June 25th until July 6th 2017 – Alaska : Valdez and Seward
When we leave Tok in the morning it’s dry and while driving further South the sun shines. Kinda nice because as we get closer to the coast, the mountains are more and more ferocious. Although driving only at 2049 feet, here are high alpine conditions, snow fields and glaciers surround us. At 3 pm we arrive at Blueberry lake where we stay overnight. A cold breeze is blowing but the sun is shining and the mountains around us are beautiful, it is awesome outside! Unfortunately, after two hours, clouds come in and it is more pleasant to sit inside. Our camper is 25 feet long – 2,5 feet shorter than our old RV, so there is less seating space but with 4 people we are doing well and the table is big enough to work at with both our laptops.
Ofcourse there is a restroom in our RV. To use the showers we have to stowaway our toilet. That seems a bit cumbersome but you get used to it very quickly and the advantage is that we have a large place to shower. Ofcourse I brought too much stuff with me, so all available space is packed. This to Dick’s grief, he would prefer to see most of our closets empty. In October, when we fly home I will take back some. When we wake up Monday June 26th every mountain is disappeared, we are covered by clouds and soon it starts to drizzle so we decide to search for a campsite in the town of Valdez. With rain it is more pleasant to be in the center of town.
Before we arrive in Valdez we see our first grizzly bears. Two youngsters hunt each other and play alongside the road so we can make the necessary pictures, it is a pity that after a while they disappear in the high grass. It’s still drizzling and only 50 degrees when we arrive in Valdez where we find a beautiful and affordable place in Bayside RV park.
Fortunately, the rain stops and we can walk through the town and search for some geocaches. Some of the clouds disappear during the day and the majestic mountain world with glaciers are visible. Hopefully it stays like that tomorrow, then we will join on a boat trip to the glacier. Unfortunately on Tuesday the weather isn’t so good that it’s worth to go sailing but nevertheless we decide to stay another day. Now we can do some laundry and drive to the fish hatchery on the other side of the bay to find out or the salmon arrived.
No luck for us today, the Salmons did not arrive yet so we don’t see bears, only some Bald Eagles. After driving almost 8200 miles on sometimes very bad roads our front tyres are worn out so Dick changes the front- and rear tyres. Later on in Anchorage we will replace two of our tyres. The Wi-Fi at our camp site is not really strong so we walk to the library where we find shelter for some hours, we publish and check our mail and I work on my English translation. On Wednesday clouds are on the mountains so we skip the boat trip we already did twice and leave Valdez.
As soon as we reach Thompson pass the clouds disappear, there is blue sky and we have a magnificent view of the wild and colorfull mountain world around us. The coastal mountains clearly loves the clouds so they stay there. Our road rises and falls and rises and falls and regularly we see white glaciers shine.
At King Mountain State Park we stop. We decided to stay overnight here. It’s beautiful weather, there is a pleasant spot and a tiny post office with yummy ice cream. We walk around because swimming the fast-flowing river is not a good idea, this water, directly from the glacier Is ice- and ice cold. Next morning we drive to Anchorage. Dick and Kaye, our friends from Seward, gave us an address where to buy new tyres. After shopping at Fred Meyer (a wonderful shop), we drive to Muffler City and yes, the tires that our friend Dick selected are excellent for our camper.
It has become clear that our air suspension suffered from the bad roads, one airbag is teared apart, so the shop also takes off this air suspension bag and look or there will be replacement parts. That means we stay until 5 pm. We have to leave Anchorage because nowhere you are allowed to stay overnight, so we drive to Eagle River campground where it’s crowded, but still place available. Unfortunately, the drizzle continues, so making fire and sitting outside is not enjoyable. When we get up on Friday June 30th it’s still raining and clouds stay low. We leave town and drive along the beautiful Turnagain bay towards Seward. It’s low tide and part of the bay is dry. Around noon we arrive in Seward and are warmly greeted by Dick and Kaye. Both of them worked very hard to recover the effects of Kaye’s stroke 18 months ago. Fortunately she is doing well, thanks to the hand of God, but it was a long way to get here.
After our RV is next to the shop where an Model A Ford stands, the four of us take a ride through Seward, look at the Salmon, some of them jump up the waterfall and explore the port they are building for the ships from “Deadliest Catch”. It saves a lot if these ships can stay here during the winter months instead of sailing all the way to Seattle. As drizzle continues we don’t sit outside but have a delicious dinner inside. Our friend Dick is a great cook.
We are not the only guests, next to housefriend Carl, Sandra and Dan from Anchorage, AK and John and Jane from Houston, TX arrive. For Dick it doesn’t matter that each morning and evening we are with eight people and more. Every time he manages to surprise us with delicious meals that would not look out of place in a 5-star restaurant. But even more important is the great time we have together, chitchatting and talking serious about all kind of things.
The weather is improving so we have dinner in the garden next to the wood fire and enjoy the company of good friends. During the day, each goes his way. Twice we use the Subaru of Dick and Kaye to look around. Some spots, like Exit Glacier, are too far away to go by bike. Even though I already forgotten, I remember Exit Glacier (6 years ago) when we walk up again.
This glacier melted a lot. We could almost touch him 6 years ago but now it’s really hundreds of yards away. Because we also want to spot a bear, one of this days we drive to the prison where bears have been seen. Much to the chagrin of the prison staff this was told by the Visitor Center with result that tourists came massively to the prison site to spot bears. Not really pleasant for security personnel if countless cars stay next to a high security prison.
We see a Black Bear, right next to our car so we can study him well. After some minutes this one is chased away by a loud siren. It cannot be otherwise than coming from the prison grounds. Furthermore there are no bears to be seen.
Seward is a lovely town at the foot of the great Harding Icefield and is famous for the 4th of July Race on Mount Marathon. Around 1500 people run this 3022 ft high mountain up and down. It takes the fastest runners about 45 minutes to complete this neck-breaking run.
Twice before (6 and 3 years ago) I’d like to climb this mountain but I never did. Now the day before the race takes part I see my opportunity and instead of riding around town with our bikes I take my backpack and walk to the start of the race, not far from where Kaye and Dick live. At first I only want to climb the cliffs but soon I find myself on the slippery slope going up. Not quite in the right outfit, I had to put on shorts instead of my jeans but it’s not going bad. After a last glance at Seward, way below me at the halfway point, clouds are coming down so I am transferred into a small world with a visibility of only a few yards. Except for a single runner climbing up, I am alone. On the last steep part to the top, with loose rocks, I can get up with another runner. She is faster so when I arrive at the top of the mountain I am all alone again, walking around in the clouds for a while, looking down at the precipitous cliffs and snowfields below me and making some pictures before descending, it’s now 4 pm.
You have to run down because it’s too steep to walk but the path leads you over a thick layer of tiny rocks, resembling sandgrains. What an experience ! It takes forever to run down. When I arrive at a creek it’s more exciting, here I have to climb down over boulders and through the waters of the creek, there-after some steep climbs down and then, 2.5 hours later, I am safe off the mountain. What a thrill! I made it, I raced Mount Marathon. Unbelievable how someone can do this in just 45 minutes. Dick and Dan are waiting for me, he expected me to be back around this time. After a nice shower and changing clothes I can tell what it is to run Mount Marathon. In anyway it cost a lot of energy because I eat 3 Halibut tacos for dinner. Of course it also can caused by the delicious, by Carl freshly caught, Halibut that our friend Dick prepares in an exceptional way.
And then it is Tuesday, July 4th, Independence Day. Already at 8 am we put chairs and tables on the driveway so we are on the first row to see the runners going up and down Mount Marathon. From all over Alaska, but also the “Lower 48” (the states south of Canada), people gather around to take part in the race or to watch and encourage. It’s a spectacle to see the athletes, often half naked, passing by.
The day flies, after the juniors, the women and men are racing. I am glad I explored this run the day before. Now I know what they have to go through. Because the weather is improving more and more, even the sun is shining later on we stay outside until late in the evening (the sun still shines at half past 10). We have a great time together and enjoy the company of our friends. As our propane regulator part arrived yesterday, early morning Dick assembled everything and successfully because our propane works again without stopping and without flashing lights, indicating that there is a “propane-failure”. Wednesday morning, July 5th , the sky is blue and the sun shines and we are cosy together in the garden, talking about the passed days, but at the end of the morning it’s time to leave. Our friend Dick made some phone calls. Muffler City could not find the appropriate part for our air suspension but TrailerCraft thinks they can do something to solve our problem. Although we can drive with our RV we have to be very careful because the back of our camper is low to the ground. Actually we don’t want to drive long distances.
In Anchorage we quickly find the shop from TrailerCraft. After a short inspection we are scheduled for Friday at 8 am. Not far from this service station is a huge Cabela’s (outdoor sports store) where we may spend the night (we had to know this earlier) and the rest of the afternoon we walk around in the area, check our mail at Target next door and sit outside. The sky is steel blue and the temperature increased to 77 degrees.