Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day

Saturday we went North. Sunday we stayed around Anchorage. So naturally, we headed South early Monday morning. Our farthest of many destinations was Bear Valley and Whittier. In order to get there we had to travel south along the Seward Highway which runs along Turnagain Arm and is consistently ranked as one of the best drives in America. Turnagain arm got it's name during the exploration of James Cook in 1778. He was looking for a passage through to the Atlantic Ocean and had tried many inlets before finding this one. He first tried Knik Arm and then the second inlet in the area. Upon reaching the end of the inlet the order had to be given to turn again back to the ocean, hence the name.

We decided to head all the way to Bear Valley and then make our stops on the way back. However, we did have one little turn off to photograph this Dall Sheep that happened to wander down the 50 foot cliff to the side of the road (#21 on the list).
Our first stop in Bear Valley was Byron Glacier, which you can see about halfway up the valley on the left in the picture. We hiked out about a mile along Byron creek towards the glacier. As you can see there is still snow on the ground. However, Rebekah, thinking the hike would be like ones we did around Anchorage the day before, decided to wear sandals on this hike and got her feet a little cold. When we entered the Visitor's Center and told them we had just gotten back from that hike, they told us "Good to see you made it back. There have been a lot of avalanches in that area." That's always fun to hear.

Portage Glacier once was one of the favorite glaciers in Alaska. However, it has been receding rapidly in recent years. You can just see the end of it reaching out towards the lake in the middle of the picture below.

After that we decided to head over to Whittier (#53). In order to get there you have to travel through Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, which is the longest highway tunnel and longest combined vehicle-railroad tunnel in North America. It is only open for 15 minutes per hour in each direction. It costs $12 for a car to travel from Bear Valley to Whittier and the return trip is free.
Whittier is a happening place with a blossoming population of 182. Most of them live in the condo building pictured below (with Whittier Glacier in the background to the right). It is mainly a tourist town used as a port for cruise ships, fishing trips, and glacier and wildlife viewing cruises.
Once we returned we visited the other two glaciers in Bear Valley, Middle Glacier...

And Explorer Glacier (completes #30). We decided that was more than enough glaciers for one weekend.

Our next stop was the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (#29). It costs $10 per person to enter (max $30 per car). They house animals which were injured or abandoned when they were too young to fend for themselves. The animals you can view include Moose, Musk Ox, Grizzly Bears, Black Bears, Reindeer, Bison, Caribou, Owls, Fox, and sometimes (not this time) Eagles.

They gave the animals plenty of room to live, but it is still a great opportunity to safely see many different wild animals up close. Plus the money goes to a good cause.
Our next stop was Girdwood, which was not that exciting of a town either. The biggest thing there is Alyeska Resort, which is supposed to have excellent skiing and is a very nice year round resort. The most exciting thing I found too photograph was this street sign...
Crow Creek Mine (#27) was slightly more interesting. It is on the National Register as a historic site. Although at $5 to look around and $15 to pan for gold we thought it was a little pricey. The only cool thing was that you actually pan for gold the old fashioned way. You grab a shovel and a pan and walk to the river and start digging! We might go back and do that one time just for the experience.
All along this area by Girdwood and a little farther South, there are ghost forests from where giant waves of salt water killed the trees (possibly from the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake). It makes for some interesting scenery.
After continuing on our way we came across a lot of cars parked on the side of the road, so we stopped to see what was going on. It turns out that it was low tide, the perfect time to be out dip netting. Only Alaska resident with a fishing license can dip net, and you have to live here for a year to technically be a resident. But we will definitely try this next year.
Our final stop of the day was Indian Valley Mine (new entry #89). Here we did actually do a little panning for gold, and found a few small specks. It is $1 to look around the site and buckets of dirt to mine range in price and size from $10 to $50. We chose one that was $10. The family that runs the place is very nice and will help teach you how to pan. They also run a Bed and Breakfast just up a gravel road behind the mine with great views of the Arm. Rooms start at $159 per night with discounts available for longer stays.

Well this was a long post. May have been a little tiring to read...but just imagine how tiring it was to do all this. I think we are going to sleep all week...


1 comment:

  1. That was so awesome looking. Looks like you guys had a great time with all that you did. I can not wait to come back to Alaska and tour it. We were there several years back and didn't get to do a lot of touring. We helped build a church there and so we were busy with that. I love all the pictures that you took and loved reading about all that you did. My in-laws drove their motorhome to Alaska and took about 3 months or more to do nothing but tour around! They had a blast and can't wait to come back. Keep us posted as to what you are doing with touring around! Take care!
    Tonya Judkins