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--- xus (10/27/2011)
My love of Alaska started in the year of 2000 when Dave and I had the chance to visit Alaska for the first time. It was only a short visit (one week) but we loved it so much that we have been wanting to go back ever since. This year we finally did it.

We flew to Anchorage in late August, rented a car, drove 2,600+ miles in two weeks, over 1,000 miles of which were on unpaved road. Yes, it was rough at places, and we worried if the car could make it back to Anchorage in one piece many times. But we made it and the trip was awesome!!!

Alaska (1) - Valdez

It took us all day to drive to Valdez from Anchorage (305 miles) because the drive was so beautiful, especially from Glenallen to Valdez. We stopped at many places, took pictures, had a picnic and hiked at the Worthington Glacier a little bit. We didn't stop at the State Fair held in Palmer and the Matanuska Glacier, since we did that already on our first trip. Otherwise they are definitely worth a stop. The fertile farmland and long summer daylight at Mat-Su Valley make vegetables grow to incredible size. In 2000, we saw a 106-lbs cabbage! It is still the state record for cabbage till this day.
The road we drove. Red - paved, Brown - unpaved.
Worthington Glacier from Richardson Highway.
Worthington Glacier.

Valdez is a bustling city of ~4,500 people. :) It is the southern terminus of the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline. The marine terminal used to offer tour to the public but has stopped since 9/11. You can see the terminal on a glacier cruise. We took a 6-hour Columbia Glacier cruise. The water was very calm. The scenery was beautiful. We saw lots of wildlife (sea otters, sea lions, dolphins, puffins, and bald eagles). Columbia Glacier is said to be the second largest tidewater glacier in North America, but since there were so many icebergs floating around, our boat had to stop at miles away from the glacier front, making the glacier looking very small. We couldn't see any calving at all. It was a little bit disappointing.
Oil tanker.
Pipeline Marine Terminal with the oil tanker docked at the port.
Icebergs from Columbia Glacier.

Valdez is a premier fishing destination. We saw people brought in sharks, halibuts, ling cods, rock fish, silver salmons, and had them cleaned at the harbor. The way they cleaned the fish was so wasteful. All they took was one fillet on each side of the fish, plus some cheek meat if the fish is really big. Everything else was threw back to the harbor. Hundreds of seagulls feasted on the discards. They are one of the biggest seagulls I have ever seen.
Two rock fish (redish in color), three ling cods (the one with giant head), the rest are halibuts.

Ate dinner at Mike's Palace. Their pizza looked and tasted great, slightly on the greasy side. The halibut dish was good. I was eager to try some halibut sushi, too bad they didn't offer. :(

Met two very nice couples in Valdez. One couple is from Virginia, probably in their late 60s, retired, have been traveling around the country since last Thanksgiving, mostly on their RV. They love the Gypsy life style. They are going home this Thanksgiving, and will think about if they still want to keep their house or not. The other couple is from Illinois, also retired. They are celebrating their 40th anniversary, even though both of them look like they are barely 50 years old. It is so nice to see retired people not only have the money, but also have the energy and interest to travel.
1/26/2013 2:46:32 AM
Beautiful pictures. Now, if you rlealy want adventure along with your beautiful scenery, you should try for a trip to Antartica. I've never been there but my daughter and her husband took a month-long cruise/tour of Terra del Fuego, the Falklands, South Georgia Island and Antartica in Nov-Dec 1995. They were there mainly so my SIL could photograph birds and other wildlife of the areas. By viewing his photographs, I can pretend I'm right there with them.
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