Alaska's Winter Horizon

Alaska's Winter Horizon

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The road to Valdez

We left the Denali Highway and traveled along the Richardson Highway to the south. It was a very quiet drive with little travel. There was only forest to look at for the first few miles. When we got to Glennallen you could see the beautiful Wrangell Mountain Range in the distance.

After stopping to grab a bite to eat, we headed on toward Valdez. The drive was stunning for the rest of the trip. We were able to see many glaciers from the road and gorgeous mountain views. Near the Copper River Basin, we stopped at the Wrangell St. Elias National Park Visitor Center. Unfortunately, it had already closed for the day. This park is the largest park in the National Park System. It covers 13.2 million acres. It contains many different ecosystems. This park is something we plan to give more time to exploring later.
Hitting the road again for Valdez we climbed toward the top of Thompson Pass. We stopped for a short break along the roadside. The wind was blowing fiercely and the temperatures were in the low 40s. It was almost a struggle just to stand still. Once we headed back out, it began to rain and we could see fog developing in the distance and layering the mountains. It happened so quickly that it almost looked like a giant sheet was being spread upon the mountains. The bad news was that as we continued to climb we found ourselves covered in the same sheet. The night had grown dark. This was the first real night darkness we've seen for a long time. I can understand why Thompson's Pass is such an obstacle during winter road travel. As we crawled along, trying to find the road, a large porcupine nearly wobbled into our car. These things are huge! We had no idea they were that big. Greg was able to concentrate and narrowly avoided a quill/car collision. He credited this maneuver to his defensive driving training at police academy, or just quick reflexes. It was nearing midnight and we had poor cell phone service. We had much trouble finding a room on a July weekend in Valdez. Thankfully, we don't have any pictures of where we stayed. The walls were soooo thin, we could hear the people snoring and coughing in the 2 adjacent rooms. However, we did get a picture of my wet clothes that had to be laid out in the trunk to dry. I tried to take a shower and water leaked out all around the tub area. My clothes got drenched from the water spewing and flooding the floors. We were all exhausted and didn't really care. We just wanted to fall out. This ended a long, beautiful, and exhilarating day.

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