Published: August 9th 2007July 16th 2007
Neeko after his swim
Coming home to a place he's never been....I guess when you're an American Eskimo there is nothing more refreshing than a dip in a glacier pool! It was the fountain of youth for him and he behaved like a youngster.
Valdez, AK pop. 4,454
We had heard that this was a scenic area and wanted to see for ourselves. It’s not on the way to anywhere else, but was worth the drive. The last 60 miles leading into Valdez were spectacular with glaciers, mountains, canyons and waterfalls. We camped at Glacier View Campground for $10/night dry camping. This campground was shared with black bears, including some cubs. We never actually saw them, but they were the talk of the park. Apparently one large bear would make the rounds every morning and circle each vehicle or camper. One truck got a good shaking by the bear trying to get something inside. One cooler was dragged off into the woods. Alaskans do seem to be much more relaxed about sharing their space with wildlife than us “outsiders.”
Worthington Glacier is about 29 mile north of Valdez. It was a great view from the road and we spent an afternoon hiking on the rocky area leading up to the glacier. We all had something different to do when we got there. George touched the glacier and photographed his foot on it. Lizzie jumped up on it and licked it. Neeko went swimming
in a pool of water at its base!. I knew he was warm and was only a little surprised when he waded in and swam across to the other side. After the first swim he was feeling frisky and refreshed, so when I had him posing on a rock and called his name to get him to look at me, he decided I must be calling him to come. I was really surprised when he jumped off the rock into the pool and swam to the other side. Neeko is good about finding routes to get back home or to the car. Unfortunately in his frisky condition he wanted to run down the steep rocks, so it took some strategy on our part to all get down safely. It was nice to see a young frisky Neeko again. He was content to stay home the next day and sleep off his adventures.
We took a cruise on the Lulu Belle to see glaciers and wildlife. We were more successful taking whale pictures this time that didn’t end up being just splashes. The 2 humpback whales took a nap while we were viewing them! So there were several minutes where
they were at the surface with regular air expulsion from their blowholes. We dressed in layers for the cruise as the temperature varied with the speed of the boat and the closeness of the glacier. We did cruise into the ice field of the Columbia Glacier, but weren’t able to get as close as they do some days. It was a new experience for us to be in a boat a nudging pieces of ice out of the way and navigating around ice bergs. Some of the ice pieces/bergs were massive and of course we joked about the Titanic. We were surprised to see jellyfish swimming among the ice, as that was the first time we had seem them not in an aquarium. I did not imagine that they would be in water this cold. Even more surprising was when the crew took a swim in the ice filled water and went out to sit on an ice berg. I certainly hope they are paid well for that portion of their duties.
Our last night in Valdez we camped at the Sea Otter Campground and had a great view of the boats coming and going from the small boat
harbor, gulls and sea otters. From a different section of the campground we could see the pipeline and the oil storage facilities. Valdez is the most northern port that does not freeze, so shipping can occur throughout year. They do get a lot of precipitation in Valdez and in the winter that means about 25 feet of snow.
We saw the salmon (pinks) “running” and the silvers jumping. We saw a weir which appears to be a fence type structure to keep the salmon from getting into restrictive areas. The weir was in front of a small canyon that had a waterfall and the output from the hydroelectric plant. We were surprised to see how many had made it over the weir and were in the canyon pool. Even though there were a lot in the pool there were many more on the other side of the weir wanting to swim further up stream. Fishing is not permitted near the weir. Commercial fishing is regulated by the time that it is permitted. Enough salmon need to be successful , so that future years of salmon will be plentiful. When the opening for the commercial fishing is approaching, the boats
Glacier ice field
We had thoughts of Titanic as we nudged our way through!!!
will get into position in the area that they think will be successful. Some will get into position hours ahead of the time, so that they have claimed that spot and know exactly where their crew is. The salmon have been plentiful this year and the limit for sport fishing has been increased.
I learned about the difference between fish farming and fish ranching. Fish farming is illegal in Alaska. There are bumper stickers and signs that say “Friends don’t let friends eat farmed fish.” Fish ranching involves raising/feeding the little fish until they get to a certain point in their development. Then they are placed in the river that they will one day return to. The fish placement is timed so that they are in the river at the “normal” time that they would be in the river. They are kept in the river long enough to imprint on the river and then they are released to head out into the ocean for the next few years. This fish ranching has helped some areas and salmon to recover.
I read an informational article in a market about the differences in salmon, depending on which river they would
Surrounded by icebergs
Great photo opportunity!
be coming home to spawn in. This article proposed that fish that need to make a longer trip up a river would have stored more of the good oils to be able to make the trip. On sale at the market was Copper River Reds and the information stated that they were the ones with the most good oil as they had to make a 200 mile journey. I’m collecting in our freezer a variety of salmons and am enjoying all of them. I definitely prefer the reds at this point.
We have met so many wonderful and friendly people. We’ve met many fulltime RVers who have done it for several years. We met one couple on the Lulu Belle who were on vacation from Fairbanks. They had never done any traveling when they had been gold mining for 10 years, as there was too much to do during the short summers. They had lived in a cabin, got there water from a stream, did everything the slow old fashioned way and would go back to it in a minute if regulations hadn’t changed so much. They said gold mining was like being in Vegas every day.
Sea otters, sea lions, harbor seal, puffins, salmon.
Whales: 2 humpback
Moose: 1 female with 2 calves
Heading to Palmer and Anchorage
There are more photos below