep. For nearly one hundred years this mine fed America’s industrial might. This mine and its sister underground mines produced enough copper to pave a four-lane highway two inches thick from Chicago to New York City. 48 billion dollars of copper, gold and silver were removed. In 1983 the mine was no longer profitable and the pumps located 3,800 feet below the surface were turned off. As the water slowly travels through the rock it dissolves pyrite and sulfide minerals and releases acid which contaminates the water.  At present, the water in the pit is heavily acidic with a pH of 2.5. That is about the acidity of cola or lemon juice. Steps are being taken to prevent the water from rising to contaminate the water table of the surrounding area, but it is a massive effort. The Berkeley Pit is one of the largest Superfund sites in the USA.  Millions of your tax dollars are dedicated to cleaning this site after Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO), closed the mine in 1983.

001The tunnel leading to the Berkeley Pit, above, and Chuck exiting into the pit area, right. 027We saw many other interesting things pertaining to Butte’s mining history around town.  Such as… 017A stamp mill used to crush rocks to release the gold or copper.
040Head Frames, (above) Interesting storyboards, historic buildings, Victorian gardens(below) & a touching memorial. 023This Memorial is dedicated to the 168 men who lost their lives in hard rock mining’s greatest disaster. 022The Granite Mountain-Speculator Fire June 8, 1917.
Click to enlarge any of the photos.

031036(Jan) Our stop in Rapid City gave us a chance to see our good friends Betty & Duane. I didn’t get a photo this time but we had a good visit and wonderful dinner! And all too soon it was time to get back on the road. Tonight we are at the Beresford, South Dakota city park. Tomorrow we will be back in Carroll, Iowa where my mom lives and closer to our sons & families.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Turning the corner at TOK

033(Chuck & Jan) When we crossed the border to start our Alaska adventure we intended to see snow on the way north, spend the full season in Alaska and have snow chase us back south. But as our friend John B says “Life sometimes gets in the way of the best laid plans.” On our drive up to Tok from Valdez we looked at all of the joys, duties and 037responsibilities ahead of us in the next two months and decided to change our direction. From here we will go to Iowa and then spend October in Seattle, Washington. Our visits to Haines, Skagway and Hyder will have to wait for our next Alaska trip.

Our drive out of Alaska and through Yukon Territory, British Columbia and Alberta has been beautiful. We’ve seen lots of interesting things and scenery out of the windshield such as the Yukon lake scene above and the 22 foot wildlife monument in Haines Junction. Whirlpool Canyon on the Liard River still looks wild but the water level had dropped dramatically since our visit there last May. Along the road we saw two herds of buffalo, several caribou, a deer, a porcupine, trumpet swans and two bears; one had been hit and was laying dead in the road.

(Chuck) On our return through Watson Lake, we took the time to wander through the sign post forest. Travelers have left their names and hometowns posted in the forest. The signs are official city signs, carved wooden signs and sometimes just names and dates written on a hubcap. After seeing the large number of German city signs, Jan wondered if there were any left in Germany.

047Ron’s sign with our names engraved. 052There’s a Flip Flop on the right 055
German city signs are gold & black046 Escapee #3 members Bud & Cathy left their sticker in 2008051 062

043There are remnants of Roadhouses along the highways of the Yukon and Alaska. They were located at approximate 100 mile intervals to serve the need of the travelers. Todays vehicles are more reliable, travel further on a tank of fuel and self contained Rvs have displaced the need for overnight accommodations. Many of the surviving road houses have For Sale Signs posted or they are closed and their entrances are blocked. Other once busy facilities are hidden in a thick growth of trees. Many Alaska travelers will remember Mukluk Annie’s as a favorite stop. 

After following the Alaska highway from Tok to it’s starting point in Dawson Creek, we are going through Edmonton & Calgary, Alberta and south to Montana.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Valdez, Alaska

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(Chuck & Jan) Saturday was our day to leave Anchorage and drive to Glennallen and then south to Valdez. With it’s breath taking views and vistas on Highway A4, especially the last 30 miles, the bumpy road could be tolerated. The numerous waterfalls in the mountains along the way were absolutely thrilling. Add to that several glaciers, Thompson Pass and T? Canyon and it was really one of the prettier drives we’ve 010taken in Alaska.

We arrived in Valdez on a gloomy, rainy Saturday afternoon and parked our RV at the Elks Club. We were definitely in the right place at the right time, though.  Valdez was celebrating Gold Rush Days and on Sunday we got in on a really cool parade, a free fish fry dinner along the waterfront and boat races on the pond.  They even had Elvis singing for entertainment during the Fish Fry! Valdez is a working town with many young families; there were kids everywhere! It was so much fun to be a part of.

075Boat races!
054Parades + Candy = Kids! 063Elvis!
092In 1964, the epicenter of the 9.2 Earthquake that stuck Alaska, was just 12.4 miles north of the Prince William Sound. Valdez has an excellent museum that tells the story. We were also able to drive out to the original town site where 30 people lost their lives when the city docks sunk as the soil liquefied beneath them and slid into the bay. Valdez, founded in 1898 by gold seekers, was situated right on the beach between the water and the toe of the glacier simply because it was the shortest route up the glacier to the gold fields. Most of the town remained standing but was damaged by the tsunami waves washing in that were caused by the collapse. The Corp of Engineers found a stable site just 4 miles away and 2 years later the entire community of Valdez was moved. The picture of Chuck with a grounded barge was taken at the Old Valdez site. 026

Valdez is the terminus for the Alaska pipeline and it’s tanker loading facilities are situated across the bay from the town of Valdez. The terminus is closed to the public. We were able to catch sight of the Pipeline several times on our way here.

003 - CopyWe were in Valdes in time for the return of the Pink or Humpy Salmon. The pink salmon are not highly prized by the sports fisherman but are a mainstay for the commercial fisheries. Most of the Pink salmon is canned. The stream was thick with Pinks along the creek bed as they 010were returning to the hatchery waters. Click on the photo at left to enlarge.

Our drive out of Valdez on Monday was delightful. We again got to go up over Thompson pass and see all of the waterfalls & glaciers. The northern section of Highway 4A runs along the western edge of Wrangell-St. Elias NP and Preserve. The park system encompasses 22.9 million acres of wild lands and wilderness, the second highest peak in the U.S., Mt. Elias, 18,029 feet along with the greatest collection of glaciers and largest collection mountain peaks over 16,000 feet. But there are very few roads in the park. We were able to stop at the Visitors Center to see the exhibits and watch a film about this colossal park.

Our drive that evening ended in Tok, our last night in the amazing state of Alaska.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Portage Glacier to Anchorage

(Jan) There is a beautiful Visitors Center at Portage Glacier NP with a very good film. At the end of the movie the screen use to rise and then through the windows you could see the Portage Glacier.  001In recent years however the glacier has receded and you can no longer see it from the Visitors Center. The area is very beautiful however and we enjoyed our stop there.

On to Whittier we traveled through a 2.6 mile tunnel that is carved out of the mountain. With room for only one lane, the traffic alternates use on the half hour. It’s an amazing feat of engineering that was done in 306 days and is the only way to get to Whittier on the Prince William Sound. The trains use the tunnel, too, and have first priority! Whittier has a busy port set in a lovely mountain setting. Unfortunately, it was rainy and very gloomy the afternoon we were there so we didn’t stay long.

021Our next stop was Anchorage. We had a nice afternoon strolling the streets down town and going to the museum at the Fed Building. We wanted to see the film on the 1964 Earthquake that destroyed much of downtown Anchorage and did extensive damage in other parts of Alaska. The film was well done using many original film clips.

After a supply/grocery run to Costco we headed for Eagle River to fill our fuel & propane tanks and stay over night at the Elks Lodge where we had stayed in June. Next up: Valdez.

 
room reservation in London