Alaska Roadtrip 2017 – Day 23-24

After are boat tour to see the glaciers of Kenai Fjord National Park, we drove to Wasilla, spending the night in a Walmart parking lot.  The next morning, the sunshine was a welcome sight, as we had almost a week of clouds.  We headed east on the Glenn Highway.  On one of our tours, we were told we needed to stop and take a picture of the Alaska State Fair grounds, so we did.  The fair grounds are east of Mat-Su-Valley.  This area was settled in 1935 as part of the New Deal.  It was established to help 203 farm families from the upper Midwest.  They had been financially devastated by the depression and the Dust Bowl to re-establish themselves in Alaska.  The area and specifically the town of Palmer, is the only area in Alaska to be settled as an agricultural community.

With the clear weather, the drive toward Glenallen along the Matanuska River was gorgeous.

We had many opportunities to stop and take pictures.

Matanuska Glacier can be seen from the highway.  It averages 2 miles wide and is 4 miles long.  You can drive to the glacier, but there is a $30.00 per person entrance fee.  We looked at it from the highway instead.

Further east you have a good view of Nelchina Glacier.

As you near Glenallen you can see the Wrangell Mountain Range. Mt Wrangell is the largest active volcano in Alaska and the clouds kept it hidden.

Glenallen is small town of about 500 citizens.  It is named for Capt. Glenn and Lt Allen, the leaders of the exploration of the Copper River region.  At the junction of Glenn and Richardson Highways, we turned right and headed south toward Valdez.  We stopped at an overlook to see if we could catch a glimpse of all 4 mountains.  Still clouds but had a great view of the Gakona River.

We stopped at the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Visitors Center, where we finally learned about the fish wheels we had been seeing since we were in Haines.

We stopped and watched the float plane take-off.  The noise they make is incredible.

The clouds were starting to settle in, but we had some nice views of the mountains.  The road begins to narrow as you climb towards Thompson Pass.

We stopped at the bridge over Tiekel River.

There is a short road to the Worthington Glacier parking area.  There are viewing telescopes available, where we got a close-up view of the water coming from the glacier.

As we started our climb up Thompson Pass, the weather turned and became cold with a bit of snow.  It was named in 1899 by Captain Abercrombie.  It is sits at 2,678 feet but it has the Alaska record for highest snowfall in a season 974.5 inches, 298 inches in one month, and 62 inches in a 24-hour period.  There was road construction on the downward side, so we could not stop for a view.

We stopped at Bridal Veil Falls.  This is also a restored section of the Trans-Alaska Military Packtrain trail established in 1899.

A short distance away is Horsetail Falls.  Wanting to get a better view, we walked up the rocks.  Cindy slipped first and then Jerie.  She got a nasty cut on her hand.  If we had been near a clinic, we would have probably gone for stitches…so we pulled out the     steri-strips and bandaged it up.  We elevated her hand but it still throbbed.  She was a trooper and didn’t complain too much.

We drove into Valdez.  Across the bay you could see the final pumping station of the Alaska pipeline, at the shipping terminal.

Since we had not been able to dry our the canopy after the rain in Seward, we pulled into a parking lot near the water.  We had bought some fresh vegetables in Seward and we had sausage from Fairbanks, so we cooked a stirfry.  With the canopy up and dinner, cooking, we had several people stop and ask if we were selling something.

We had nice views of the glacier at the end of the harbor.  We finished dinner, enjoyed a brief stop at the fishing dock and then headed north back up Alaska Highway 4.  Valdez was very quiet, but it was September and a Sunday evening.

Driving back over Thompson Pass, we had our final view of glaciers in Alaska.

We had not planned to drive all the way to Valdez, so we were abit behind.  We drove to Tok, Alaska arriving around midnight.  We are sure we missed some pretty scenery as it was dark and cloudy.  We were able to catch glimpses of the Northern Lights.  We just hadn’t had great luck with the weather, as while we were in Alaska there were several large Northern Light shows.  Being mid September, everything start to close for the winter, and the campground in Tok was no exception.  We found a spot, but there was only one restroom not winterized.  The next morning when we paid, they told us this was their last day for the season.

We saw these poles on the way up to Fairbanks and made a note to take a picture.  The poles are set in permafrost as that is what is in this area.  However, if the permafrost begins to warm, the soil turns to liquid and the poles do not have a good foundation.  They also have the old glass conductors.  Crazy!!!!

Since Jerie wasn’t with us on our drive up, we tried to stop at what we considered interesting or places that we perhaps missed. It would be a fast and furious backtrack. The International border was one of those places.  The border swath is cut at the 141st meridian.  The border was original mentioned in an 1825 treaty between Russia and England.

With hunting season in full swing, at the border, there were 2 checkpoints, one for customs and one for fish and game.  we waited in line almost an hour.  We then made a quick stop at the Beaver Creek visitors center and showed Jerie the bike we rode.  We fixed a quick lunch of dehydrated beef stroganoff, it actually is really good.

Jim and Jerie tried their hand at panning for gold on Edith Creek.  At one time this was a very profitable area for gold.

While they panned, Cindy found the last remnants of an interesting plant along side the road.

The landscape was beautiful as we drove towards Whitehorse.

We stopped at the parking area near the Alaska Highway dedication site.  We wanted Jerie to be able to walk on part of the original road.

We stopped at Tachal Dhal visitor center to look for Dall Sheep.  Tachal Dhal means “skin scraper”.  Being the end of the season, the spotting scope were put away, so we used our binoculars and spotted several large groups on the mountain.

Winter had touched the mountains in the 2 weeks since we had driven north.  It did make for some great pictures.

We stopped for gas at Haines Junction.  We had stayed here, when we drove up from Haines.  The St. Elias mountains were beautiful.  We told Jerie about the Haines Junction “muffin”.  It is in the background behind the carved eagle.

The historic Canyon Creek bridge was originally built in 1920 to move freight across the Aishihik River to Silver City from Kluane Lake.  It was re-built in 1942 by the US Army and again in 1987.  The bridge was then refurbished in 2005.  It is no longer used by vehicles, but you can walk across it.  Once you walk across the bridge, there is a warning sign.  Shouldn’t that be on the both sides!!!

As we made our final drive into Whitehorse, the sunset behind us was awesome.

We had driven many miles in the past 2 days, witnessed beautiful scenery, had an injury, and back-tracked to the Alaska Highway, and we still had a week of our adventure left.