Although we didn't see any sheep or caribou today, we enjoyed seeing
this part of the Glenn Hwy. again. We traveled westbound once in 2012,
also from Valdez to Anchorage. We haven't gone eastbound yet, the
direction where travelers can better see the Matanuska Glacier and
seen photos of the stunning mountain scenery along 120
miles of the Richardson Hwy. (AK 4) between Glennallen and Valdez.
Today we drove that section northbound, then turned west onto the
Glenn Hwy. (AK 1), a National Scenic Byway, for another 175 miles to the northern part of
Anchorage. The Chugach Mountains to the south and Talkeetna Mountains to
the north guarantee more beautiful glaciated Alaska scenery on this
section of road, too.
Tahneta Lake; Tahneta Pass is
under the arrow in the distance.
Tahneta and Leila Lakes
Jim will be riding a 100-mile bike race on the Glenn Hwy. in July,
part of the Fireweed 400 cycling event. His race goes 50 miles east from
Sheep Mountain (near the Matanuska Glacier) and 50 miles back.
Since we would be covering that section of highway today, Jim got the
bright idea to ride 48 of those 50 miles on his bike while I drove the camper
forward, crewing for him along the way.
Despite some long ups and downs he did great and
feels more prepared for his race.
ROUTE: Richardson Hwy. (AK 4) north to Glennallen; west on
Glenn Hwy. (AK 1) to Anchorage
Map sections are from
The Milepost website; read this one
from south to north.
Read this one east (R) to west (L).
TIME: 8:53 AM to 7:15 PM with lots of stops and Jim riding
his bike 48 miles on the return portion of the "Fireweed 400" 100-mile
race he's doing July 10. I crewed with the camper, not an easy thing to
do with a moderately large 5th-wheel coach in tow.
TRAFFIC & ROAD CONDITIONS: light traffic between towns; moderate
traffic near Valdez and Glennallen; moderately heavy in metro
area from Palmer to Anchorage.
The road was bumpy from Valdez to Glennallen but there was no construction;
letting more air out of the air bags
in the truck helped again with the bouncing. The road from Glennallen to
Anchorage was in much better condition this year than in 2012.
Heading toward notched Gunsight Mountain on the
We forgot that the 25 miles from MP 99
to 74 on the Glenn Hwy. are as narrow, curvy, and high up as they are past the Matanuska
Glacier and above the Matanuska River. The views were stunning but I was on the wrong side (passenger
seat) for photos.
I hope to get better pics going eastbound when we go that way for Jim's
bike race in July.
WEATHER: fantastic once we got past Thompson Pass. It was overcast in
Valdez and we couldn't see the mountaintops for about 20 miles from there
and through Keystone Canyon to the pass:
Fogged-in at the pass
Fog obscured just about all the scenery to the pass, then as soon as we began
descending on the north side it was suddenly clear!
We had great views
of Worthington Glacier and everything else the rest of the drive:
Temps were in the 60s and 70s F., the sun felt hot, and there wasn't
much breeze until we got to Sheep Mountain Lodge, where Jim finished his
There was so much haze over the Wrangell-St. Elias Mountains, probably
from a large wildfire in that wilderness, that we couldn't see the
12,000-16,000-foot mountains there.
TERRAIN: mountainous the whole way but no real long ups and down
because we were riding above 2,000 feet most of the time.
There were two passes about 3,000-3,300 feet in elevation that are on
Jim's bike race course; they weren't as tough for him to ride up as
he expected and they were hardly noticeable as I drove the camper.
Jim's view from the road toward Tahneta Pass
This is a gorgeous drive in clear weather. The nearby Chugach and Talkeetna
Mountains on the Glenn Hwy. aren't as dramatic as some of the
mountains we've seen going to Haines, Skagway, and Valdez but they are
We also had good views of several glaciers -- Worthington north of
Valdez, Nelchina (below) from the overlook at MP 129 where
I waited for Jim one time while I was crewing for him,
Matanuska for several miles before and after MP
101, and Knik as we got near Anchorage. I love glaciers!
MORE ABOUT JIM'S RIDE
Jim got on his bike at MP 162 on the Glenn Hwy., the turn-around point
in his race, and rode 48+ miles to the Sheep Mountain Lodge, the
start/finish at MP 113.
The shoulders along most of the road were wide
and smooth enough for him to stay out of the way of traffic:
He wanted me to pull the camper over about every ten miles in case he
needed to stop for some reason -- road work, inadequate shoulders, too
much traffic, fatigue, whatever.
I wasn't able to stop in all the places I planned but it worked out OK
in the three places where I met him and I was able to park at the Sheep
Mountain Lodge OK till he got there. One rest area with a bathroom was closed due to
budget cuts and I wasn't able to find another place to pull off until 19
miles into his ride:
The Nelchina Lodge has a nice big parking lot;
I asked permission to wait there.
Jim looks great after the first 19 miles (and at
the end of 48, too).
The next place I stopped was about 32 miles (Eureka Pass), then 40 miles
(Tahneta Pass), and those were comfortable distances for him. I stopped at some other
places near the end for photos of scenic mountains and river valleys.
The long pulloff at Eureka Pass had nice views of Nelchina Glacier
(already showed it above) and the surrounding mountains. It was a good
place to walk the dogs while I waited for Jim to arrive:
My favorite place to
park was a long, wide, double-ended pullout near Tahneta Pass that is
higher than the surrounding valley, with panoramic views of lakes and
reason to live fulltime in our rolling
residence: great Alaska views!
There are lots of fireweeds beginning to bloom on
this stretch of the highway.
The Fireweed 400 is named for these colorful, ubiquitous
The pullout at
Tahneta Pass was a great place to walk the dogs and talk to other RVers who
came and went.
I had a pleasant conversation with a couple and their daughter from Haines
Junction, Yukon, who were in a truck camper. They like to vacation in Anchorage
for a week every summer.
The man, who appeared to be in his 60s, has ridden
the Klunae-to-Chilkat International Bike Race (KCIBR) solo several times
so he was interested in hearing about Jim's training for the Fireweed 400.
The family waited until Jim rode in to talk with him a little while:
Jim tops out on Tahneta Pass
That gave Jim a nice little break and then he continued riding westbound
to Sheep Mountain Lodge.
I took more photos of the scenery as I drove the Cameo ahead of him:
Sheep Mountain Lodge is between
here and that funny-looking hill (center R),
which is called Glacier Point or
When I pulled into the large parking area at Sheep
Mountain Lodge I went in to ask permission to wait there for Jim,
explaining that he was training for the Fireweed 400 and would be coming
in fairly soon.
The 100- and 400-mile races in that event start and
finish here; the 200-miler ends in Valdez.
Above and below: done!
Hope the weather is as good on race day in July . . .
Jim ate an early supper, rested a bit, and then we
continued down the road (literally) to Anchorage.
We dumped gray and black water before leaving the Valdez Glacier
Campground this morning and Jim got about 25 gallons of fresh water.
We thought we might spend the night along the
highway near Sheep Mountain or the Matanuska Glacier but Jim felt good
enough after riding his bike 48 miles to drive another 90+ miles to
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) just north of Anchorage.
We found this
enticing spot by Long Lake where we could have parked overnight
but Jim was determined to continue to our next destination:
When we got to JBER we headed straight for Black Spruce Campground on
the Richardson side of the base. We stayed here three different times in
2012 and prefer it to the campground on the Elmendorf side.
RVers can't make reservations at JBER so we were very happy to get a full-hookup site again. We knew that
about half of the sites at Black Spruce are currently without
electricity so we assumed all the FHU sites would be occupied.
Since we have a good site, we plan to stay here a little over two
weeks. We'll return one or two more times this summer between short
trips to other parts of the state.
Closer shot of Glacier Point,
which rises above Matanuska Glacier
After the long day we had, I was very surprised when Jim decided to
do laundry at 9:45 PM! It's still light then but geez, aren't you tired yet???
Obviously not. That's a good sign for his upcoming race.
Next entry: more about camping at Black Spruce and our
activities on the large JBER (Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, acronym
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup
© 2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil