Sunday, September 18, 2016

Seward to Valdez July 12-22, 2016

Seward to Valdez July 12-22, 2016

Talk about moving slowly. It took us 10 days to drive the 424 miles from Seward to Valdez. We did have some 2 night stops along the way though.

We had a beautiful clear day when we left Seward. That gave us a wonderful drive through the valleys of the Kenai Peninsula. On our other days of driving through this area we had low clouds and rain.

A beautiful lake, marsh area and mountains at Tern Lake Junction.
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A valley and lake north of Tern Lake Junction
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Our stop for today was a pullout on Turnagin Arm about 3-4 miles from Hope. Great view of the water.
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Our view at breakfast the next morning.
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We made a quick tour of Hope. An interesting small town with lots of original buildings from the gold rush era around 1900. The dirt roads and bumpy walkways would have made it difficult for Sharon to get around in the scooter or power chair, so we just viewed the town from the car. We also had a good lunch at Tito’s Discovery Cafe.

Our next stop was boondocking at Tangle Lake about 3 miles east of Portage on the way to Whittier. A 38 mile drive from our boondock spot near Hope.
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In the afternoon we visited Begich, Boggs Visitor Center. The visitor center has lots of good displays about Chugach NF, the Portage Glacier and the magnitude 9.2 earth quake on Good Friday 1964 which devastated the Portage area and Anchorage.

I had a huge surprise when I stepped outside the next morning. Parked right behind us was the 4X4 Born Free Class C motorhome we used to own. I had the MH coverted from 2 wheel drive to 4 wheel drive and made several other modifications.
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Due to some medical problems Sharon has, the Born Free wasn’t working well for us and we decided to sell that MH in the spring of 2014. I took it to PPL Motorhomes, a large consignment dealer in Houston, TX to sell. With a consignment dealer you usually don’t know who buys your RV, so we didn’t know who purchased.

Quiet a surprise to see it parked right behind us! Later on in the morning I talked with the new owners. At first they didn’t seem to believe me that we were the previous owners. Just the coincident of them parking behind the former owners. It didn’t take long for me to describe, in detail, the features of the MH for them to realize I was telling the truth. They had a number of questions about the MH that I was able to answer for them. It truly is a small world!

Here are links to a couple of blogs about our travels with our Born Free 4X4 motorhome:
Trip to Big Bend NP in Feb, 2014.  This is the first entry of an 8 part blog.
Trip to and from Salt Lake City to upgrade the Born Free to 4 wheel drive.  1st entry of an 8 part blog  
Back to our Alaska trip.

The main reason we stopped at Tangle Lake was to visit Whittier and experience the drive though the railroad tunnel. The tunnel is shared by trains and vehicles. On the hour cars/trucks go in one direction and on the half hour cars/trucks go in the other direction. When a train is scheduled to use the tunnel, it preempts the vehicle traffic.

The following 3 pictures are from the internet showing the tunnel to/from Whittier
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There is a nice hiking trail starting near the east end of the tunnel up to the top of the pass between Whittier and Portage. Great views of Portage Glacier and the large bay or fjord by Whittier.

Start of the trail

At the top of the pass

View of the fjord from the pass
View of Portage Glacier from the pass

I didn’t take any pictures of the town of Whittier.

However I did take a couple of pics inside a funkly little restaurant we ate at, Swiftwater Seafood. The fish & Chips was OK, but the interesting decor inside is a better draw then the food. :

Our next stop for two nights was in Anchorage. We parked in Cabelas parking lot with about 40 other RV’s. Cabelas has free 48 hour RV parking that we took advantage of.

In Anchorage we walked through Earthquake Park and read the well done and informative displays about the damage the Good Friday 1964 earthquake did. I didn’t see anything significant to take pictures of. Mainly you can see where the ground slid down with the trees still intact and standing from 52 years ago. 

In the downtown area there are museums with much more detail about the damage done to the city and surrounding area. 

We spend most of the second day in Anchorage going through the Anchorage Museum.

The two areas we found most interesting were
Alaska Native Cultures with displays of native Alaskan peoples clothing, children's toys, hunting equipment, etc all made in the traditional manner.
Alaska Gallery a large room showing the history of Alaska from the ice age to present. However the Alaska Gallery will be closed for renovations until September 2017.

From Anchorage we spent a couple of nights at Walmart in Wasilla. We almost always never park for more than one night at Walmart. It is not a campground after all. However with all the RV’s parked here, some appearing to be here for days on end, we felt it was acceptable practice to spend a couple of nights.

We hoped to visit Sarah Palin, but she was out of town, so that didn’t happen. We were able to see Russia from Walmart’s parking lot though.  :)

The first day in Wasilla we drove up to Hatcher Pass to visit the Independence Mine. The drive up to the mine is very pretty. 

Either before or after you vist the mine area be sure to take short drive of about 5 miles up a steep gravel road up to Hatcher Pass. Beautiful views from the road and pass, but don’t take your RV. Very steep and dusty. With the cloudy sky providing very poor lighting I didn’t take any pictures of the mountains and views.

The Independence Mine is a historic gold mine with many of the original buildings still intact or restored. Well worth spending an hour our two to visit.

Mine buildings

The ore processing structures are pretty dilapidated.

Sharon’s scooter got a good workout going up and down the pretty steep trails in the mine area.

The next day we visited the Iditarod Race Headquarters where Sharon got her puppy dog love fix:

Inside the headquarters they have a small museum which only took about 15 minutes to see. They also have a very well done video about sled dogs. What the dogs are bred for, how they are trained and cared for and why they love to run and pull sleds. Much of the video is to answer questions raised about using these dogs to work to pull sleds. Some people feel the dogs shouldn’t be used to pull sleds. Personally I guess if dogs shouldn’t be used to pull sleds then horses shouldn’t be used for herding cattle, pulling sleds, or the Amish shouldn’t be allowed to use horses for farming.

The following day was a travel day. We usually don’t visit museums on a travel day, but we wanted to visit the Dorthy Page Museum, a museum of the history of Wasilla. The museum was small, but interesting if you have the time. It only took about 1 ½ hours to tour the museum.

I only took one picture at the museum.  That was this photo of the staircase going down to the lower level.  It looks like you are going down into an active mine. 

However 9 steps down there is a doorway to the right.  What looks like steps going farther down is a painting on the wall.

We had a fairly short travel day of about 66 miles to tonight's boondocking spot. A large mostly level pull-out at MM 99.7 on the Glenn Highway with a nice view of the Matanuska Glacier in the distance. We were far enough off the hwy so what little road noise there was, wasn’t bothersome.

In the afternoon we were just sitting in the motorhome relaxing and piddling with our laptops, when I saw a small SUV stop to check out the view of the glacier. To my surprise the luggage rack on the top of the SUV was covered by a solar panel about the same size as the top of the SUV. I quickly grabbed my camera and went outside and commented to the driver about the solar panel on the SUV. He popped open the rear door and showed me (and some others standing near by) a cooler sized refrigerator powered by small battery, an inverter and the solar panel. Instead of trying to keep ice in a regular cooler, the fridge. Very inventive idea!

The next morning was overcast and gray. The farther east we went toward Glennallen the brighter the sky got. Unfortunately we never got the bright blue sky with puffy clouds we hoped for.

Pictures along the Glennallen Hwy:

The mountains in Wrangle St Elias National Park in the distance.

Instead of continuing on to Valdez we made today another short drive of only 91 miles.

Here are a couple of pictures from our BD spot overlooking the Copper River with the Wrangle St. Elias NP mountains in the background. We were about 5 miles south of Glennallen on the Richardson Hwy. Very nice views. I just wish we had clearer weather to see the mountains better.

The next morning we woke to light but steady rain. This turned our nice boondocking spot into a muddy mess. Since we had internet connectivity with our Verizon Jetpack we knew the rain was coming, so yesterday I positioned the motorhome so all we had to do was pull straight out of the mud. If we would have had to do any maneuvering in the mud we would have gotten stuck. The highway tires we have are worthless in mud or snow.

It was a rainy 112 mile drive to Valdez and most of the scenery was obscured by the clouds and rain.

This is the Welcome to Valdez sign about 20 miles from town:

Link back to the Alaska blog index page.

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