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Published: July 12th 2013
abandoned buildings from US military installation
July 9th....We're on the road again, driving from Homer to Whittier (185 miles) straight to catch a ferry to Valdez. Whittier is a very small town with a total population of a few hundred people and they all live in the same large apartment complex. It's a harbor town started by the US government during World War II as a secret military installation. At that time 1000 people lived in one set of buildings, now abandoned. It's pretty eirie spot. We had a picnic lunch while waiting for the ferry and then drove the car onto it and settled ourselves on the sunny deck. It's the first time we've felt the sun since we got here and it was great. It's a 6 hour ferry ride, crossing Prince William Sound. The time went quickly as everyone on board was friendly and we were all watching the waters for whales or other sea life. We spotted lots of jumping fish, which the crew said were salmon, sea otters, and other people said they saw a whale or two. (not us). We could see glaciers in the distance and fishing boats in the waters around us. I actually met a couple from East
Brunswick on the ferry that I knew from the EB Community Garden...what a small world? They were following the same basic travel plan that we were through Alaska.
We arrived in Valdez in the evening and easily found our Best Western hotel that was on the harbor, pretty typical chain hotel but a great location. We had dinner, explored the harbor front a bit, and went to bed. We had a long day of driving ahead of us.
The next day we had the longest distance to cover for this trip...365 miles from Valdez to Fairbanks. We had some planned stops along the Richardson Highway to see some sites and break up the trip. The reality of the day was that we were in the car for 12 hours (it could have been a 6.5 hour drive theoretically) but driving with a malfunctioning transmission set us back quite a bit...Steven drove the whole day and the car had a hard time changing gears for the entire trip. We discussed stopping for help but there really were no big towns and Enterprise, when we called to report the problem, told us to drive it to Fairbanks where they could
views from the ship
on the way to Valdez
switch a car with us so we crossed our fingers and kept going...at slower speeds. Between that little problem and lots of road work slow downs, it was a long ride. We stopped at Bridal Veil Waterfalls, and Worthington Glacier, where Beth and I stayed in the car to escape the mosquitos (I'm a little embarrassed to admit that but I did) but the Barry and the others actually hiked to touch the glacier. We also stopped at Copper Center, an old gold rush museum, and took some time to watch salmon fishing on the Klutina River. We met a couple from Wisconsin who were salmon fishing for the first time and they caught one while we watched. It was quite exciting! We stopped for lunch at the Copper Princess Lodge, the only restaurant along this very long one lane highway. Leave it to Beth to have a restaurant recommendation for even this wilderness ride! By the time we stopped at Mt. Wrangel/St. Elias State Park Visiter's Center only Marcy and I got out of the car. Everyone else had had it by then. We got to talk with some young people from the Ahtna native Alaskan group who were
giving demonstrations in the cultural center there. We had a couple of moose sightings along the way and lots of Alaskan pipeline sightings. The pipeline runs the length from Valdez to Fairbanks and beyond. It's pretty prominent in many spots along the way.
We finally made it to Fairbanks after 9:00 that night. Steven got a round of applause for his driving prowess and we checked in and made it in time to get a drink and some Elio's style pizza at the Marriott bar before they stopped serving food at 10. We've got 2 nights in Fairbanks to recover from today's ride and we needed it!
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