Valdez Travel Blog

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Mounds of silt-covered ice form the Kennicott Glacier
After our plane tour over the Wrangell St Elias National Park, we had several hours to hike and explore around Kennecott before it was time to head out for the town of Valdez on Prince William Sound.  In retrospect, I should have planned an extra night at Kennecott.  We simply did not have enough time to enjoy all this area has to offer.  My hope is that I will be able to return some day.  But that is beside the point.  Now we were retracing our tracks ~ back out the 60-mile gravel road to Chitina and on to the Richardson Highway and Valdez.

Richard, Leigh, and I chatted and listened to the radio as we made our way south.
Glacier-blue up close and personal
  By the time we reached Thompson Pass, it was mid-afternoon.  The pass is a favorite spot for hiking in the summer and extreme snow skiing in the winter.   The descent through the pass into Valdez is spectacular ~ traveling down, down, down from an altitude of 2,678 to near sea-level in less than eight miles.  Worthington Glacier sits beside the highway and can be reached by a walking path that goes right up to the glacier.  Of course, there are "DANGER" signs along the path, giving specific warnings about how glaciers can break apart and FALL, but I'm afraid that Leigh and I don't usually read signs.  Hmmmm.  

Further down the Richardson Highway towards Valdez is Keystone Canyon with sheer rock walls reaching high above our heads, straight up to the sky.  Two lovely waterfalls ~ Horse Tail Falls and Bridal Veil Falls ~ are cascading down the canyon walls right next to the highway and make for a great photo opportunity.
Full moon at daybreak over Prince William Sound
   I would imagine that in the late spring and early summer, when the snow is rapidly melting, the water would be rushing over the walls with a roar. 

Valdez, to most people of this generation, is best known for the disasterous oil spill that occured on March 24, 1989.   This incident is considered to be one of the most devastating man-made environmental disasters ever to occur at sea.   The petroleum oil tanker Exxon Valdez departed the Valdez oil terminal at 9:12 p.m. with 53 million gallons of crude oil bound for California.   In order to avoid iceburgs, the vessel maneuvered out of the shipping lane with plans to return at a prearranged point.  Exxon Valdez failed to return to the shipping lane and ran aground on Bligh Reef, discharging 11 million gallons of its cargo into Prince William Sound.
Strong winds are really causing a "bad feather" day for this couple.
  Because of the remote location, accessible only by helicopter and boat, response efforts were extremely difficult.   The innocent creatures that depend upon the sea for life itself suffered the most.   The best estimates of loss are one-half million seabirds,  between  2,800 and 5,000 sea otters,  300 harbour seals,  250 bald eagles,  and 22 orcas.  Devastating would be an understatement.

Some how, some way, nature has a way of healing itself.  It is simply a miracle that today there is no sign of this disaster visible to the naked eye; however, in a 2007 study, more than 26,000 gallons of oil remain in the sandy soil of the contaminated shoreline.  Thankfully, fifteen years after this disaster, the birds, otters, seals, eagles, and orcas have returned to Prince William Sound.  Tomorrow we will be taking a ferry from the port in Valdez across the once-again pristine Prince William Sound to the tiny hamlet of Whittier. 
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Mounds of silt-covered ice form th…
Mounds of silt-covered ice form t…
Glacier-blue up close and personal
Glacier-blue up close and personal
Full moon at daybreak over Prince …
Full moon at daybreak over Prince…
Strong winds are really causing a …
Strong winds are really causing a…
Dead trees still standing from the…
Dead trees still standing from th…
Glacier with Danger sign
Glacier with "Danger" sign
photo by: kingelvis14