Sunday, July 10, 2016

Homer to Valdez, Alaska July 1 – July 8, 2016, Days 62 - 69

Valdez - Dockside
Old Valdez was built on sand and gravel and when the shock from the 1964, 9.2 earthquake struck Valdez the sediments under the waterfront began to spontaneously liquefy thus causing 2.4 million square feet of the delta to slump into Port Valdez.  The Valdez Port Facilities were sent to the bottom and this caused a huge volume of water to generate a 40-foot tsunami. All of this occurred even before the shaking ended so with no warning all who were on the docks were killed by the tsunami.  Union Oil Company tanks ruptured spreading fire over the entire waterfront. All was lost.  This was in the era of the cold war and many thought that it was an atomic bomb attack.  Later they learned that it was mother nature that caused this devastation.  When the town was rebuilt, it was moved to firmer ground that just happens to be the terminus of the Alaska Pipeline.
Matanuska Valley

Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site, Mile 101 Glenn Hwy

Driving northeast from Anchorage through Palmer, Alaska, we then twisted along the Matanuska River Valley.  Palmer is particularly interesting in that in the 1930’s Franklin Roosevelt, as part of the New Deal, helped establish the Matanuska Colony.  It was here that more than 200 families were assisted in relocating from the depressed Midwest (mostly Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota) to this area to establish an agricultural base.  Each family was given 40-acre tracts on which to farm in this very fertile valley.  Transitioning from tents to homesteads, some families made a go of it while others packed it in and returned to the lower 48.  It was this venture that established Palmer as an agricultural base. 
Big Auto Wreckers
To this day, family owned enterprises raise grain crops, hay, fresh produce, and livestock.  There is even a muskox venture where they harvest the VERY SOFT undercoat for clothing.  Meat is also harvested and the breeders are working on developing a more docile strain of animal to best accommodated this sort of venture.

Sandwiched among the Alaska Range, the Talkeetna, and Chugach Mountains, the Matanuska Valley was shaped through glaciation and abounds with lakes, streams, and wildlife.  The scenery is breathtaking.  With the 4th of July celebrations upon us, we decided to find a beautiful little corner to hole up in before proceeding on to Valdez.  Traveling the Glenn Highway to our camping destination we nearly hit a moose that scared Andrea to death.  Cool and calm as always, I assured her that we had a good ¾ of an inch to spare once the event was past but I did stop to take a moment to clean out my pants.  Moose are HUGE!!  Averaging 1400 pounds, they have the capability of turning a “street-legal” vehicle into a “junk-yard” bonanza of semi-salvageable spare parts.
Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier and the surrounding area were resplendent in their beauty. Unique among Alaskan glaciers, scientist say that “flowing at a rate of a foot per day, there is little change in its terminus.”  On the other hand, spending the morning with the manager of Matanuska Glacier Adventures who has lived in the area for 25 years, he begged to differ.  Displaying photos of the glacier in years past while overseeing this operation seemed to indicate a big change from its present location in proximity to his lodge 25 year ago.  Who knows?   In any event, this whole area is gorgeous, and it was in this area that we celebrated Andrea’s 46 anniversary of her 21st birthday.
Blueberry Campsite
Blueberry Lake State Recreation Site, Mile 24, Richardson Highway to Valdez
I am at a loss for words in my attempt to describe the beauty of the Richardson Highway as one travels to Valdez.  Pictures, nor all the adjectives in the English Language, simply do not suffice in capturing the immense beauty of this area.  Passing over Thompson Pass on our way to Blueberry Lake was stunning and will remain etched in our memories long after this trip is over.  Cascading waterfalls, jagged peaks, lush carpets of vegetation sprinkled with wildflowers, and rushing streams can be seen in every direction.  Camping 20 miles out of Valdez, we enjoyed stunning beauty, great fishing, and watched, with our binoculars, bears roaming on the hillside just across the valley from us.  What a sight to behold!
View from Blueberry Campsite

At Valdez, a site where ferries transport travelers along the Inland Passage, we watched the fishing trawlers and were stunned to see a young bear just crossing the street in downtown Valdez.  What a place!  "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."  With such beauty, we were reluctant to leave but alas, we did have to move on.  Next stop…Tok, Alaska for caribou sausage, sourdough pancakes, and rejoining the Alaska Highway.
Valley Road to Valdez


Andrea looking from Thompson Pass

Andrea at Worthington Glacier
Thompson Pass
Road to Blueberry Campsite

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