Continued from the previous page.
WEDNESDAY: ALASKA HWY. MP 1269 TO VALDEZ, AK
Route: west on the Alaska Hwy. to Tok, southwest on the Tok Cut-Off, south on the Richardson Hwy.,
west on Airport Rd.
to the campground
Here are the relevant
map sections from The Milepost
Read these from the top down:
This segment took us less than eight hours with five or six stops. They included:
1) fuel at first station on east side of Tok ($3.59/gallon, which
looks great compared to the prices we later saw in Valdez);
2) Public Lands Center and adjacent Tok Visitor Center for more promotional literature:
3) 8-minute stop for road work about halfway through the Tok Cut-Off;
4) Wrangell-St. Elias NP visitor center and viewpoint (lunch, short walk
through the boreal forest, interpretive displays in the complex,
Part of the
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park visitor center complex
display (above) and fish wheel (below) at the Ahtna Cultural Center
in the Wrangell-St.
Elias visitor center complex
5) stopped by side of Richardson Hwy. to take picture of a glacier while Jim let air out of
one of the air bags;
6) another stop for photos of the camper with
Worthington Glacier in background (Jim let air out of the other air bag
there because it helped with the rough road surface):
Traffic and road conditions: Pretty light traffic until close to
Tok, light on Tok Cut-Off, then a little more on Richardson Hwy. to
Roads were relatively smooth; I thought the Alaska Hwy. to Tok was in better condition than three years ago:
Midway Lake along the Alaska Hwy. east of Tok
Most of the Tok Cut-Off was in better condition, too.
We followed a pilot truck a few miles about midway through the cut-off.
The gravel was smoother than some of the pavement we had today.
As in that area in 2012, the road crew uses lots of white paper or foam
dinner plates along the side of the road to make various notations:
It looks chintzy but I bet resident taxpayers appreciate the cost savings!
Terrain: It was a roller-coaster ride all day, as
most of this trip has been since we got on the Alaska Hwy. in
northeastern British Columbia two weeks ago. We rode at
lower elevations today than yesterday.
point was Thompson Pass at 2,678 feet, just south of Worthington
This land was under several feet of snow in mid-June, 2012 when we drove
interesting mountain peaks and glaciers to the west of Thompson Pass
The longest grade was downhill from there to Valdez within a few miles,
including the drive along the Lowe River through Keystone Canyon:
Lake State Rec. Site lies just below Thompson Pass.
River enters the upper (north) end of Keystone Canyon.
River is barely below the level of the Richardson Hwy. through Keystone
Falls (L) and another smaller falls in Keystone Canyon
Falls in Keystone Canyon
We loved all the
gorgeous mountains that we couldn't see three years ago in the rain and
clouds -- it was almost like we haven't been here before. It was
awesome to see all the peaks and glaciers clearly.
View of the eastern end of the Alaska Range from
the Tok Cut-Off
Above and below: These two photos from the
Tok Cut-Off looking east
toward the Wrangell-St. Elias Mountain Range are
among my favorites from this trip.
I think the drive from Glenallen to Valdez on the Richardson Hwy. is even prettier than
going south on the Haines Hwy. Both are stunning, though.
Here are a couple pictures along the Richardson Hwy. between Glennallen
and Worthington Glacier:
The next photo is approaching Worthington Glacier from the north, which
is simply stunning from this direction:
I included some more photos of the glacier farther down this page. There will
also be a separate entry from a day trip we took to the glacier during
our stay in Valdez.
I loved all the blue lupines, vetch, pink fireweed, and other
wildflowers along the roadside from Tok to Valdez:
Lupines and other wildflowers at a rest area
along the Richardson Hwy.
12,010-foot Mt. Drum from a viewpoint near visitor center at
Wrangell-St. Elias NP but it was hazy, reportedly from a fire inside the
park that has been left to burn in a wilderness area with no structures
This is Mt. Drum. 14,163-foot Mt. Wrangell,
farther to the right (south), was lost in the haze today.
Valdez was also very hazy this evening when we drove into town. Someone
said it was because of the fire in Willow, but that's pretty far away
and over lots of mountains and ice fields. Perhaps it's from the
Wrangell-St. Elias fire or three fires now burning on the Kenai
That's the downside of an unseasonably warm winter and spring.
Weather: warm and sunny all day -- 60s to upper 70s F.,
which is above average. Fairly windy in Valdez in the afternoon, calm in
JUST HOW WARM IS ALASKA?
article re: the record heat in Alaska was on the Wall Street
Journal Market Watch site today (degrees are Fahrenheit):
This is how hot it is in Anchorage: hotter than in Los Angeles.
Temperatures in Alaskaís biggest city hit 83 degrees on Monday and
Tuesday, records for both calendar days and just two degrees shy of the
June record set in 1969. Temperatures could again hit 80 on Wednesday.
In Los Angeles, temperatures on Monday and Tuesday didnít crack 80.
Just how out of whack is that? A normal high for Anchorage was just 63
degrees, as measured between 1981 and 2010, according to the National
Approaching Worthington Glacier from the north; the
Lowe River flows next to the highway.
giant high pressure system over western Alaska isnít going away anytime
soon, meaning the stateís unusually hot temperatures could stick around
through the end of the month, said Richard Thoman, the Fairbanks-based
climate science and services manager for the National Weather Serviceís
Hereís something else Alaska has in common with California these days: a
dry winter and resulting wildfires. The heat is fueling Alaskaís fires,
which have been amplified by an unusually low amount of snow during the
winter, which led to drier forests and grasses. While this yearís fires
arenít large by Alaska standards, they have unusually destructive
because of the number of homes that have burned.
Despite this heat wave, cooler-than-normal temperatures in the first 10
days of the month means it probably wonít go down as one of the hottest
Junes on record for much of the state, Thoman said.
Above and below: more photos of Worthington
Glacier; it looked much different under lots of snow in 2012.
Alaska may be getting used to warmer temperatures.
Last month was the warmest May for the state since
records began in 1925,
with a temperature 7.1 degrees above normal. Since 2000, April and May
in many years have been among the warmest on record.
Contributing to the warmer weather in recent years have been sea surface
temperatures far above normal as well as earlier melting of winter ice, he said.
VALDEZ GLACIER CAMPGROUND
We arrived at this campground about
mid-afternoon, which gave us plenty of daylight to get set up and begin
re-exploring the area. We stayed only three nights in 2012, when it was
colder and more rainy. The weather was pleasant enough to stay five
nights this time.
I'll write more about the campground in the next
entry. Here's a sneak peak at our site:
Sunrise this morning in Valdez was 4:03 AM. Sunset tonight is 11:30
PM. Twilight extends those hours even further, and it's not even the
summer solstice yet.
How are we supposed to sleep from 10 PM to 7 AM??
(We do fairly well with that after spending so many nights at well-lit Walmart and
Sam's Club parking lots the last twelve years. Dark fabric over our
bedroom blinds helps a lot.)
Next entries: photos from Valdez Glacier Campground and
nearby lakes, glaciers, and mountains
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup
© 2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil