TRAVELS IN ALASKA
Woke up about 6 AM and it wasn't as bright as I was expecting. Peeked outside my blackout curtains and there was snow everywhere! And continuing to come down!!!! So much for the weather forecast of "clear and sunny!"
So far every day outside of Rapid City on this trip the mornings have been under 32 degrees.
Supposed to be nice today but won't know for sure until I get closer to Alaska and over some of these mountain ranges.
Tok gas prices were $4.30 a gallon.
Got nice pictures of Mt Drum (12,000 feet) and Mt Sanford (16,237 feet) in the Wrangell Mountain range.
They were to my left for miles and miles as I wound through the valleys.
Also got a nice picture of King Mountain (5800 feet) as I drove through a valley on the Glenn Highway with the Matanuska River keeping company.
The trees are actually budding out here in the valley. In another week it'll be beautiful.
Also saw my first Corvette on the road since.....Missouri?
Got to Elmendorf right after lunch time. Went to billeting to get a room and whereas a lot of the base has changed, this building looked familiar. I asked the lady behind the counter if it had ever been a dormitory and she said it had. Thyen it dawned on me...I pulled Charge of Quarters duty in this building when I was stationed here in 1973-1975.
Elmendorf is where I also saw Gerald Ford shortly after Nixon resigned.
Drove around Anchorage to get my bearings and ended up setting up an oil change for tomorrow plus I washed and vacuumed the van. Got gas, a haircut and bought groceries, too. Also stopped near the base golf course as this one site of a stream and a sign looked familiar. Took pictures and then compared them to the old ones taken long ago and they were pretty much the same. The tree by the sign has grown and the stream has no snow. The pictures will be in the album on Photobucket as soon as I can post them.
Figure this out: in the depths of wild Yukon I could get satellite radio. As I write this in my comfortable hotel room at Elmendorf AFB ($39 a night, large room with sofa, desk, dresser, recliner, large fridge (not those baby fridges), microwave, cable modem, cable TV, etc.) I can't get Sirius XM. Weird!
Up at 6 and sun high in the sky. Bright and shiny with promises for a cloudless day up through tomorrow. Decided to stay another day as there is so much to see around here.
Got the oil changed in the van. Cost me $54 but you got to do what you gotta do. Everything is expensive here.
Headed south and went to Portage Glacier but everything was closed down until later in the month.
Before the turnoff to Portage Glacier I went by what used to ber the town of Portage which was destroyed in the 1964 earthquake. Folks woke up to find themselves 6-8 feet lower than the night before. It allowed salt water from the Turnagain Arm to flood the entire area and the dead trees in the pictures are witness to that. Got pix of the old houses (what's left of them) and an old truck.
Glad I bought a polarizing filter with me. On my Sony camera I can get OK pictures but on the Panasonic the quality suffers for some reason so the filter does a good job of spanking the colors a bit and making them crisper.
Went to the Kenai Fiords and took a 2 miles hike to Exit Glacier. Well worth it even though the path was still snow covered.
Went to Seward to look around. Very pretty. Quaint. Smacks of an "artists" town smack up against working fishermen. Lots of nice boats here, too, so I suspect people from Anchorage keep them here as I think it stays relatively ice free in the winter. As I was getting ready to take a picture in the harbor a blad eagle swooped in and just as quickly flew away before I could get a shot.
Gas is 37 cents more expensive in Seward than Anchorage. YOWZAH!!
The town was basically destroyed in the Good Friday earthquake when a 30 foot tsunami wiped it out.
It was named after Secretary of State Seward, under President Andrew Johnson who was instrumental in negotiating the purchase of the territory from Russia. Seward was also shot (by Lewis Powell, a co-conspirator with Booth) the night President Lincoln was assassinated.
Can't believe my luck with the weather so far. I expect the other shoe to drop shortly and have rain every day on the return leg of the trip.
My eyes feast on every corner, around every bend in the road, every summit, into every valley. What awesome scenery. Out of this world spectacular and magnificent.
On the way back to the room saw what appeared to be beluga whales in the Knik Arm. They normally show up about 3 or 4 hours after a low tide.
The Turnagain Arm has one of the largest bore tides in the world. It can be up to 37 feet and under the right conditions the tsunami-like waves can be generated powerful enough to be a danger to small boats.
It is caused by when water from a receding low tide comes in contact with water rushing into a constricted area (like Turnagain Arm) and can reach speeds of up to 20MPH.
The name, Turnagain Arm, was originally called "Return by the Russians" when Capt Cook was looking for the Northweest Passage in the late 1770s. He called it Turnagain River but Capt Vancouver, doing a more thorough job of exploration, called it "Turnagain Arm."
Another stellar day, cloudless. Drove around a bit and ended up at Earthquake Park, near the airport.
Speaking of airports, Anchorage has four. One is the international airport, at the edge of Knik Arm. Another is a small aircraft airport right smack dab in town, off 5th Ave. Another is for float planes adjacent to the Intl airport on Lake Hood. It's incredibly busy and handles almost 800 takeoffs and landings per day in the summer. Compare that to the 280 flights daily at the international airport. The last airport is the Campbell Airstrip on the east side of town. Of course, that does not include the fields at Elmendorf AFB or Fort Richardson.
It was about 45 degrees early in the morning and I could not believe how many people were strolling around in short sleeve shirts!!!! Must be an "acclimitization" thing.
Not only is food and gas expensive here so are cigarettes: $8 a pack!!! And housing: a 2 BR condo can be leased for $4500 a month or bought for $950,000. Of course, it's in a good area but regular houses are north of $300,000.
4th and 5th Avenues are chock-a-block full of souvenir shops, visitor centers, and street vendors peddling reindeer or elk sausages or gyros. They all have the smae prices, too, and people decide where to buy depending on which girls they think are cutest. Yes, most of the vendors are women. Saw this one near the Federal Building which had a sign saying "Sarah Palin for President 2012-2013.5
Curious to see if they were serious supporters or jackoffs, I asked. They were jackoffs. So I left. I would have given them business if they were serious about her but I vote with my wallet and it has a hard time supporting jackoffs.
After lunch, and having determined when low tide was, I headed to Beluga Point to see if a tidal bore would take place.
No such luck. The phase of the moon was right but the winds were non-existent. Did see dall sheep, though, high up on the east side of the mountains off Turnagain Arm. They were mere specks in the distance but the zoom on my camera picked them out pretty well even though they were over 1/2 mile line-of-sight away.
Headed back to the room to plan the return leg of the trip back home, make reservations at hostels near Jasper and reservations on the Ferry from Haines to Skagway.
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Copyright Vilmar F. Tavares 2011