…Alaska shows me how foolish I am.
I started in Homer, today, with a goal of making it all the way to Valdez, which is a lot more of a drive than it might be, because of the limited Alaska Highway System. At one point, I measured on a map to figure out how far Valdez was as the crow flies. It was a bit over 100 miles away. The distance I needed to drive to get there? 326 miles. Welcome to Alaska, folks!
I haven’t mentioned it much, but I’ve been eating out of the Magical Mystery Bag a lot. Part of that is because of the distance between towns, and part of it is because prepared food in Alaska falls into essentially two categories: fast food and expensive. Since I’m not eating at chains, that lets out most all of the fast food. By “expensive,” I don’t mean it’s $100 per meal or anything, but a basic family restaurant generally starts its entrees around $25, which is more than I like to spend on myself. So, lunch out of the bag it is, and often dinner.
That means I’m not eating fine cuisine, but my views are often worth a million dollars. Around lunch and dinner, I begin to look for little side roads that might lead somewhere pretty. Today, I turned off onto a road with an ominous sign that read: “4 Wheel Drive Only Beyond This Point.” *shrug* The Emerald Bullet is nothing if not all wheel drive, so off we went. It was, as Bette Davis once said, a bumpy ride. Totally worth it in the end, as soon enough, I found Bottenintnin Lake:
Please don’t ask me how to pronounce that.
My valiant little Subaru, in its natural habitat.
Just in the couple of weeks I have been in B.C./Yukon/Alaska, I have noticed that the ice in rivers and lakes is starting to give up the ghost. Puddles are forming here and there. But, sometimes I still see these brilliantly colored ice fields:
I really did think that I had seen the best scenery Alaska had to offer, but for the moment, I’ll just shut up and let these pictures do the talking:
One of the coolest things I saw today was the Matanuska Glacier, slowly creeping along its inevitable path:
That white stuff in front of the mountains is the glacier, still covered in a layer of snow. As I understand it, once it gets warm enough to melt that snow, it takes on a gorgeous blue hue. That would be worth seeing.
As I turned toward Valdez, I climbed in elevation and the temperature dropped. It had been warm earlier in the day, but it got flat out cold, as evidenced by this picture:
I jumped back in my warm car about 1.5 seconds after that shot was taken.
As I continued on toward Valdez, I scanned along the sides of the road, hoping to see more wildlife. I had to stop when I saw this:
Pretty close to the last thing I expected to see was a lovely swan, swimming in a small pond with water so cold there was still ice floating in it. But, there it was.
A bit further on, I found two gorgeous waterfalls. I don’t love the way the photos turned out, so I think I might stop and take some video on the way out tomorrow. This one in particular was impressive and much taller than it appears in this picture:
This one is still mostly frozen, but is slowly breaking free:
That one’s called Bridal Veil Falls, by the way.
So, why did I drive so far out of my way to come to Valdez? Part of it is that I wanted to drive everywhere I could on the interconnected highways of Alaska.
The other part is, in the summer of 1975, I was staying with my brother in Seward when he got offered a longshoreman job in Valdez. It was too good to pass up, as they were offering shifts of seven twelve hour shifts, with time and half for overtime. It’s about an eight hour drive between the two, so driving back and forth was out of the question. For about a month, then, Mickey stayed in Valdez while I stayed alone back in Seward.
It was the first time I had ever had that much freedom and autonomy. I was a boring kid, though, so I didn’t use that freedom to get into trouble. Instead, I got a job, played a lot of basketball on a local outdoor court, and stayed home, slightly freaked out at being alone.
In any case, ever since that summer, I’ve wondered about what was in Valdez. I got here pretty late tonight, as I drove more than 525 miles today, so I’ll look around before I head out tomorrow.
Today is a bittersweet day. I saw so many stunning things, but this is the last night I will spend in Alaska. Tomorrow, I am going to attempt another 500+ mile day, which will put me in to Haines Junction, Yukon, Canada.
I know this: part of my heart and soul will always be right here, in Alaska.
Cheers, and safe travels!