A Visit to Valdez

I’m back at our usual table in the library, and have even adopted a usual side I sit on now. It is interesting to have so much redundancy to our travels in Alaska, compared to the 15 months we spent traveling in 2019/2020 where we rarely even spent two nights in the same place. Now we’ve racked up ten nights at the Cabela’s in Anchorage and are repeat customers at a couple coffee shops, frozen yogurt place, ice cream shop, several parks, the rec center, gas station, and of course the library. We know the hours of the rec center and library, where to watch the planes take-off and land, the three locations of Fred Meyer, and several of the campers at Cabela’s. I can’t decide if it makes it feel like the trip is going faster or slower because we keep coming back to the same spots. In some ways it feels like we have been here a lot longer than five weeks, given how well we know Anchorage. However, each time we leave for a trip and come back it seems like we were just here.

This update will be a quick one, as I spent most of my time at the library writing an article for a site called The Adventure Portal. We’ll be doing three articles about our travel in Alaska this summer, each in the storytelling format. I wrote about our time in Kennicott and McCarthy, so will skip over that here and include a link to the article when it is published next week.

Before heading to Kennicott and McCarthy, we spent a few days in Anchorage hoping for a break in the rainy weather and catching up on laundry, grocery shopping, working out, etc. We also treated ourselves to a movie at a bargain theater here (Cruella – it was pretty good!). I love going to the movies and went all the time growing up, as we had a discount theater that was only about a dollar for a movie. David hardly ever watches movies but ends up enjoying them when we do. When a break in the rain finally arrived we took off towards Valdez, with a stop on the way to climb Gunsight Mountain. We lucked out on a relatively clear day with some sun, a welcome sight after several days of heavy rain.

We spent several days in Valdez, mostly focused on museums and shorter walks given the return to rainy weather. Luckily Valdez has an incredibly interesting history, and we enjoyed learning about the 1898 gold rush, Old Valdez, the 1964 earthquake, and the Exxon-Valdez oil spill. I most enjoyed reading and listening to first hand accounts from residents of Old Valdez about the earthquake and decision to move the town about four miles away. There is lots of great information on the museum’s website here. The 1964 earthquake was rated a 9.2 on the Richter, making it the largest earthquake ever recorded in North America. It killed 33 people in Old Valdez who were standing on the dock while a visiting ship unloaded, and caused lots of flooding from the resulting tsunami. The site of the town was deemed unstable and a new site was identified, with residents required to relocate or sell their property over a three-year period. One of the museum guides recommended the book Valdez Rises, as I want to learn more about the town’s relocation.

Other highlights of our trip to Valdez include:

  • Watching the clouds clear to reveal the mountains at Kelsey Dock
  • Seeing lots of rabbits (as the City’s website explains, “These are not wild rabbits, but rather feral descendants of domesticated rabbits which were turned loose some years ago”)
  • Picking salmonberries and making jam (unfortunately a lot of the berries weren’t super tasty, but with a little lemon and sugar made a great jam!)
  • Eating David’s delicious cauliflower tikka masala, made by substituting in cauliflower for chicken in the recipe here
  • Touching icebergs in Valdez’s Glacier Lake
  • Watching salmon climb the fish ladder at the Solomon Gulch Hatchery
  • Making a return visit to Northern Treats for the soft serve and shakes
  • Enjoying our secluded camp spot near the water

After Valdez we made our way to Kennicott and McCarthy, and then back to Anchorage. My parents arrive tonight and will be here for four nights, with our itinerary focused on Seward and the Alaska State Fair. Luckily slightly better weather is in the forecast!

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