Jim and Robin are heading to Alaska! The Honda CR-V is packed and their trusty GO, L.E.O. (Low-Earth Orbiter), is ready for adventure. Follow along and get a taste of #myGOlife…Berzowski-style!
In our original trip planning, our next target destination was the Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve. From the many people that we met along the way, we heard that we should drive over the Thompson Pass toward Valdez, for an amazing experience. So…we tweaked our plans to take advantage of another little side trip!
Driving on the Glenn Highway from Anchorage toward Glennallen, we moved away from the smoke, and while we did not get very clear views of the Alaskan Range, it was very pleasant and beautiful. We drove along the Matanuska River and could somewhat see the Matanuska Range when the smoke cleared.
Sheep Mountain was a particular favorite.
And then, there were the special roadside appearances ?
At Glennallen, we headed south on the Richardson Highway and at the Willow Lake viewpoint, we had our first pretty clear view of the Wrangell Range – and it was magnificent (those are not just clouds)!
We started to climb in elevation and into weather as we began to cross over Thomson Pass (elevation 2678 ft) and our first views of Worthington Glacier.
As we crossed the pass, we saw these very high posts that were puzzling. They were not light posts…it took a bit for us to learn that they were markers for the snow plows, as this pass receives record amounts of snow each winter!
Just as we passed our 7000 mile mark for the trip, we were fortunate to snag the very last campsite at Blueberry Lake State Recreation Site, at the top of the Thompson Pass. We were camped on the top of the world (or at least this part of it!)
Just a few yards from the front of our camp, we had a panoramic view of the range and valley.
The next morning, we were totally in the clouds, with very little visibility. When it cleared a bit, we decided to drive down from the mountains toward Valdez.
As we drove through Keystone Canyon, we viewed the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls and the aptly named Horse Tail Fails.
As the land flattened out, we followed the Lowe River. It was eerie, in many places, with heavy ground fog and low clouds.
At the Chugach National Forest Service’s Crooked Creek Information Site, I had the opportunity to channel my inner bear, by donning an outer bear (skin). There was a lovely waterfall behind the center.
It was a very rainy day, but we visited the town and small boat harbor, then retreated for a couple hours to the warm and dry Valdez library! When the rain let up some, we visited the Valdez Glacier Lake. Our desire was to kayak to the glacier the next day, if the weather cleared up.
Then we headed off to Allison Point on Dayville Road, because we heard that the ‘pinks were running’. The pink salmon were traveling through the bay on their way to spawn up the various streams/rivers. For Alaskans, the pinks are not prime, they all want the silvers (coho) or reds (sockeye). For us, the pinks were good enough – Jim could fish right from the shore and they are tasty! It was an unbelievable sight – it looked like a highway of fish. At any given time, there might be 4-5 fish jumping out of the water and you could see 10-12 fish just swimming by. Jim had no problem catching plenty of fish, deciding after 5 to just catch and release.
I had a much more difficult challenge trying to catch them on film! For as many as there were – it seemed they would only jump out of my camera range! But I was able to ‘catch’ a couple, in addition to the sea lions and sea otters that were also fishing.
The next morning at Blueberry Lake, we continued to be socked in with clouds and rain.
Deciding it would not be prudent to kayak in glacial water in inclement weather, we packed up to head north. Right before we packed up, a woman stopped by and asked if she could take a photo of our GO. She’d never seen one before and thought it would be great. We gave her a rack card and the spiel. She’s from Colorado – we told her that there are a number of owners in her great state!
On the way back over the pass, we stopped and visited Worthington Glacier and found an interesting sign about the ice worms!
We resumed our ‘regularly scheduled program’, and headed down the Edgerton Highway toward the town of Chitna, the gateway to the Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve. We were fortunate to have amazing views of the range and the Copper River.
We were not able to nab one of the 10 campsites at Liberty Falls (very pretty) State Recreational Site, so we continued on to the tiny town of Chitna. When you cross the Copper River, the next 58 miles are the gravel McCarthy Road through the national park and preserve. Our GO has valiantly traversed many miles of rough, dusty, gravel roads, so we decide to park LEO for this day trip. The park ranger in Chitna told us there is a public campground on the other side of the river. We drove through an imposing stone channel, across the river, and settled LEO in a very nice campsite.
The drive was beautiful, with some amazing engineering of the Kuskulana Bridge over an incredible gorge. (former railroad bridge – 775 ft long, 238 ft above the river, 14.5 ft wide!!)
After looking up at the old wooden Gilahina Trestle, we looked down in the creek and could clearly see spawning salmon!
The road ends and you can take the foot bridge over the Kennicott River to McCarthy, AK. We parked and crossing the foot bridge had an awesome sighting of the Kennicott glacier. We arrived too late to visit the historic town/mill/mines at Kennicott, but the McCarthy-Kennicott Historical Museum had many artifacts and photos from the heyday.
We had a nice dinner at the Roadside Potatohead and ice cream at the McCarthy Center Store, before we walked back over the bridge and got back on the gravel road. The return ride was very ‘hare-y’ – in addition to additional awesome views, there were hundreds of snowshoe hares (not pictured).
The weather was looking increasingly ominous, so when we returned to the campground, we decided to move to a different site, and set up the GOzeebo at higher ground. Good thing we did – it poured throughout the night! In the morning, we needed to pull LEO out of the lake in front of our site (halfway up the wheels) – the pale spot in the background is where the GOzeebo had been – nice and dry ?
After a last walk along the Copper River, with our GO hooked back up, we headed out of the park and north again.