Sunday, August 5, 2012
Valdez to Tok to Haines Junction
We really enjoyed our five days in Valdez, four of which had fantastic weather. The highs were in the 60-70 range, with nearly full sun on those good days. The residents were in a frenzy as this is certainly not their normal weather. We really got a kick out of watching people swimming in the “lake” that is in front of the civic center. There is no way I would have gotten in that water. Not only was it cold (to me) but there was also a light wind. Those people were so white that it hurt my eyes to look at them.
We first went to Robe Lake where we observed the operation of one of the most unusual machines that I have ever seen. I call it a bottom water grass reaper. The operator drove around the lake and the machine cut and picked up grass from the sides and bottom of the lake. He then took the grass to the side of the lake and deposited it where I assume it will be burned or disposed of or used for some purpose. It looked like a large pile mulch.
We then continued on to Blueberry lake and then to Worthington Glacier. This is a glacier that is so close to the highway that people actually walk up on it. A couple of weeks ago, a 16 year old boy fell in a crevasse and had to be rescued. They said the only reason he survived is that he was so big that he was lodged much higher than he might have been. I think he was about 6’5” and weighed nearly 300 pounds. All of his clothes were torn off him by the ice. Anyway, we observed a group of 7 people who had hiked about half way up.
On the way to and from the glacier, we drove through a beautiful canyon that has over 20 significant waterfalls. As usual, the pictures do not show the true beauty. Between the canyon and the turn off to our campground, we stopped to see the trumpeter swans that have made their home in this same water for many years.
Yesterday when we left Valdez, the weather forecast proved to be correct. The temp was about 50, with rain. As we drove up and over Thompson Pass, which gets well over 600 inches of snow per year, we were in the clouds with driving very slow. As we were in the clouds, we discussed how we probably would not be seeing the family of four (Dad with kid on attached bike and Mom and Daughter on individual bikes) that we had seen the day before. They were bike camping and we just could not imagine them riding up and over the pass in such conditions. Just a bit later, we say them! They were over the pass and taking a break on the side of the road.
We continued to make our way toward Tok where we planned to stay the night. The highlight of that drive was the $3.99 breakfast (served all day) and the huge moose that we say standing in a pond. I hope the pictures show this beautiful animal.
While at the Tok campground, I met a guy from NC who was riding his motorcycle all over Alaska. A bit later I saw him again and he stopped me to ask that I be on the lookout for a white envelope that he had lost. He was sure that it had fallen out of his pocket somewhere in the campground and it contained $2,500! I cannot imagine how upset I would be if that had happened to me. This morning I saw him again and he gave me a huge smile and told me that he had found it in one of his bags.
The drive from Tok to Haines Junction is the worst part of the Alaska Highway. There are frost heaves that can really damage your vehicle or trailer. There are also long sections of gravel road or sections that are under construction. We usually try to get behind another vehicle and observe what is happening with them and then make adjustments. We ended up driving all over the road, while attempting the minimize the problems. At one area, we had to be lead by a pilot car and we had a 15 minute wait, so I got out to talk to the young woman who was holding the stop/slow sign. I’ve always been curious about these jobs. She told me that she is a 20 year old college student and this is her summer job. She had worked 10 hours a day for 7 days a week for 5 weeks and would be working another 4 weeks. Get this---the pay is over $20 and hour and she gets over $30 an hour for time over 40 hours a week. I quickly calculated this and I think she will make about $15,000 for the 9 weeks of work. Housing is also provided. What a deal!
We are now at Pine Lake campground in the Yukon Territory. We just got back from a walk down to the lake. The temperature is less than 60 degrees and there was a guy (not wearing a wet suit) water skiing. I dipped my hand in the water and although the surface water temperature did not feel *too* cold, I certainly would not be skiing there.