Wednesday, December 12, 2007

June Ride to Valdez

We had a friend who moved out of Alaska this Fall. He was one of the people we rode with a lot and knew we'd really miss when he left, so we agreed to go on a trip to Valdez. Our friend met us at our house at 6:30 am. I'm an early riser, but I hate being rushed when I'm getting ready to ride. Still I had to agree that it made sense to leave early so we'd have more time to explore in Valdez.

Our first stop was about 120 miles out of Anchorage at Sheep Mountain Lodge, where we had an ok (not great) breakfast. This was always where we'd go when we were out that direction. On our way home we stopped for dinner at the Eureka Lodge that is about 15 miles further from Anchorage. We like the food there also, and the people who work at Eureka are a lot of fun. Eureka also has a less hazardous parking lot! Sheep Mountain's parking lot is loose gravel and has a strange off camber tilt. Eureka has a paved lot. To spend the night, I'd still definitely go to Sheep Mountain, but for food it is nice to have discovered an alternative.

After breakfast we rode to Glenallen and the Valdez cutoff. We have ridden to Glenallen a lot, but it had been a very long time since I'd been on the cutoff. A few miles in we came to the Wrangel/St. Elias visitor center. The day had gotten somewhat overcast, so the pictures don't do the view justice.

Shortly after the visitor center is the Worthington Glacier. It's huge!

After Thompson Pass, Bobby and our friend pulled over on a gravel road to explore, while I dropped down into Blueberry Lake State Recreation Area. From there into Valdez the guys rode on their own and I rode on my own. The road was rough and dusty, but Blueberry Lake is gorgeous. I'd like to come back with our inflatable kayaks that fit in my husband's panniers and spend a day on the lake.

Bridal Veil Falls is right next to the road, and is impressively high! Horsetail Falls is also right next to the road, but not as picturesque as Bridal Veil.

After getting into Valdez and checking into our motel, we went to the end of the road on the other side of the harbor and took pictures of the Alaska Pipeline Terminus buildings. There were a lot of boats fairly close to shore that were hauling in a lot of fish. I don't know what they were fishing for, but they were fun to watch.

On our way back to town we stopped at the Old Valdez townsite. Nothing really exists there any more. The entire original town was wiped out by a tsunami following the 1964 earthquake that did so much damage to Anchorage. Again the guys went their own way and explored an old wrecked boat that was flying a tattered pirate flag while I went the other way on the beach and explored a gravel and sand spit that went a ways out into the water.

When we got back into town I couldn't resist a couple pictures of the kayaks, and other boats. We also met a group of guys who had rented BMW 1200's in Anchorage and were touring Alaska. They were nice guys and had some great stories. Then it was time for food and beer. (I had wine, but my glass wasn't as cool looking.)

The next morning was foggy and drizzley, so not many photos, but I like Bridal Veil with the fog. Our friend took the ferry back to Anchorage while my husband and I decided to explore some more in the area. We took a lot of side roads just to see that was there, but decided to wait on riding to Kennicott and McCarthy until we had more time. We also drove back to Lake Louise where neither of us had ever been. It is an amazingly beautiful lake with a nice reasonably priced lodge, and the lake is huge!

We got back into Anchorage in the late evening after a great two day escape.

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