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Trip to Acrtic Circle from Fairbanks

July 13

During summer, you do not find snow anywhere other than on the mountain peaks. There is day light for almost twenty three hours a day. When we go to bed late at night around midnight there is still sun light. When we get up in the morning, there is already day light. We do not know when it becomes dark even for one hour. We have to completely close the window curtains fully to make the room dark before sleeping.

Mosquitoes are everywhere in summer and seem to come from all sides when you open the car door or windows. They are big, at least twice the size of normal mosquito in Australia. At the same time they fly slowly and you can catch them or kill them by quickly clapping your hands around them. We brought mosquito repellent with us but the best strategy is to keep the car windows closed all the time.

Today we travelled to the Arctic Circle. We have made arrangements to join a tour that takes people to Arctic Circle. The company is called All Alaska Tours. They take people in a coach and then bring them back either in the same coach or in a plane. We had to be at their office at 5:00AM. The tour guide was a very young man named Ryan Cunningham. He is still a final year University student, but he has experience in driving people to the Arctic Circle. Including the three of us, there were six people in all doing the trip including the guide. The other two, a father and a daughter from Washington joined the group. We went through the formalities of checking things and getting an introduction to the trip. The first thing I noticed was that the windscreen of the coach had a crack line from one end to the other end. This is something very common in Alaska. Ryan told me that it was either due to a rock chip or a result of falling into a ditch.

Our journey started from Fairbanks and after passing several towns on the freeway, fell on to a road that is rugged and unsealed. I sat on the front seat next to the driver to get a good view. We were lucky enough to see two moose, one porcupine and a ground squirrel. We had to drive slowly due to the bad condition of the road. Ryan was a very skilful driver and from time to time, he explained places and things we passed on our way. He told us about gold prospecting in the early era and the methods they employed to extract gold. There are some gold mines which are still operating.

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First stop

We had our first stop in a place that had a small shop. The shop is run by a person and his family. He came there from Minnesota and decided to stay back in Alaska. The second stop was near the Alaskan oil pipes where we could have a good look at the pipes.

The Trans Alaskan Oil pipes are considered an engineering marvel. In 1970 the Trans Alaskan Oil pipes were built to transport oil from Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean to the port of Valdez on the Gulf of Alaska. The total length the pipe line stretches across is approximately 800 miles and the pipe line is mounted on more than 78000 posts across the whole length. Additionally there are 12 pumping stations along the pipe line.

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Near Alaska Oil Pipes

Alaska is subjected to wide temperature variations. In winter the temperature can go down to -50F and in summer can go up to 90F. The pipe line should be able to tolerate expansions and contractions due to temperature differences. Secondly the pipe line goes through an area that is prone to earthquakes. In fact in 2002 there was an earth quake of magnitude 7.9. To be able to withstand these earthquakes and temperature differences. The pipe line is supported on Teflon shoes that are free to slide on long horizontal steel beams.

The third stop was at Finger Mountain. The name comes from a rock that looks like an index finger pointing upwards. It's also a beautiful area to walk up to and area the board they have that illustrate the different animals and plants that are found around this area. It was the first time we experience a cold and windy moment whilst on our trip.

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Picture of finger mountain

Another issue that had to be addressed was the effect of permafrost on the mountings. To overcome that, the mounts were buried deep into permafrost filled ground. Permafrost is the thick subsurface layer of soil, rock and organic material that is completely frozen. Permafrost is the main reason why the highways get easily damaged. Alaska Highway and many other highways need to be constantly maintained and upgraded. This brings us to our fourth stop. We stopped at an area where Ryan dug a hole into the dirt ground (a bit more than a foot into the dirt) until he hit the permafrost and allowed each guest to put their hand through and touch the solid permafrost. It was a great experience and we were all extremely surprised at how rock hard and cold it was. Whilst walking back to the van we came across very small bushes that held wild blueberries. I and Malisha had a few tiny blueberries and they were nice and slightly tart.

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Ryan digging for Permafrost

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Explanation of Permafrost (from Visitor Centre)

The world famous Dalton Highway was built along the oil pipe line to initially build and maintain the oil pipe line. It was later made open to public. We were travelling along this Dalton highway to cross the Arctic Circle. We arrived at the Arctic Circle. There is a name board near the road to show the line of Arctic Circle. We stopped at this point and took photos while stepping over the Arctic Circle. We received certificates to show we have crossed the Arctic Circle.

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Crossing the Arctic Circle

We drove further to a Coldfoot. There is a restaurant and a visitor centre at this place. We spent about 30 minutes looking at things and having coffee and then it was time for us to come back. Ryan's job was over and he was going to stay there for the night and travel back to Fairbank with another group. Coldfoot is an interesting name and came from prospectors travelling to mining areas, but due to the unbearable and long winter months, they turned around went back to where they came from because they got 'cold feet'.

He handed us to the pilot who was flying us back to Fairbanks. It is strange, but the pilot was a Queenslander from Australia. He came to Alaska more than five years ago. He introduced himself and took us to his plane. It was a small plane with two engines capable of taking ten people. There was a Japanese couple who had come the previous day and were going back with us. We had a total of eight people including the pilot.

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Plane used for the return trip

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Inside the plane

The plane ride was a different experience. I was sitting right behind the pilot. We had a birds eye of the mighty Yukon River and the Alaskan oil pipes. We saw several small villages which are away from the main roads. Some of them had very small populations. Some of them came into existence mainly due to gold prospecting. We could also see large areas filled with beautiful purple patches. These are flowers known as Fireweed. These flowers are special because the direction in which they bloom can determine the difference between summer and winter. We also saw large areas of fireweed whilst on our drive. All in all, the plane trip was very smooth and we landed safely in Fairbanks in one hour.

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Fireweed Patches

Posted by fernando65 00:09 Archived in USA Comments (4)

From Fairbanks to Anchorage via Denali Park

July 14

We left Fairbanks in the morning. Holiday Inn Express is a big hotel with better facilities than most of the smaller hotels we stayed on our way. We had a good breakfast at the hotel before checking out. Fairbanks had a Farmers Market where they sold fruit, vegetables, crafts, food etc. We bought a few small items, but nothing that we could bring back to Australia. Our next destination was Denali Park. We had planned to spend one night at Denali River Cabins. The Georges Park Highway is the main road, connecting Fairbanks and Anchorage. Denali Park is on the way to Anchorage.

We passed many rivers and streams on our way and found many people stopping their vehicles and fishing on those rivers. Fishing in these streams and rivers is a big past time for many tourists. This is the Salmon season and if they are lucky they can catch Salmon, rainbow trout or other fresh water fish common in these rivers. Salmon is a salt water fish normally living in the ocean. In July and August they start swimming upstream in these Alaskan rivers ready to spawn. There are several places and observation posts along the rivers where you can see bears feeding on these Salmon.
There are many tourists who come to Alaska specially to see this spectacular event. Unfortunately we were unable to see any bears in the river.

On our way, we saw a Jerky seller on the road and stopped the vehicle. He was selling Beef and Salmon Jerky in different spices and flavours from his caravan. He offered samples for us to taste. We bought a beef Jerky packet and a Salmon Jerky packet. He said he is from Homer.

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Beef Jerky Seller

We were in no hurry and moving slowly. We then stopped at Healy, a small village, and had lunch in a small restaurant. We stopped at another shop where they had a Polar Bear killed in 1969 by Tom Hudson on March 18, 1969.

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World record size Polar Bear killed in 1969

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Souvenir Shop on the Georges Park highway

The shear size of the bear shows how big they can grow. It was more than nine feet long and supposed to be a world record at that time.

Denali Park is world famous for its unique wild life and the Mckinley Mountain which is the highest mountain in North America. On a clear day, you can see the mountain peak from the road. When we were passing the area the whole mountain range was covered by thick mist.

The Georges Park Highway is in very good condition. The address to our hotel was given as Mile 231.1 on the Georges Park Highway. I was not sure what that meant and how we could locate the hotel. We found the road has mile posts to show the distance from Anchorage. We only had to look at the mile posts on the road and after passing mile post 232, we found our hotel by the side of the road, just before the mile post 231. Our hotel was built as a group of cabins near the Nanana River. Our cabin was facing the river and we could walk to the river from our cabin. The river is not very deep, but water is moving very fast.

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Malisha Near Nanana River

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Mala and Andrew relaxing near Denali Cabins

We had only one night in this hotel. It would have been great if we had the time to make a trip to the Denali Park to see wild life and have a closer look at the Mckinley mountain peak. We can drive our own car only fifteen miles into the Denali Park. There are coach tours who can take tourists beyond this point. These tours take ten or more hours to do the round trip. We decided to keep this for a future trip to Alaska.

When we checked in at the hotel, we found the lady at the reception is an Australian who came to Alaska in 1975 when she was very young. So far we have met two Australians who have made their home in Alaska.

We left the hotel next morning and resumed our journey towards Anchorage. We are planning to spend three nights in Anchorage.

Posted by fernando65 00:48 Archived in USA Comments (3)

A Beautiful One Day Sea Cruise from Whittier

July 16

First night in Anchorage was uneventful. We checked into Springhill Suites in Anchorage around 3:00PM. There was a drizzle when we arrived at the hotel and the sky was full of dark clouds. Springhill Suites is owned by Marriot hotels and we had booked a luxury suite for us. We were planning to spend three days in Anchorage and we wanted a big comfortable room in the best hotel we could get. Our room had two queen beds, a sitting area with a sofa and a writing table.
We left our bags in the room, relaxed for about one hour and then went to the city centre. Anchorage also has a farmers market on Saturdays and Sundays. It was more like a country fair with food stalls and souvenir shops. We bought a picture showing three occurrences of Aurora Borealis. Each event is unique showing different colours and patterns. We had dinner in the city in a restaurant called Simon & Seafort’s Saloon and Grill. The food was tasty and we had a satisfying dinner.

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Farmers Market at Anchorage

Next morning we had planned our one day Sea Cruise to see tidal glaciers from Whittier. This turned out to be the best one day cruise we could have taken. We booked transport from Anchorage to Whittier and then a five and half hour sea cruise in the Prince William Sound area by Major Marine Tours. There are several companies who are doing these day tours. The first part of the tour is to travel to Whittier from Anchorage. We could have used our vehicle, but for a change we decided to take a complete rest and get a coach to take us to Whittier and back. The other option was to take a train from Anchorage to Whittier.

Our coach driver was picking us up at another hotel called Embassy Suites. We drove and parked our car at Embassy Suites and waited for the coach. The coach driver happened to be a young boy called Jaylan Brown. He is from Anchorage and is studying to become a pilot. He is doing odd jobs to collect money to earn air hours needed to become a pilot. He picked the three of us from Anchorage and was planning to pick six more people from Girdwood. Girdwood is about thirty miles from Anchorage and on the way to Whittier. Jaylan gave us some useful information about places of interest in Anchorage. While driving, he explained some of the places we saw on our way. We were driving on the Seward Highway along Turnagian Arm.

To explain more about Turnagain Arm, we need a little knowledge of the Cooks Inlet. Cooks inlet stretches 180 miles from the gulf of Alaska to Anchorage. It branches into the Knit arm and the Turnagain Arm. It appears like a huge lake. Captain Cook is the person who initially gave its name. Turnagain arm exhibits a huge tidal bore, as high as six feet and it travels at fifteen miles per hour on high Spring tides.

Turnagain Arm is very shallow during low tide and is well known for its silty bottom. It is exposed during low tide making marine navigation difficult. The silt forms a mud slat making it dangerous to walk on. It is like quicksand and there are stories of people getting stuck in the mud and having to be rescued. We could see the Turnagain Arm on our right side till we drove to Girdwood. Jaylon picked up the six passengers from Alyeska Lodge in Girdwood. We later found they are from Indianapolis and travelled to Alaska for a short holiday. Jaylan explained to us that Girdwood is a Ski resort in winter and is equally popular as a holiday resort in summer.

Access to Whittier village is through a long tunnel which is 2.2 miles long. It is so narrow that it allows only one way traffic. At the same time this tunnel has to be shared between motor traffic and trains. The train gets the highest priority. So when a train comes, other traffic is stopped and the train is allowed to pass. Normally all vehicles wait for about one hour to get a chance to go through this tunnel. We drove through this tunnel and after waiting in a queue to check our tickets, got into the cruise vessel. The cruise vessel was a big boat with an upper deck and a lower deck with enough seating accommodation for about 200 people. The three of us got seats on the lower deck. There was a couple seated next to us. They have come from Salt Lake City. They drove a motor bike and came all the way on the Alaska Highway.

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Before the Cruise Andrew and Mala near the boat

Luckily for us it was a very clear sunny day. The captain said this was the best sunny day they had in the last two months. He made announcements from time to time, but there was another guide to explain the proceedings. He gave a brief description of our expected route and the things we can expect to see during the trip. Within a few hundred metres from the starting point, we saw a whale coming to the water surface We only saw its tail disappearing into the water. Everybody including the captain got excited and the boat did a couple of circles looking for the whale. We could not take a photo of the whale.

The next destination of the cruise boat was the sea lion rock. The captain moved the boat very close to a rock and we saw more than ten sea lions lying on the rock and sunbathing. We managed to take a few photos of the sea lions. The sea lions simply ignored us and did not try to move away from the boat.

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Sea Lions relaxing on a rock

We spent some time on the upper deck outside the glass enclosure observing the sea lions. We were requested to come inside the glass enclosure and the boat started moving at a high speed towards the tide water glaciers. We kept looking for any signs of whales and also looking for any signs of Bald Eagles or Dhal sheep in the surrounding mountains. The cabin crew in the mean time started preparing the lunch bar for us. We paid for our lunch separately, but it was good value for money. It was an “All you can eat” type buffet lunch. We could eat unlimited king salmon, beef, rice and salad. For dessert, we had cheese cake, brownies and fruit salad.

As we were getting closer to the Glaciers we could see several glaciers. The Glaciers are rivers of snow or ice. In the case of a normal river, water continuously flows into the sea. In the case of a Tide Water Glacier, the solidified snow or ice slowly flows into the ocean. The ice may be moving only a few centimetres a day, but there is continuous movement of ice.

The entire area including the surrounding mountains and the sea where we were looking for Glaciers is known as Prince William Sound. It covers a huge area and is the home to many small and large glaciers. It is not possible to have a close look at all the glaciers in one day. This cruise covers one big tide water glacier called Surprise Glacier. When we got very close to the Glacier, we could see the enormity of it. It was like a huge mountain of ice hundreds of feet high above the sea surface. The tour guide told us that the sea at this point is about three hundred feet deep and the ice wall formed at the entrance to the water extends all the way to the bottom of the sea. The most amazing scene was when the ice wall cracked in some places and fell into the sea with a huge noise. Once, a huge chunk of ice fell into the water, sending sea water in all directions. This phenomenon of ice cracking with a noise happened several times while we were there. In this area, the sea is covered with floating ice chunks. They all come from the falling ice.
Surprise Glacier from a distance

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Surprise glacier in the background

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Glacier Ice wall in the background

We also saw large groups of Sea Otters swimming on the sea surface. They are small creatures and were difficult to get a closer look. When the boat comes close to them they dive into water and disappear under water. Malisha somehow managed to get a few photos showing them moving round and back peddling on the water.

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Sea Otter – close look – back peddling

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Glacier Margarita

On our way back, the captain announced that we could buy Glacier Margarita. They have scooped out a chunk of Glacier ice from the sea and used it to combine with other ingredients to make Margarita. I and Mala bought two Margaritas and tasted them. We still haven’t finished. The boat slowly moved towards a huge rock on the right side of our path. The guide asked us to have a closer look at the rock. I first saw some water falls starting all the way up in the mountain and cascading down. But a closer look showed something else which we did not notice earlier. There were thousands and thousands of birds circling these water falls and sitting on the steep banks of the rock. The guide explained that these birds migrate here annually in summer time. There could be Bald Eagles flying around to catch some of these birds, but we did not see any of them.

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The Birds sitting on the rock near the waterfall

We can say luck was with us to be able to see all these spectacular scenes in one day. We came back to Anchorage around 7 p.m and had dinner in a near by Chinese Restaurant. The dinner was hopeless and nothing like the Chinese food we get in Australia.

Posted by fernando65 19:20 Tagged glacier anchorage whittier "sea otters" "bald eagles" Comments (1)

Day Trip to Seward from Anchorage (Alaska)

July 17

Today is our third day in Anchorage and we decided to make a day trip to Seward. We had already visited the coastal towns Stewart and Skagway and taken part in the sea cruise from Whittier. We know the city of Juneau (Capital of Alaska) is not accessible by road. Seward became the next logical place to visit in our list.

The distance from Anchorage to Seward is only 204 kilometres. The road to Seward from Anchorage is the Seward Highway. They keep it open throughout the year including winter. Some sections of the highway are subjected to avalanches and can be temporarily closed for clearing.

We left early in the morning. Our plan was to pay a visit to the Alaska Wild Life Conservation Centre (AWCC) in Girdwood, then proceed to Seward. Alaska Wild Life Conservation Centre is in Girdwood on the Seward Highway, the same road that takes you to Seward.

AWCC is a non profit organization working for the preservation and welfare of the wild animals. They bring wild animals that get injured or orphaned due to various reasons and rehabilitate them. Some of them are released back to the wild. Others who are unable to go back to their wild life remain in the centre in spacious enclosures.

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Grizzly Bear in the enclosure

There was a grizzly bear in one of the wire fenced enclosure. The warden in charge of the animal told us that he was found as a small cub abandoned by their mother or the mother bear may have been killed. The bear cub was very sick with porcupine frills stuck all over its body. Obviously it has been attacked by a porcupine. The conservation centre staff brought it to the centre and managed to treat it and bring it back to good health. It is now fully grown, but it lacks the basic skills to live in the jungle and find food. AWCC has become its permanent home.

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Caribou relaxing in the AWCC enclosure

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Group of Wood Bison

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Picture of a Musk Ox

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Injured Bald eagle

The other animals in the conservation centre included Black Bear, Wood Bison, Musk Ox, Caribou, Elk, Bald Eagle, Owl and porcupine. Wood Bisons are different from the normal Bisons you find in Canada. They were thought to be extinct at one stage. When they found some Wood Bisons, they were brought to this centre to breed and propagate them again. They have been given an area of 65 acres with the idea of releasing them back to the Alaskan wilderness. We were not able to see any Bald eagles during our sea cruise in Whittier. We were eager to see the Bald Eagle in AWCC. We were told that it has a damaged wing and cannot fly.

We spent about two hours in the AWCC and then started driving towards Seward. Like Skagway, Seward is a major tourist destination on the path of the Alaska Marine highway. Many tourists come to Seward using sea cruises or ferries which use the Marine Highway. We decided to do a day tour from Anchorage to Seward. The Seward Highway is very scenic and we had many opportunities to stop the vehicle and take photos. The road continuously winds through snow capped mountains, streams and waterfalls. In summer, snow on the mountains starts melting and creates many small waterfalls.

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Snow capped mountains on the Seward Highway (An incredible sight where the mountains reflect off the water)

We arrived at Seward in time to have our lunch. We were hungry and decided to try seafood. Mala and Malisha were keen to eat Alaskan crabs. We went into a small seafood Restaurant called Nellie’s Roadhouse and asked them for Alaskan crab. The girl who came to serve our table told us that crabs are available only at dinner time. She was very polite and apologetic when we said we are visitors and we came to their restaurant specially to try Alaskan Crab. In Skagway, Mala and Malisha ate Alaskan Dungeness crab. They are somewhat similar to our Mud Crab. This time, Mala and Malisha were after Alaskan King Crab. Our Waitress went inside to check with the restaurant chef and came back to tell us that they can prepare King Crab for us if we are willing to wait for thirty minutes. We agreed to wait and Mala ordered one pound of crab. You have to order crab in portions of half pounds. I am not very particular about crabs, so I ordered Halibut fish which is a well known fish in Alaska. While waiting for our main dishes, we ordered Seafood chowder and some onion rings. Seafood chowder was extremely tasty and well prepared.

Alaskan King Crabs have very long claws and they are softer than the normal crab claws. The way they prepare them is very simple. They boil/steam the claws and serve them with melted butter with a few pieces of garlic. You simply remove the outer shell with your hands and dip the flesh in butter and eat. That way you can enjoy the true taste of the crab flesh. After eating crab, we talked to the girl who served us. She is from Kazakhstan and she works here only in Summer. It becomes too cold and most of the restaurants are closed after Summer break.

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Name Board on Nellie’s roadhouse

We went around the city streets and spent some time looking at the city attractions. There were many boats in the harbour, but no Cruise Liners. They have day cruises starting from Seward. We have already done that from Whittier and had no interest in doing it again. They organise tours for people who like to do ice climbing and ice hiking. The two glaciers they use for these tours are Exit Glacier and Godwin Glacier. You can either hike in or take a helicopter tour to land on ice. You can access Portage Glacier from the Seward highway. We decided to call it a day and return to Anchorage and have our dinner in Anchorage. We went to Boston Pizza for dinner. It is not just a pizza place, but has a good menu including Italian food and steaks.

Posted by fernando65 17:30 Comments (0)

Two nights in Gakona Village and Day Trip to Valdez

July 18,19

We spent three nights in Anchorage and finally left the city on July 18. Our time in Alaska is fast coming to an end. We have not seen even one hundredth of the attractions in both Fairbanks and Anchorage. We do not know what these cities look like in winter. Anyway it was time to leave and we left our hotel Springhill Suites after breakfast. Springhill Suites serves a good breakfast and their coffee bar is open twenty four hours.

Our next destination was Gakona which is about 385 kilometres from Anchorage. We were not going back to Fairbanks. We were taking a different route via the Glenn Highway and later via the Richardson Highway. Glenn Highway is equally scenic and provides many photo opportunities to nature lovers. On our way we stopped at a small town called Palmer and had our lunch in a small café.

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Palmer town

The town has a small Visitor Centre. We went in there and checked the various attractions in the area.

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Palmer Visitor centre

One of the main attractions on the Glenn highway is the distant view of the Wrangell Mountains. On a clear cloudless day, you can see the peak of these mountains from the Richardson Highway. These mountains claim to have the second highest peak in Alaska.

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Wrangell Mountains

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Details of Wrangell Mountains

Gakona is a very small village and we have booked the historic Gakona Lodge for two nights. The present Gakona Lodge was built on a historically important site in 1929. It has several cabins and we were given one of those cabins. Our cabin had two rooms and a kitchen. Gakona river is less than 50 metres from our cabin. Gakona River joins the world famous Copper river or Ahtna river (Native Athabascan name) less than a kilometre from the Gakona lodge. Sokeye Salmon caught in the Copper River are supposed to be the best Salmon variety in the world.

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Gakona Lodge

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Copper River

We selected Gakona Lodge for a good reason. Gakona is the ideal village from where we can do a day tour of Valdez. Port of Valdez is another important sea port that is on the Alaskan Marine highway and regularly visited by sea cruises.

The next morning (July 19), we drove to Valdez after early breakfast. We had to drive along Richardson Highway a very scenic road. While driving to Valdez, we saw the Alaskan oil pipes again. During our trip to Arctic Circle, we found the Alaskan oil pipes run from Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean to the port of Valdez on the Gulf of Alaska. When we go to Valdez, we are covering almost the entire length of the Alaskan oil pipes from one en d to the other end.

On our way to Valdez, we saw some beautiful waterfalls, snow covered mountains and glaciers. Worthington glacier, one of the well known glaciers is on this road.

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Melting snow near the road to Valdez

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Snow capped mountains on our way to Valdez

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One of the Waterfalls on the road to Valdez

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Worthington Glacier from a distance

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Mala and Malisha near the bottom of the Worthington Glacier

We arrived at Valdez in time for lunch. There are two museums in Valdez and we decided to visit one of them to find the history and learn more about Valdez. We found some amazing things about Valdez. Valdez was hit by an earthquake on March 27, 1964. It was the largest earthquake to be recorded in the history of North America. This earthquake measured an amazing 9.2 on the Richter scale that caused a landslide and tsunami and virtually destroyed Valdez. The other cities like Anchorage, Whittier and Skagway in Alaska also underwent severe damage, but Valdez was the worst hit village. The local waves and the earth slips claimed 33 lives. The old city had to be abandoned and a new city was built about four miles from the old town and the people were moved to the new town.

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Valdez Museum

We had a good discussion with the person in charge of the museum. He was born and bred in Valdez and he kept us nearly for one hour telling us about the earthquake and the effect it had on the people. He told us that some of the undamaged houses in the old city were scooped up and re-installed in the new city to look the same. The old city is now a ghost city. The original mile posts shows the distance from the old city centre. They decided to keep it that way without changing them. The reason for the earthquake is that Coastal Alaska is on a fault zone where the Pacific plate meets the North American plate.

I asked the person in charge of the museum why they still want to live in Valdez knowing there can be future earthquakes even more destructive. His answer was simple and heart warming. They love their home town and there is no other place like Valdez. They do not have wildfires, floods and hurricanes. He laughed and said they only have earthquakes and tsunamis - they can live with it.

Before leaving the museum, Mala asked him where we can buy raw Alaskan crabs. He gave us the address of a shop, Peterpan Seafoods. We went there and found both Alaskan salmon and Alaskan king Crab Claws for sale. Mala bought them for a very reasonable price and the shop sales person packed them with ice so that we can keep them fresh for the long drive back to our cabin.

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Peterpan Seafoods

Valdez has the highest recorded snowfall in Alaska. The all time record year was in the winter of 1989/1990 when 560 inches of snow blanketed the city. That is more than 46 feet of snow.
In 2012 January, it had a snowfall of more than 20 feet. The amazing thing is that the city roads are continuously cleared and the businesses remain open in winter.

On our way back, we stopped at a grocery shop and Mala bought spices needed to cook crab and salmon. We came back to Gakona Lodge and Mala and Malisha prepared a delicious dinner using Salmon and crab. One thing we noticed is that restaurants that serve salmon overcook it so much to the point where you can’t enjoy its natural flavours. We were sure to cook it until it was perfectly cooked – the best salmon we’ve eaten!

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Mala ready to cook Salmon and crab

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Malisha cutting onions

Tomorrow morning we are leaving for Beaver Creek. We will be crossing the Canadian border just before reaching Beaver Creek, which means leaving Alaska and entering Canada.

Posted by fernando65 07:49 Comments (0)

From Gakona to Beaver Creek - Leaving Alaska

July 20

We left Gakona Lodge in the morning and headed towards Beaver Creek.
We had to drive along Tok Cutoff road till we reach Tok and then fall on to Alaska Highway. We then travel along the Alaska Highway to Beaver Creek. We cross over to Canada just before reaching Beaver Creek.

As we are finally leaving Alaska, this is a good time to give more details about some of the things we could not include in our previous entries.

Native Alaska:
Natives of Alaska lived in Alaska long before the Russians and Americans came there. Very broadly they can be classified into three ethnic groups. They are Indian, Eskimo and Aleut. Then there are so many sub groups. Some of the Indian subgroups are Athabascan, Tlingit, Haida etc. Then Eskimos have sub groups like Alutiiq, Cupik, Inupiaq etc. You need to read a book on Alaska to get more information on their culture and history.

Some of the names of places and rivers come from these native languages. Places like Anchorage and Fairbanks are English names, but most villages and rivers have been named by natives.

Hunting and fishing:
Hunting is one of the big recreations in Alaska. There are game rangers to control and monitor hunting. If you have a hunting permit, you can hunt a limited number of animals per year. However these restrictions do not apply to the native Alaskans. They can hunt any number of animals. This has created some bitterness among the non-native Alaskans. They feel there should be one rule for everybody.
Fishing for Salmon also needs a permit. There is no limit to the number of fish, but you have to pay and buy the permit before taking part in Salmon fishing.

Mosquitoes:
Alaskan mosquitoes are well known for their size. It is not as bad as I thought it would be. We haven’t seen many of them in Anchorage and Fairbanks while we were in the hotels. But when you are on the road in a remote area and stop the car to take a photo, you will find them coming from all directions. If you apply a mosquito repellent, they tend to move away from you. We learned that we should always keep our car windows closed. In the hotels, normally the windows have mosquito meshes. When we open the front door, we should close it quickly without keeping it open for a long time.

Road conditions:
Roads in Alaska get easily damaged due to Permafrost. On Alaska Highway, you always find bad patches sometimes extending to several miles. In most cases it is just lose gravel. Lose stones can easily damage windscreens and body paint. In some places, the road can be extremely dusty. Moving vehicles can raise a cloud of dust causing poor visibility. The biggest problem is when you have to stop the car and wait in one place for nearly one hour when the road is under repairs.

The distance from Gakona to Beaver Creek was only about 400 kilometres. We were in no hurry to get to Beaver Creek. We knew Beaver Creek is a very small village and there are not many facilities in the village.

On our way, we saw a tourist bus has stopped on the road and the passengers were taking photos. We stopped our vehicle to find two Moose by the side of the road. This was the first time we were able to take some photos of the moose.

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Moose on the road to Beaver Creek

We drove up to Tok junction on the Tok Cutoff road . At Tok this road falls on to Alaska Highway. We then travel along Alaska Highway to Beaver Creek.
At the Tok junction, we stopped for lunch and also visited a souvenir shop. The souvenir shop was pretty good and was the last place we could buy Alaskan souvenirs.

We were not keen to buy anything made out of animal skins for two reasons.
1. We did not like hunting or killing animals for sport.
2. We cannot bring leather or animal products to Australia.

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Souvenir shop at Tok Junction

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Souvenir made out of hunted animals

We then dropped in at Fast Eddy for lunch. We ordered our lunches and Malisha ordered a Nachos. This place serves big portions of food. Malisha’s Nacho plate was so big that another tourist who saw it asked her whether she is going to eat all of that. We could not finish even half of the plates we ordered. The food was very tasty. We put half of the food in a box and took it with us to eat later.

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Huge plate of nachos

Beaver Creek is on the Canadian side only about two kilometres from the Canadian Immigration office. We had to stop at the Immigration office and show our passports. It was very quick. They just asked a few questions and let us pass through.

We arrived at Beaver Creek around 3:00PM and checked in to the hotel called Buckshot Betty. This is a very small hotel. The main building is a restaurant. Behind this building there are several cabins. We were given a cabin that had two double beds. The cabin was quite comfortable and good enough to spend one night. We had to buy our breakfast separately. We also had to pay separately to use the hotel Internet. The temperature outside was about 24oC today. We have got used to low temperatures and we were sweating. Most of the small hotels in Alaska have heaters, but not air conditioners. I think they do not need air conditioners. We had to have the fan on during the night.

Posted by fernando65 19:58 Comments (2)

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