~Sunday, July 17, 2022~
Day 763 (Travel Day)
Day 27 of Alaska Trip
What a way to start the day then with waterfalls and rivers. The clouds have lifted just enough that we can finally see where the heck we are. We knew after all the rain we’d had IN the clouds, that today would be the best day to see the action below. The waterfalls and river….magnificent! Just about 12 miles southeast of Valdez, is Keystone Canyon, an impressive narrow gorge with walls over 600 feet tall.
The canyon is quite cozy as the Lowe River and Richardson Highway run alongside each other, nearly edge to edge. The river is a milky glacier blue and was rippin’!! And we’ve never seen so many waterfalls in one concentrated area….some veil-like, others more graduated on their descent.
Though many of them display their wonder in an inaccessible distance, we were able to check out Bridal Veil Falls and Horsetail Falls up close;
the mist from the clouds adding more interest to our photos.
Making our way back to our campsite, we decided to go just 2 miles past it to visit the Worthington Glacier. Located on Thompson Pass, this glacier is one of Alaska’s most accessible glaciers. Jeff and I have always found glaciers to be fascinating examples of Mother Nature. Just a quick side
note on how they’re formed…..when snow accumulates over time, it compacts into ice, and begins to move. When more snow falls in winter than melts in summer, glaciers will form. Each new snow layer buries and compresses the layers below and the transformation from snowflakes to glacial ice begins. Worthington Glacier is one of the best examples of a “retreating” glacier. It has been steadily falling back for the last 150 years. Where the glacier sits, on Thompson Pass, there are numerous avalanches during the spring months. It’s not uncommon to see canons shooting down snow from December to April. In January of 2014, a massive avalanche blocked the Richardson Highway, with a 40-foot high wall of ice, closing the highway, with snow lingering well into the summer (note: the Richardson Highway is the only highway into Valdez). That must have been quite something.
After our morning of sightseeing, we returned to break down camp before heading to Palmer, AK. There, we have plans to boondock alongside the King River at Kings River Crossing (this was a recommendation by a couple we follow on Instagram….the www.NewStateNomads.com. Right now they’re in Italy!! They do a fantastic job on their blog (10K followers). Make sure to check them out!! Anyway, their recommendation at King River was a good one IF you’re in a Class C or a van. For a 29-foot travel trailer, it was a bit challenging. More on that later.
Today’s drive was about 210 miles, with no rain, and a lot of overcast. While on the Richardson Highway, we could see glimpses of the Alaska Pipeline, passing specifically Pump Station No. 12 (there are a total of 12 pump stations to keep things flowing smoothly on its 800+ mile journey.) The frost heaves on the Glenn Highway were quite bad, keeping Jeff on constant alert. However, the abundance of purple/pink Fireweed wildflowers and alluring scenery were a good distraction. We passed 2 lakes that were particularly beautiful…Buffalo Lake and Long Lake.
Finding our campground was very easy, but getting in, not so much. This is a first-come, first-serve FREE place, with room for about 8 rigs. Oh darn….the 2 sites next to the river that would have accommodated us were already taken, and a few other sites occupied. There was a possibility of one site, slightly away from the water that we thought might work, but we quickly learned it was like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Our trailer was just not going to fit. We quickly figured out it would be a disaster waiting to happen, with a very expensive tow, if Jeff had continued. But in the CENTER of the campground, still within hearing and seeing distance of the river, was a spot big enough for us, nestled against a few small trees. We’re in!!
Within about 10 minutes of our arrival, another couple showed up in their truck camper (much more flexible in terms of getting into a site), finding the perfect spot right next to the river. On their hunt for firewood, we ended up introducing ourselves with buzzkilling their hopes in making a campfire. All fires are banned in Alaska at the moment. Christina and Marco, from Switzerland were oh so nice and we very much enjoyed our conversation with them. They arrived in Vancouver in May and have been on their Alaska adventure ever since. Both are heading back to their jobs in mid-August (he is an OT and she is a pediatric nurse). They seem to be a little younger than we are, but adventurous all the same. A funny story…..a Swiss friend of theirs came to Chicken, Alaska (what is it about Chicken?) and really enjoyed it. In fact, he liked it so much, especially with his gold panning interest, he decided to buy some land in the small town. While there, he met an American who also became intrigued with the Gold Rush town. So they bought the land together 50/50 and each built a house on it. What are the odds? Since Christina and Marco were coming to Alaska anyway, they decided to stop and see what Chicken was all about, trying their hand at striking gold. At least they found a little! What a story! We hoped we could continue our conversation later over a glass of vino, but we were all so tired, hopefully there’ll be another opportunity tomorrow evening.
But I did have enough energy to whip up some muffins for Christina and Marco in case they leave tomorrow. Hopefully they like the combination of bananas and chocolate. In my apprehension, while waiting for things to bake, Jeff asked if I wanted to play a round of Backgammon. That is one game I never seem to win. What do you know?? Today’s my lucky day. I not only won the first game, I won BOTH games!! Now I’LL be the one to ask.