Published: August 14th 2010July 31st 2010
THIS WAS THE MOST AMAZING DAY!!!!!
It rained all night and in the morning there was thick fog. We went out to look around the town as the fog lifted. We looked at the large, newer homes and at the boats in the marina. We guessed that the pipeline workers were well-paid. Across the bay, we could see the end of the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline and the huge storage tanks for the oil. Using the Milepost for a guide, we drove out to Dayville Road where it said we might see seals, sea lions, sea otters, birds, and maybe bears. There was a salmon fish hatchery there, too. We parked and saw that there were barricades by the creek that said bears had been sighted in the area and to be watchful. There weren't any bears, but there sure were a LOT of salmon! The stream by the hatchery was choked with them from side to side. There was a fish ladder for the hatchery workers to take the fish, take the eggs, and keep the eggs for the hatchery. We were just amazed! We truly had not expected to be in Alaska at the right time and place to see this incredible sight. We stayed for a long time just looking at all those fish. We did see some sea lions enjoying the feast, and a lot of gulls, too. A few other people were there, too, so, hard to believe, but an ice-cream truck complete with a little tune (Camptown Races) drove into the lot. She was quite the entrepreneur because she sold espresso and hot soup, too, knowing the local weather. Okay, who else among you has seen an ice-cream truck in the summer that sells hot soup? Hmmm?
It was becoming nice weather. We drove back toward town and saw a sign for Old Valdez Townsite. It turns out that the original town, started during the Klondike gold rush as a port for the gold-seekers, was destroyed by waves after the 1964 earthquake. The people saw it as an opportunity to build a model town, with everything planned ahead. They moved the townsite and several buildings 4 miles away to a better seismic location. Not far from the old townsite, was Valdez Glacier, which the stampeders had to scale before getting inland far enough to take the rivers north. It was a horrible route whose trail was touted by steamship liners whose advertisers had never even been there and there wasn't even a trail! The people had to deal with snow, crevasses, snow-blindness, starvation, freezing, and exhaustion. Nancy's book, Klondike Fever, says that "3500 men and women attempted this route in 1897-1898. A block and tackle was required to carry the people and their goods up the first few hundred feet.The glacier climb was 20 miles to the summit and then 9 miles down. They started to climb in March and few had reached the summit by mid- April. It snowed five feet at the end of April, and then on May first it turned to rain and avalanches hurtled down the glacier. By June's end, water was pouring from the face in a steady cascade and men were trapped on the glacier unable to advance or retreat. The wind whistled over the pass at hurricane force. By August it was impassable. Anyone who made it over the top needed to build a boat and put it in a river that seemed like an easy ride during the first three miles. Then there were 25 miles of rapids. One man in four wrecked and wandered aimlessly on the banks without food or spare clothing or shelter. Only 200 of the original 3500 are known to have defied this first river. Beyond that was a trackless wilderness of over 1500 miles. It is doubtful if 20 people actually made it to the Klondike using this route." The majority of the people made it over the Chilcoot Pass. Others went by steamboat.
The glacier was high up, but the ice at the bottom was gorgeous and deep blue in places. Some of the floating ice was so clear and lovely, like diamonds.
Our next stop was the Crooked Creek Salmon Spawning Viewing Area. There were several fish trying to swim up a shallow stream. The creek was blocked off by a rope with signs that said bears had been seen in the area. Beware! We asked another tourist if he'd been over to Dayville Road to see the salmon. He got quite excited and with his heavy German accent explained that he had seen a black bear catching a salmon! Then he got out his camera and showed us his video. Wow! We should be so lucky! We went in to talk to the ranger about salmon, but she didn't know the answers to our questions. She did tell us that a mama grizzly and her three cubs had been seen most nights over by the fish hatchery, as well as a black bear. That was enough for us.
We took some pictures of the mountains on the way back to the camper since it was clearing up, and had an early dinner. Then armed with binoculars, cameras, and our books, we were prepared to wait hours by the creek in order to get a bear sighting. We drove back to Dayville Road, and before we were a mile down, there was a "bear jam". Five cars were pulled over by a creek and there RIGHT IN FRONT OF US was the mama grizz and her three cubs all catching and eating salmon! Holy smokes did we get lucky!!!!! Nancy probably took a hundred pictures and we stayed about an hour. We drove down to the other streams, but no more bears. Who cares? When we got back to the first place, they were gone and the gulls and eagles were cleaning up the leftovers.
WHAT AN ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS DAY!!!
(More pictures when we are somewhere with better wi-fi!)