Roads to Alaska (6)
The Chugach Mountains and Beyond

Once again we returned to Anchorage, then made our camp a few miles northeast at Eklutna Lake Campground, a part of Chugach State Park.   The Chugach Mountains form a gentle arch beginning near Anchorage and running eastward behind Valdez.

The next morning, the Glenn Highway, Alaska 1, was a pleasant, leisurely drive.

As we followed the Matanuska River toward its source, the Chugach Mountains provided an ever present, ever near, backdrop.

Viewpoints along the way kept us in touch with the river, sometimes shallow and wide . . .

. . . sometimes narrow and far below.

Browser Note: Photo overlap is proper only with MSIE.

The Matanuska Glacier, is a very slow moving river of ice, filling the valley much as it did when we saw it 29 years earlier and much as it was hundreds of years before that.

On this road we recognized places that we remembered from our 1971 visit.   For example, Sheep Mountain Lodge where we had stayed was still there on it's rugged slope. They no longer take RV's.   So this time we were planning to stay at Tulsona Wilderness Camp near Glennallen.

Tulsona is a well designed private campground in a spruce woods with a swift little river, Tulsona Creek, winding right through it.   It met our expectations so that we decided to park there two nights as planned.

Since a visit to Valdez would be a side trip, we left our trailer at Tulsona the next morning which was Labor Day.

It's a 260-mile round-trip from Tulsona to Valdez via the southern section of the Richardson Highway, Alaska 4. The natural barrier between the inland plateau and the coastal waters of Prince William Sound is, of course, the Chugach Mountains.     SEE MAP

Crossing at Thompson Pass, elevation 2,678 feet, we see the Worthington Glacier and have an opportunity to walk up to it and look closely into its beautifully iridescent blue crevices.

Valdez (locals pronounce it Val-deez) is similar in many ways to Seward, but is a slightly larger, with a population of about 4000.   However, the bustle of visitors
seemed less at Valdez on this same Labor Day weekend.

Across the bay from Valdez is the coastal terminus of the Alaska pipeline that runs about 870 miles from Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean. When we visited here in 1971 the controvery of the proposed oil pipeline was at its height.

Huge sections of steel pipe were already being unloaded at the dock, sorted, and readied for transport into the interior along the Richardson and Dalton Highways.   Each section had been pre-matched and numbered to fit with the next section. Now those pipes feed crude oil to this port.

Even long before the Alaska Pipeline, Valdez had been an important petroleum terminal.   But on Good Friday of 1964, the day of the great Alaskan earthquake, a tsunami destroyed this town and changed everything.

At the Valdez museum, we viewed, and purchased a copy of a video documentary of that terrible day.   Also a conversation with one of the museum guides made it a very real event for us.   This lady was one of the survivors, who for many years, couldn't speak of that traumatic time when a group of children were swept from the dock as the 50-foot wall of water came crashing in, then out.   Fires damaged the petroleum facilities.

The town has been re-built farther west and not so directly in front of the bay.   And the huge oil terminal is far across the bay and on high ground for safety.   Valdez is a very attractive but simple town with few frills except for it's beautiful setting.   It's completely surrounded by mountains.

But I understand that winter snows can reach depths of 40 feet or more.
Background image is from the ground cover at Trail River Campground near Seward.
Roads to Alaska - Page 6
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