Day Seventeen: One last night in Alaska

When I went to sleep in Valdez, last night, I thought that would be my last night in Alaska. That turned out to not be true. Nothing bad happened – the Emerald Bullet kept on keeping on, just like she always does – but the guy behind the wheel got tired. It’s been another long stretch of driving/photographing/blogging essentially non-stop, then consulting on a television show after I got that all wrapped up. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not 21 any more. ๐Ÿ™‚

So, when rolled into Tok about 3:30 or so, I thought, “This is far enough for one day.” One last day in Alaska, then Canada tomorrow.

I spent a few minutes this morning rolling around Valdez:

That’s a pretty picture, isn’t it? The nice sign, with the mountains in the background? Here’s a secret: Alaskan towns are not pretty. As transcendentally lovely as the scenery is, the towns themselves, from Fairbanks to Wasilla to Soldotna, are not pretty. Alaska, especially this time of year, during the ice break up and runoff, is a muddy, dirty place, and it’s hard to keep a city pristine under those conditions.

Valdez is no exception. It’s muddy, and there’s not a lot of rhyme or reason to the way the town grew. It all seems a bit helter-skelter to me. And yet, there are those mountains, and it sits right on that gorgeous bay, and it’s easy to forgive and forget any shortcomings in the cities and towns.

I drove past the little pond where I had seen the two trumpeter swans yesterday. You know what? They were still there, swimming in the part of the pond that isn’t iced over. For all I know, their swimming may contribute to pushing the ice away:

One last shot of the swans, before we turn our attention elsewhere, as one dives down for a nibble:

Okay, speaking of wildlife… a few people have messaged me over the past week about some of my wildlife shots. They are concerned, either for me, or for the wildlife, that I am getting too close to them. So, today, I took a shot that is pretty typical of the wildlife shots I’ve been taking:

A nice shot of a moose at the edge of a frozen lake, with two ducks hiding at her feet. Almost looks like I might be close enough to bother them, until you see this, which I shot from the exact same spot:

Do you see the moose in that shot? It’s the tiny little dot on the far shoreline of that frozen lake. I don’t know how far away she was, maybe 100 yards, maybe more? I’m terrible at visually estimating distances. What I know is, I’m not close enough to the moose or ducks to bother them or be in any danger myself. Aside, that is, from the horrible little road that I had to put the Emerald Bullet down to get near that pond.

In any case, here’s one more shot of this cow, really getting into her grazing.

By the way, I was proud of finding her. She didn’t cross the road in front of me like the ones in Homer did. I caught the briefest flash of movement way off in a field, out of the corner of my eye as I drove. My eyes are so bad, I’m always amazed when I catch anything like that!

Here’s my scenery shot for the day. This is a mountain range called the Wrangell Mountains.

That’s Mt. Sanford, which is a bit over 16,000 feet tall. As a frame of reference for my Washington State friends, that’s about 2,000 feet taller than Mt. Rainier. You can’t see it in this shot, but off to the right of Mt. Sanford is Mt. Wrangell, which is a currently active volcano. I grew up in the shadow of Mt. St. Helens, though, and was there on May 18th, 1980, so I ain’t afraid of no ghosts. ๐Ÿ™‚

One last thought – I posted a kind of cool video of a waterfall over on my writer’s Facebook page today. If you’d like to see it, or any of my other mental meanderings, I’d love to see you there on my page. Here’s a link:

I’m going to get a good night’s rest tonight, and I will be up and on the road to Canada early tomorrow. I’ll at least make Haines Junction tomorrow, if not a little further. I hope it’s obvious how much I have loved making this trip and taking you along with me, but I miss my bride, and it is time to head for home now.

Cheers, and safe travels!





  1. Wow, your shot of Mt. Sanford is beautiful! Concerning your proximity to wildlife, you are a decently sensible man, so I knew you were being careful when shooting wildlife. Who knew there were swans in Alaska? It must be muddy up there now because even the swans had muddy heads, necks and bottoms. I’m glad you posted a video of the waterfall. You’re right, the photo didn’t do it justice. Continued safe travels!

    Liked by 1 person

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