Welcome to North Pole, Alaska!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Valdez, Alaska

After I arrived back on Thursday evening, Andrew and I packed up the car and headed for Valdez, Alaska on Friday morning. Google Maps told us it would be an 8 1/2 hour drive...considering the highway speed limits here are usually 45, 50, or 55! Even with a few stops (outhouses on the side of the road, literally, Andrew would not let me take a picture...picnic lunch on a mountain top, and a few stops by scenic outlooks) we managed to get there in about 7 1/2 hours. The drive was beautiful but unfortunately we saw no wildlife except big fat porcupines scurrying across the road. That is until we took our glacier cruise on the Prince William Sound!

Pictures from the drive:

Andrew caught a rainbow!

Valdez was a very quaint, VERY small, harbor town, surrounded by beautiful snow-capped mountains on every side. There are just a little over 4,000 residents. All I knew about Valdez before visiting the town had to do with the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. I can only imagine what those native residents think about the newest U.S. oil spill. Although we did not see any damage from the 89' oil spill, our boat captain told us that wildlife and glacier damage can still be seen from certain areas of the Sound (areas that our boat was unable to travel to).

Around 1900, Valdez became the first port that could connect gold seekers via a land route to the interior of Alaska, aka Fairbanks, where we live. Fishing runs the economy and it almost reminds me of the harbor town in the movie, Perfect Storm. In 1964, a 30 foot tsunami was the result of an earthquake (tremors are very common in AK but we have yet to feel the ground shake). The tsunami destroyed a large portion of the town of Valdez. Therefore, the Army Corps of Engineers helped the residents reestablish the town about 1 mile down the road, in a safer inlet. "Old Town Valdez" is posted near the new town and the remains are basically boards.

In 1977, the Alaska pipeline was finished (see the pipeline route below). Since Valdez was an accessible port (many ports froze over in the winter), it became the final stop. On our drive we basically followed the pipeline the entire way to Valdez. The Valdez Oil Terminal is the departure point for tankers of oil which are then transported to various American ports. While on our boat cruise we passed two huge oil tankers. Enough of the history lesson (although I had to refresh my memory using Wikipedia more than once...).

Oil Terminal view from the water...

Our main reason for visiting Valdez was to take a boat cruise on the Prince William Sound. We boarded the boat (capacity 86 persons) on Saturday morning and headed out for our 6 hour tour. It was definitely the highlight of the trip (as it should be) and it is a must-do for anyone visiting Valdez (if you are visiting Valdez you are either doing a boat tour or a chartered fishing tour because that.is.it). Our tour below...

Some pictures from our excursion.

We saw MANY large and in charge sea lions...

A lot of humpback whales...although they were difficult to get pictures of.

A few bald eagles...

Also a few porpoises, puffins, sea otters, and a bear far on the coast (all too quick or too far away to get a decent picture).

At one point, as we were close to the Columbia Glacier, we were floating in a sea of ice, everywhere! It was actually quite eerie, considering Titanic was the movie playing at the hotel the previous night.

Holding an iceberg (I was the only person older than 16 to brave the coldness and embarrassment!)

We got off the boat around 6:00 PM, grabbed a bite to eat, and braced ourselves for our 7 1/2 hour drive home. We didn't think it would be too bad considering it would never be dark! We only stopped once to take this picture of the sunset, approximately 12:30 AM.

Of course, when I saw this:

I immediately thought of a cruise to a warm, tropical, and sandy destination. I hope that will be in our future, maybe a VERY belated honeymoon :-)

Although Andrew and I are not the most experienced fishermen (not like my dad!), we do hope to do a fishing charter while in Alaska. Our friend was in Valdez the same weekend on a fishing charter, and he caught hundreds of pounds of halibut, three of his halibut weighing in OVER 100 pounds! It would be quite an experience to actually catch fish that weigh about the same weight as me. Stay tuned for that post, assuming I survive :-)

To end this post on a cheesy family picture and a video of a whale:


1 comment:

  1. WOW...this is awesome...sounds like you had a great time! Thanks for sharing your adventures.