It’s been a busy summer with visitors after visitors, and Jeff wanted to be sure we got in a summer vacation with just the two of us before fall hits. (After all, I’m starting to see leaves changing along the road sides, and it is getting dark again for a short period every night!)
We decided to combine a bunch of things, including camping, a salmon fishing charter for Jeff, down time for me, and a visit to a new place, all in a 4 night trip!
Wednesday – Our Departure
We headed out after work on Wednesday with a hot pizza from the local pizza place on our laps, and headed across the river on the ferry.Alaska is just 100 kilometres or so from here, by the Top of the World Highway. Here is the border crossing.We chatted with US border guard Roper for awhile. He’s from nearby Tok, Alaska and I think after a 3 week stint on duty at the border (there is nothing around for miles and miles) he was eager to talk to people who weren’t tourists.
Thursday – Tok to Copper Center
On Thursday morning, we had a good breakfast at Fast Eddie’s in Tok, and then headed south to Glen Allen for a few groceries for the cooler, some cold American beer, and then onwards to Copper Center.
We crawled into the tent early and fell asleep quickly to the sound of the roaring river and the wind in the trees.
Friday – Fishing charter & Relaxin’
Jeff got up at 3am to have some breakfast and gear up for his charter.
I found paradise. A gorgeous day, no crazy wind, and absolutely not a thing to do. I didn’t even have my laptop (although unexpected there was actually wifi here! ). I just needed a real day off.
So I slept in. Nothing better than fresh morning air while lounging in your tent. I read. Lounged in a lawn chair. Wandered around.
See that mountain off in the distance? Here is that beautiful beast with my zoom lens:Eventually I struck the tent, packed it all up, and made a late lunch so it would be ready for Jeff when he got back from fishing. The camp stove had been sitting in the sun all day, and it started with such a fireball I burned the hair off half my hand. ha!
Jeff returned by 3pm with a really big King (Chinook) salmon!
Across the river, there was a little shop who vacuum seals your fish. Jeff left the fish with him, who sealed it up, and froze it for us while we headed on to the next stop on our trip, Valdez!
We had reserved a nice spot at the Valdez KOA. It was a really nice campground a couple miles before Valdez.
Saturday – Lu-Lu Belle cruise in Valdez, Alaska
On Saturday morning, we had a reservation for a cruise on the Lu-Lu Belle (thanks to the recommendation of our friends, the Snowmads, who had done the trip a couple years ago).
We didn’t wait too long before we were on board and took a spot near the front of the boat. Captain Fred gave us a run down of the rules and safety procedures, and then started his commentary as we drifted slowly out of the harbour.
We saw the Saga from the Deadliest Catch TV show coming into the harbour to offload some fish. Captain Fred said most of the ships from the show were in the area working tender jobs, bringing fish from the smaller boats into the processor, keeping busy until crab season this winter. Sure enough, we also saw some other ships that have been on that show throughout the years, including the Sherbrooke and the Kodiak.
As we headed out of the harbour, we saw these brown lump collections all over the waterway. As we got closer, we discovered just how cute they were. Otters!!
We took a long cruise out, listening to the Captain tell us about the area, the history, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and how the town of Valdez was hit by the great Alaskan earthquake of 1964 and the following tsunami and later moved the town a few miles to a safer spot.The scenery was so beautiful! Captain Fred said he’d give a Lu-Lu Belle pin to the first person who spotted a humpback or porpoise, and sure enough, Jeff won it by spotting some Dall porpoises!
I tried my best, but I have about 30 photos of porpoises right before or after they surfaced! They were so funny, swimming along with the boat, jumping in front of it like it was a game of chicken!Soon enough we started seeing ice chunks in the water. Icebergs! And then sea lions!And puffins!! The sea lions were really barking loud. What fun creatures! Some of them were branded with a number. I wasn’t able to hear all of Captain Fred’s explanation, but I believe it was so they could be tracked so they could see how far these animals move around. There were no humpback whales to be seen, but we kept trying as we headed towards the Columbia ice fields to see the glaciers. It was a hot day of 26°C, but cool on the boat with the breeze. But once we started getting into the ice chunks, it got really frigid! I put on mittens! In the galley of the boat, the deck hands were busy baking. We had warm brownies and blueberry cupcakes! We slowly worked away around the ice chunks, closer and closer to the edge of the big Columbia glacier. It was a really active day on the front edge of the glacier! We saw massive pieces of ice calving off. Look at this one:After it calves off, it goes way up in the air (shown above) and then crashes again with a splash into the water.Then a big wave starts! See the wave of water starting below?Yet we still got closer! It took us hours to get back out of here. We watched so many massive chunks break off, the entire area filled with ice chunks when we turned to leave, which meant we inched along for a long long time.We gave us time to spot mountain goats up on the mountain sides! And harbour seals resting on the ice chunks. They were way too shy for photos though, and the goats were just too far for a good photo.By the time we left the ice behind, it was 7 hours into the cruise and we were really enjoying it, yet were starting to feel like this was a cruise we wouldn’t do twice. It was phenomenal! But a really long day.As we came back towards the harbour, Captain Fred continued to explain the new safety rules that came from the Exxon Valdez oil spill here, and now ships must be double hulled, and use local pilots as they come in and out of the harbour. The big ships have to stay a mile apart, when they can, and a harbour master works as traffic control. There were no oil tankers coming or going, but I thought it was interesting how Alaska brings goods into its coastal towns by container ships when possible. After driving on their really wavy, bumpy roads, I’m sure that is a life saver for eggs anyway! We saw the terminus of the great Alaskan pipeline, which starts way up north in Prudhoe Bay. The amount of oil and money involved here was fascinating to hear about! I don’t know about the rest of the passengers, but Captain Fred convinced me my money should be invested in oil.Back in the beautiful harbour of Valdez, Captain Fred let one of his young female deck hands back the boat in to the stall. She did great! The cruise was about 10 hours, and we were zonked. We headed up to Roma’s for dinner. Between the long day, fresh air, really wind burnt face (well from the sunglasses down anyway!) the food and beer never tasted so good.
I ordered the rubbed salmon, described in the menu as:
Seared Alaskan salmon rubbed with our special spices, spinach, parmesan risotto & cream sauce.
It was the most amazing dinner. OMG it was good.And the view in this bar, overlooking the harbour! I’ve never seen a bar with a better view!Afterwards, we shuffled our stiff sea legs back to the truck, giggling at all the bunnies everywhere. I heard a domesticated bunny or two got out and the population exploded. They were so cute and were all colours – brown, black, white, and speckled.
Today we woke up early, packed up, and drove all the way back home, including a stop back at the salmon fishing place to pick up the frozen fish!
Our wildlife tally for the trip:
- black beer
- moose & calf
- sea lions
- harbour seals
- bald eagles
- gulls of more varieties than I know
- mountain goats
- Dall porpoises
- so many jumping salmon & herring
Oh and Jeff heard a caribou calling on the Top of the World highway when we were checking our blueberry picking spot (berries aren’t ready, or just not good this year).
It is good to be home. And we’re beat! Jeff will have to proof read this post tomorrow.