Valdez Trip

Whew, that was a lot of driving. Here's our route. But, the trip was beautiful and well worth it.

We went from Fairbanks to Copper Center Lodge on the 4th where we stopped for the night at the historic lodge. Apparently back in the day they created lodges that were about a day's travel apart so that travelers could stop for the night. With the advent of cars and a more developed train system many of these lodges have closed, but those that remain have a lot of historic charm. We stopped there for the night, had dinner and then took a walk together to look at the area and watch some of the locals try to blow themselves up with fireworks.

The next day (5th) we visited the Cooper Center museum, which was basically a small collection of leftover paraphernalia from the gold rush era. The historic photographs and maps were interesting to hubby who is a big history buff. I was content to look at the old miner's cabins and wonder how people had their whole lives year after year in spaces smaller than my first dorm room.

After stopping at The Fishing Widow coffee place for my mocha and hubby's hot cocoa we hit the road again and drove the rest of the way down to Valdez, down through the mountains and past the waterfalls to our hotel. On the way down stopped for a short hike up to Worthington Glacier. After getting into Valdez we stopped at our hotel and then went to lunch at the Valdez classic Mike's Palace. I remember this place from when I was a little girl. My parents would always order the cheese pizza and I would sit at the counter and watch the Italian family make the food. All of the people who worked there were family and during the summer the extended family would come from Italy to work at the restaurant, or that is my recollection. I remember one of the guys that worked there giving me a little bowl of peperoni to put on my cheese pizza. Strange, the memories that stick with you from when you were a kid. Not much has changed, the same family still owns the place and the pizza is still great. I will say though that a large pizza is too large for two people, even when one of them is a 6'2" hungry man who has been driving and hiking all day.

Next we went to see the Valdez Museum which I also remember from my childhood. Actually I remember only one thing from the museum, the fur fish. Until I went back as an adult I believed that the fur fish was real. Alas, like so many childhood fantasies, the fur fish is not real. By reading the caption this is now obvious. In addition to the fur fish the museum also boasts the following: archives, maps, photographs, newspapers, an exhibit on the Pipeline Construction, an exhibit on the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, an exhibit on the World Extreme Skiing Championships and several exhibits on the gold rush and Valdez as an all-American town up until the Good Friday earthquake wiped it out.

The next morning we took a Stan Stephens cruise through Prince William Sound for a 9.5 hour tour. We saw every type of wildlife advertised on the brochures, except for the mountain goats and bears. All of the white specks that I saw turned out to be snow when viewed through the spotting glasses. Mountain goats are now beasts which have now reached mythical status in my book. All throughout my growing up years in Alaska my Mom would insist that she saw Dall Sheep or Mountain Goats on the mountain, but I can't actually remember ever seeing one. I've seen plenty of them mounted on walls, but until I see one myself I have relegated all Alaskan sheep and goats to mythical status, like unicorns or fur fish.

But, to make up for it we saw 5 humpback whales, 29 baby seals, 107 (before I lost count) sea otters, too many sea lions to count, an eagle's nest, arctic terns, puffins, dall porpoises and so many others. On the drive we also saw moose, eagles and squirrels in addition to lots of beautiful fire weed and other wildflowers. Oh yeah, and the typical nature stuff: mountains, glaciers, forests and the like.The cruise was well worth the money, especially with the 10% off for Alaskan residents.

The rest of the trip was pretty laid back, we drove from Valdez to Palmer to visit my parents, went tent shopping at REI (still haven't found one, although I did get a sleeping bag) and then drove back through Denali Park to Fairbanks on Sunday. A lot of beautiful scenic driving and over 500 songs later on the ipod we arrived safe and sound home to two cats who wanted a lot of attention. Once I upload the rest of the photos on Flickr I'll have to add a slide show. There is a limit to how patient I am in uploading through blogger.