August 2003               


August 1 – We were up early, preparing for our cruise today.  The sun is out and it promises to be a good day.  We drove into Seward and parked at the lot as directed by the cruise company.  The shuttle bus drove up right away and we got on board. 

            At the dock, we picked up out boarding passes and waited with our fellow passengers for boarding time.  We looked at some of the boats in the very crowded small boat harbor.  We also watched a couple of jellyfish navigating around the harbor.

            We finally received permission to board our boat and made our way to the top deck.  The Kenai Fjords Explorer has two enclosed, heated decks with large windows so you can get good views.  You can also go on the outside decks.  We don’t have a full boat today, which is good, everyone can get good views. 

            Our captain introduced himself and the crew and then we were underway.  Our first stop was at the entrance to the small boat harbor where a Bald Eagle was perched on the entrance buoy.  He was very large and quite beautiful.  It is always such a thrill when we see these wonderful birds.  The captain cruised out into Resurrection Bay and stopped to give us our first look at a Sea Otter.  These animals spend all their lives in the water, even giving birth there.  One of the things that surprised us was the size of the otters, they are quite large.  The one we watched this morning was about 80 pounds.  It was floating on it’s back in the water, with it’s front paws tucked under it’s chin.  Everyone was enjoying watching him float around, but we said goodbye so we could head on out the bay.

            The captain announced that a problem had developed with the coffee pot and we would not have coffee until we reached Fox Island in about 30 minutes.  There is a small resort there and we would be dropping off some folks who were going sea kayaking.  OK, we can wait. 

            Resurrection Bay was the site of a military camp during World War II and there are still some remnants of gun bunkers along the shore.  One bunker is on an island that goes straight up from the water.  Everything had to be brought in by boat and carried up the steep rocky island by hand.  Quite a job.

            We dropped our passengers off at Fox Island and picked up a replacement coffee pot.  Shortly afterwards the captain announced that coffee was ready and also a continental breakfast of sweet rolls, fruit and juice. 

            After giving us some history of the area, our captain announced that another boat had radioed the location of some Orcas to him and that we were going to head that way in hopes of seeing them.  We were now out in open ocean.  The water was fairly calm, what they call ground swells and the most beautiful green color. 

            We reached the area where the Orcas had been spotted and there they were.  It was a large group of 30 or so and they were really busy feeding.  The captain shut down and let us drift in the middle of them.  It was just awesome to watch these beautiful animals.  There were a number of calves and they were swimming with their mothers and playing around.  The little ones stay right with their moms. 

            After watching the Orcas for a while, we again got underway.  We were further out to sea than the cruise normally takes, due to our excursion to see the Orcas.  We will be going closer to the shore when we come back.  The first glacier we saw was Bear Glacier, this glacier is a Piedmont glacier, meaning it does not come to the water; it terminates on land before reaching the water.  The glaciers of the Kenai Fjords National Park originate in the Harding Ice Field, which is 20 miles wide by 35 miles long.

            As we cruised along enjoying the weather and views, a Humpback Whale was sighted.  The captain got us to the area and we watched for the whale to surface.  He was diving and surfacing about every 7 to 10 minutes.  They can stay down much longer than that.  He surfaced several times and we got some great views of him fluking.  (When a Humpback dives he shows his great tail and it is called fluking, quite an awesome sight.)

            Our next wildlife stop was Chiswell  Island where we saw the rookery of a large colony of Stellar sea lions.  This colony is under study as the sea lion population is on a decline.  There are several remote cameras on the island and the signal is beamed back to several locations.  You can see them also on the cable TV network in Seward also. 

            We passed Granite Island and into Northwestern Fjord.  At the end of the fjord is Northwestern Glacier.  As we approached, there was a smaller boat up close to the face.  Just after it left the area, the glacier began calving.  It is really an amazing sight to see and hear.  The large chunks of ice fall, creating large waves and making quite a roar as they fall.  Harbor seals like to haul out onto the ice and we were surprised to see them immediately begin showing up on the ice even though we had not see them in the water. By the time we left the face of the glacier, there were probably 30 or so seals hauled up on the ice.

            On the way back we stopped to see one of the islands with bird rookeries.  These rocky islands rise straight up from the water and we were able to get quite close.  Thousands of birds nest on these islands.  We saw Cormorants, Kittiwakes, Puffins, Parakeet Auklets and Murres.  The birds perch on the rocky cliffs of these islands and hatch their young.  We particularly liked the Murres, they somewhat resemble penguins.  At one area they were lined up along the cliff, reminding you of a reception line in tuxedos.  Another favorite is the Puffin.  These birds are very colorful and flap their wings as they “fly” underwater. They are very awkward flyers above the water but very graceful underwater.

            On our way back we again passed by the sea lion rookery.  There has been an Orca, her calf and another female hanging out in the area and we were hoping for a glimpse of them.  Sea lion is one of the prey of the Orca and this female was teaching her calf to hunt.

            The rest of the afternoon was an enjoyable one on the water and we again spotted a humpback whale on our way back to port. 

            We had dinner at a restaurant on the waterfront and headed back to the RV Park. 

            At the park, we met our neighbors, Lynn and Melba, who were asking us about our trailer.  Lynn is interested in one and as the closest dealer is in the lower 48, he had not had a chance to see any models.  We invited them in for a tour and spent the better part of the evening visiting with them.  Melba took Millie up the road to see the fish weir and showed her some of the native berries. 

            Lynn was in Seward with his dad (from Oregon) fishing.  Melba had driven down from Anchorage on Friday to spend the weekend.  We learned that Lynn is an ice road trucker on the North Slope, so he works about 6 months a year, in the winter and is off all summer.  We really enjoyed visiting with this nice couple. 

August 2 – Today is our second day to cruise Kenai Fjords National Park.  This trip we are going with Major Marine Tours.  On our way out of the harbor we again saw the great Bald Eagle at the harbor entrance.  We were also treated to the sight of a group of 3 sea otters. 

            When we reached the Harding Gateway we again sighted a humpback whale.  Later we were joined by a group of Dall Porpoises who look very much like small Orcas. These fun loving, very fast creatures love to play in the wake of the boat and run along the bow of the boat.  It was great fun to see them. We had seen some the day before but couldn’t entice them to play.

            We enjoyed exception weather, the sea was even calmer than it was yesterday and was warm.  We spent most of our time on deck, enjoying the sun and good company of our fellow passengers.

            We headed into Aialik Bay and up to Aialik Glacier.  As we headed up the bay we were served a delicious buffet of Baked Salmon, Prime Rib, Rice Pilaf, Salad, Sourdough bread and Deserts.  It is not every day that you get to have lunch at the base of a glacier!

            We headed back to Seward, visiting several of the islands along the way.  We visited the sea lions at Chiswell Island, still no sign of the visiting Orcas, and several of the bird rookeries. 

            Our captain announced that whales had been sighted ahead and we all went out on the decks to get a look.  We were lucky enough to see 3 Fin Whales, which are not seen often in the area.  These whales are larger than the humpbacks.  We enjoyed watching them. 

            Our next sighting was a humpback, possibly the same one we had seen earlier, as it was in the same area.  It is fun to watch these great creatures dive and then try to determine where they will resurface.  Quite often they would dive in front of the boat and surface behind the boat several minutes later.

            We returned to the docks in Seward after another long day, tired but savoring the joy of the day.

August 3 – We were tired after 2 days on the water and slept in a little this morning.  After dressing and having breakfast, we drove into Seward.  Dick wanted to download e-mail, as our Data Storm doesn’t get a signal here.  Too far north.  While he was doing that, Millie visited some of the gift shops.  We also walked through some of the downtown area. 

            On the way back to the RV Park we stopped to pick up a newspaper.  After fixing dinner, Millie read the paper and Dick watched TV.

August 4 – This will be our last day in Seward.  We went into town and found a parking place.  We then toured the Seward Museum.  It was a nice small museum.  They have a lot of photos of the 1964 earthquake damage.  They also have 2 clocks on display that stopped at the moment of the earthquake.  One of the amazing things about the 9.2 quake is that is lasted for 5 minutes! 

            After touring the museum we headed over to the library to see films on the earthquake.  A class at Seward High School put the first one together.  It dealt with the quake and it aftermath in Seward and was very good.  The second film was made by the Army and covered the earthquake in all Alaska.  We did not get to see the second film, the VCR quit working.  Oh well, things happen. 

            After dinner we walked up to the fish weir to watch the salmon heading upstream to spawn. The weir has a small dam that funnels the fish into a tank where they can be counted.  It is run by the state and some of the fish are released and some are used for a hatchery.  Some of the fish are also sold.   We spent the remainder of the evening quietly.  Tomorrow is a moving day.

August 5 – We hitched up and headed north on the Seward Highway.  It was a sunny day and traffic was light.  We enjoyed the drive, especially along Turnagain Arm, which had been grey and rainy when we drove south a couple of weeks ago.  We stopped at Bird Point, hoping to see Beluga Whales, but no luck.  The walk from the parking area to the point was warm and breezy.  A nice day to be out.

            We arrived at Anchorage RV Park and got set up.  This is a really nice park, one of the best we have been in.  It is located in the north part of Anchorage.  We did some housekeeping and then called our friends, Dick and Phyllis Davis, who were staying in Palmer.  We decided to all go eat pizza and the Davis’s drove down to meet us.  We visited at our place for a while, catching up on all we had seen and done, and then drove to Pizza Hut for dinner.  It was nearly 10:00 when we said goodbye.  Dick and Phyllis are heading back down on the Kenai Peninsula.  We will be getting together again the end of the month in Palmer.

August 6 – Today we drove to Eagle River, about 10 miles north, to locate the post office.  We are having our mail forwarded there this week.  After locating the Post Office, we went back to Anchorage to get some shopping done.  Went to Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club.  We stopped by Best Buy; Dick is looking for a VCR-DVD combo player for the bedroom and wanted to see what was available.  He forgot to take measurements so just checked out the units and left.

            We had dinner at Chili’s and then went back to the RV.  The weather is nice so Millie sat outside for a while and read.

August 7 – We drove to Eagle River and did the laundry today.  The laundromat was fairly busy but we managed to get it all done in about 2 hours (normal). That is the good thing about doing it in a laundromat; everything can get done at once.  We stopped at Arby’s for lunch, then back to the park to put the laundry away.

            In the afternoon we went to the Alaska Native Heritage Center, which is located just across the road from the RV Park.  This center has a large central building which houses display areas, a theater, cafeteria and a central stage.  Outside is a lake surrounded by examples of 5 traditional housing structures of from different areas of Alaska.  At the opposite side of the lake from the building is a large arch that is actually the jawbone of a whale.  Native people in the North use these to mark their homes or villages.  As there are no trees in the far north and not much else to use for landmarks, these whale bones are quite useful for a landmark.

            We first attended a talk on Eskimo clothing and the various materials used to make them.  The Eskimo people use many different skins and hides for their garments.

            After the clothing demo we went to the film in the theater.  It was very well done and gave a small overview of the 5 peoples represented in the areas around the lake.

            We then toured one of the exhibit areas and saw some native people demonstrating some of their crafts.  The native people do beautiful beadwork and make wonderful baskets.  Some groups make their baskets of sea grass, some use birch bark and there are some lovely little decorative baskets made of baleen and ivory.

            Our next stop was the central stage where we watched a group of young people do native dances.  It was an enjoyable demonstration and the young people were from several areas of Alaska.

            It was then time for a tour, conducted by a young Alaskan Native.  At each of the 5 villages we were given a tour of the type of housing used in a particular area and given a short talk on the culture of the particular area being depicted. 

            We decided to drive into the downtown area to Ship Creek.  Ship Creek flows through Anchorage to Cook Inlet.  It is a salmon stream and the city has a viewing area where the salmon can be viewed heading upstream.  We watched the salmon gathering at the fish ladder there.  As we were driving back to the street that would take us home, Millie looked down the creek and saw a uniquely Alaskan sight.  Fishermen lined up casting for salmon.  In Alaska they call it “combat fishing” and sometimes they are lined up shoulder to shoulder. 

August 8 – Dick’s knee is still uncomfortable, so we didn’t do much today.  We did drive into downtown and go to the Alaska Experience Theater.  The theater has a large 180 degree screen and shows a film “Alaska the Greatland”.  We also saw a film on the 1964 quake and its affect on the Anchorage area.                       

 In the early evening we were watching TV when something caught Dick’s eye out the window.  He told Millie to come look.  Under the picnic table next door was a big porcupine.  He waddled over under our trailer and out the other side.  He started to go over into the next row when a dog started barking. He changed his mind and went back under our trailer, coming out up front and then just sat there eating clover.  It was fun to watch, it was the first time we had ever seen one outside of a zoo.

August 9 – Happy Birthday Evelyn!   We had a leisurely breakfast this morning.  Later we decided to drive to Earthquake Park.  In the 1964 quake a large subdivision was completely destroyed, many homes just disappeared into the water.  A park was created at the site.  We found the park, walked down to the interpretive signs and viewed the stone memorial there. 

            We then drove across the highway to the airport.  We were going to the Hood Floatplane Base.  We circled the airport and found the road that skirts the edge of the large lagoon.  This is the largest floatplane harbor in the world, with as many as 800 takeoffs and landings a day.  It was our first time to see floatplanes in action. 

            We had dinner then back home to read the paper and watch TV.

August 11 – Today we are going to Whittier.  Whittier was used during WWII as a “secret port” by our military and a railroad tunnel was built as a supply link for Alaska.  At one time Whittier was known as the city under one roof.  All the town offices and residents lived in a large hi rise building.  Presently about ½ the population and all the city offices, medical center and post office are all housed in a large condo building. 

            We drove down along the Turnagain Arm to the Portage town site.  Portage was partially destroyed by the ’64 quake and finished off the tsunamis that followed.  At the town site the highway to Whittier forks off. 

            Until 2000 you could not drive to Whittier.  The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel was modified to allow one-way traffic through, traveling directly over the railroad tracks.  This tunnel is the longest highway tunnel in North America at 2 ½ miles long. 

            We arrived at the tunnel and paid our toll.  There is a staging area at each end of the tunnel and traffic waits there until their turn to enter.  Traffic going to Whittier goes on the ½ hour and traffic from Whittier goes on the hour.  As several trains a day also use the tunnel, sometimes there are short delays as the trains go through.  We waited about 10 minutes until our turn to enter the tunnel.  It was really quite an experience driving through. 

            We emerged from the tunnel at the small town of Whittier.  We drove through and then came back to the dock area and parked.  There were some shops and restaurants at the dock and we walked around and had an ice cream.

            When we got back to the tunnel staging area, a train was emerging from the tunnel.  We waited for the train, and then it was our turn to proceed through. 

            On the way back to Portage, we stopped at the Begich Boggs Visitor’s Center.  This visitor’s center is at the Portage Glacier, located at the end of Portage Lake.  There was a large iceberg floating in the lake directly in front of the center.  We went inside and enjoyed all the informative exhibits. As Portage Glacier is further up the lake from the visitor’s center and required hiking, we didn’t go there.  We did see notices that salmon could be viewed at the Williwaw viewing area closer into Portage and we stopped there to see them.  There were several Sockeye, which are a brilliant red and a few Chum. The water was extremely clear and we were able to see them spawning, the females digging out an indentation in the gravel with their tails to deposit the eggs. 

            Going north on the highway along Turnagain Arm we enjoyed the views of the water.  It was a beautiful day and light traffic.  We watched for Belugas and Dall Sheep, both of which are seen in this area, but no luck for us.

August 11 – The sky was overcast and we didn’t have plans, so we just had a quiet day.  Millie visited several of the Anchorage quilt shops.  They were all very nice and well stocked.  Everyone was very friendly. 

            After Millie got back from her jaunt, we grabbed some snacks and books and headed out to Beluga Point on Turnagain Arm.  Cook Inlet has the second greatest tide range in North America at 38.9 feet.  At certain times “bore tides” can be seen and according to the chart on the board at the park, today is one such day.  We arrived early in order to be assured of a parking place and read while we waited.  It was very windy, with winds about 40 mph. 

            The “bore” tide is a wall of foaming water that can reach up to 6 feet high and moves up the Turnagain Arm at speeds of up to 10 knots.  At the estimated time of the tide, we got out and watched the inlet.  Soon you could see the water coming.  As it was so windy and the wind was blowing into the face of the tide, the wall was not as high as it could have been.  It was quite a sight, the wall of water reached all the way across the inlet and made a hissing sound as it came up.  We read that there are times when it makes quite a roar.  There was quite a crowd there to watch. 

            Back at the park, we started putting things up in preparation for traveling tomorrow.  Shortly after we went to bed it began to rain and rained hard all night.

August 12 – Today we will be going to Glennallen, a small town northeast of Anchorage. The rain has stopped but it is still grey and overcast.  We passed through Palmer and through some small farming communities.  This area is a big farming area. 

            At Matanuska Glacier we encountered highway construction.  We had to wait for nearly 30 minutes before we could proceed.  For the next 10 miles or so the highway is one lane and you have to follow a pilot car.  It was really slow going, taking us nearly an hour.  We arrived in Glennallen around 4:00 and found our campsite.  As we would not need our truck tomorrow, we didn’t unhitch. 

August 13 – It’s raining.  We got up early as our shuttle is picking us up at 7:00 AM for the trip to Kennicott/McCarthy.  These towns are located in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park which is the America’s largest national park. 

            Kennicott was a mine town, built to mine the richest copper vein ever found.  It was a company town, built in 1911.  Everything needed for the miners and mine officials was built.  There was a hospital, tennis courts, ice rink, general store, baseball field and dairy.  The mine employed 600 miners.  Only the officials were allowed to bring their families to live with them.  There was a 2-room school for the 20 or so children who lived in the town.  In 1937 the price of copper crashed and the mine was shut down.  Everyone was told to leave the town.  On November 11, 1938 the last train left Kennicott, leaving it a ghost town.  In 1998 the National Park Service began to purchase property and stabilize and restore some of the buildings.  There are some restored buildings that are privately held also. 

            Kennicott is located at the terminus of the Root and Kennecott Glaciers.  The mountains around the area are very beautiful.

            McCarthy is 4 miles from Kennicott.  McCarthy sprang up as a result of Kennicott.  As a company owned town, Kennicott had very strict rules.  No gambling, alcohol or “loose” women were allowed.  McCarthy supplied all these things for the miners who worked hard and were lonely. 

            McCarthy has about 35 year round residents.  They have no post office or school.  To access the area you drive on an unpaved road that was the former railroad bed.  On the way you cross over a trestle that is the second highest bridge in Alaska.  It is one lane and did not have guardrails until recently.  A big peril on this road is flat tires, due to railroad spikes that work their way up through the roadbed. (This is why we decided to take the shuttle service and not take our truck.) 

            The road ends at the Kennecott River.  There used to be a bridge across, but it was washed out in 1995.  For several years the only way to access the towns was to cross the river by a small 2-person hand tram.  In 1997 a pedestrian bridge was built to access the towns.

            We caught the shuttle and were on our way.  It was nice for Dick to be able to just sit back and enjoy the scenery for a change.  It was raining tho and didn’t look promising for clearing up.  We stopped at the Copper River Princess Lodge and picked up 8 more passengers, then on to Chitina, picking up another passenger along the way.

            The paved road ends at Chitina where pass through a cut in the mountain on to the one lane roadway to McCarthy.  The road was muddy and it was still raining, but our driver took it all in stride.  He drives this road nearly every day.  He said he had made the trip 28 out of the last 29 days.

            We arrived at the river and after walking across the bridge, we boarded a van that took us the mile up to “downtown” McCarthy.  We decided to continue on to Kennicott and visit McCarthy on the way back.  The 5-mile drive to Kennicott took about 10 minutes.  It was rainy and cold.  We walked around looking at the buildings.  The park service is working on the buildings but most are off limits for now.  We visited the information center and got the times for ranger led programs then decided we needed to find somewhere dry. 

            The Kennicott Glacier Lodge was the only place in town to get out of the rain so we decided to have lunch there and get warm.  We took our time eating.  We each had large sandwiches and homemade peanut butter cookies.  After taking as long as we could, we put on our coats and headed back out. 

            At the appointed time, we were back to the Information Center for the ranger program.  The program for the day was on the children who had been privileged to grow up in Kennicott.  It was an excellent presentation. 

            After the presentation we caught the shuttle back down to McCarthy and visited the little museum there.  We enjoyed talking to the shuttle driver who had lived in Alaska for a number of years and is now a teacher in California.  He comes back to Alaska to work during the summers.  As we were the only passengers on this run, he made a little side trip to show us the airstrip at McCarthy.

            After visiting the McCarthy Museum we caught the shuttle to the river, walked back across and met our shuttle back to Glennallen.  It was a long ride back (4 hours) and we were back to the campground by 8:00.  We were tired after the long day and ready for bed early.

August 14 – It was still grey and overcast when we left Glennallen.  We headed south towards Valdez.  It began to rain and the rain continued all the way.  We crossed Thompson Pass, snowiest place in Alaska, in clouds and fog. We were unable to see any of the views of the mountains around there.  We descended into Keystone Canyon and into Valdez. 

            We registered at Eagles Rest RV Park and were escorted to our space by one of the friendly park employees.  We got set up and settled in for the evening.  It was raining hard.  This isn’t looking like a good week. 

August 15 – It is still raining!  It rains really hard for a while, the lets up for a bit, and then rains hard again.  There are mountains around here, but you can’t prove it by us, everything is socked in. 

            We decided in the afternoon to head down to the Valdez Museum.  It is an excellent museum with well-done exhibits.  They also have a special exhibit of quilts for this summer.  They have exhibits on the Alyeska Pipeline and the Exxon Valdez oil spill. 

            We then drove down to the waterfront to the Valdez Museum Annex where we saw a film on the ’64 earthquake.  Old Valdez was damaged totally during the quake and it was determined that the town site was on an area that was unstable.  The entire town was moved 10 miles away and rebuilt. 

            Valdez is also the end of the Alyeska Pipeline.  The large tankers come here to take on loads of the oil and transport it south.  Until 9/11 there were tours of the terminal, but now the public is not allowed on the property.

August 16 – The rains are still here.  We hung around the house for a while, Dick puttered on his computer and Millie read. Millie decided to go to the local quilt shop and check it out.

 In the afternoon the rain let up and we were getting a little cabin fever so we drove up to the Crooked Creek Viewing area operated by the Alaska Fish and Wildlife Department.  The Pink and Chum Salmon were spawning in the creek and we watched them for a while.  We then went into the Visitor’s Center there and looked at the underwater video being sent into the center from a camera underwater.  You could watch the fish spawning on the TV set. 

            It began raining again as we left the parking area.  We decided it would be a good day to do our grocery shopping.  After completing that chore we just spent the evening hanging out at home.

August 17 – Not much going on today. The rain has let up some and we can see the mountains around us now.  We pretty much just hung out around the house. We did go out in the afternoon and took a little drive, then stopped by the RV Park office to see about booking a cruise on Prince William Sound.  The one we want to take only goes on Monday and Wednesday.  The Monday cruise was already all booked, so we booked for Wednesday. We are hoping the weather will break and we will have a good day for it.  Just a roll of the dice though. 

August 18 – We decided to do laundry today.  The sun began peeking out of the clouds, maybe the rest of the week will be clear.  After we finished the laundry we headed out to do some sightseeing. 

            We drove out of town to see the site of Old Valdez.  There is very little to see, just some gravel streets overgrown with weeds and a monument to the people who died in the earthquake.  We then turned out Day      Road and drove along the Port of Valdez to Allison Point.  The road continues on to the pipeline terminal, however it is off limits further on.  We parked and walked to an area where we could see the terminal.  It is a very large facility and totally self-contained, even generating their own electricity. 

            The tank farm at the terminus of the pipeline will hold 9 billion gallons of oil, which sounds like a lot, but is only enough oil to keep the U.S. going for 8 hours. 

            On the way back from Allison Point we stopped at the Solomon Creek salmon hatchery for a short self guided tour.  The salmon were really thick there, piled on top of each other, trying to get up the creek.  As we watched the salmon, we discovered that there were 3 harbor seals cruising around in the area.  We enjoyed watching them for a bit before heading back to the RV Park.

August 19 – We woke to sunshine this morning.  We decided to drive out through Keystone Canyon and take a look at some waterfalls that we had passed on our way in to town last week. 

            Our first stop was Horsetail Falls. These beautiful falls come right down to the roadside parking area.  From the parking area you can see another smaller, higher falls on the opposite side of the roadway, falling into the Lowe River.  About a hundred feet farther up the highway is Bridal Veil Falls, which also fall into the River.  The falls were running very heavy that day due to all the rainfall and we enjoyed watching them.

We also had a beautiful view of the mountains on the way back to town.

            On the way back to town we turned onto Airport Road and drove to the Valdez Airport where the Whitney Museum is housed.  This museum of native artifacts is composed of the collection of Maxine and Jesse Whitney, Alaskan residents who developed the collection over the years and has donated it for everyone to enjoy.  The room containing ivory carvings was particularly interesting and the tiny figures were beautiful. 

August 20 – We got up early to go on a cruise of Prince William Sound.  It was raining, so it isn’t going to be the kind of day we hoped for, but we are still excited to be going. The bus from Stan Stephens Cruises picked us up, along with 24 other folks from our park and dropped us off at the harbor.

            We boarded our boat at 8:30 and were soon underway.  As we left the small boat harbor into the Port of Valdez, we passed the pipeline terminal.  With the view from the water we were able to see how really large this facility is.  We also saw our first wildlife, a group of sea otters floating together (this is called a raft).

            There were a lot of smaller boats along the shoreline and our captain kept closer to the center of the channel to keep from disturbing them with his wake.  They were fishing for silver salmon, which were just beginning their run into the Port of Valdez.

The area of the Valdez Arm, which is around the town and the terminal, is called the Port of Valdez.  After you pass through “the narrows”, it is called Valdez Arm. 

            We stopped at a channel marker where a large sea lion was hauled out.  He woke up and watched us as we watched him, then went back to sleep.  We were also seeing Bald Eagles in the trees along the water.  These magnificent birds are easy to spot, the white head and tail stands out among the dark green trees.

            As we turned into Columbia Bay we began to see ice in the water.  We were going up to the end of the bay to view Columbia Glacier.  Our captain threaded his way among the ice floes, which were getting more numerous and larger the farther up the bay we went.  Then we were up close to this glacier.  Columbia is a receding glacier and the ice that calves from it is quite impressive.  As the ice was quite thick, we did not go up to the face, but we did get a good view of the glacier.  Our lunch was served while we were in Columbia Bay.

            As we proceeded out of Columbia Bay we saw a new commercial venture for the area.  The water here is conducive to oyster farming and there are several areas where this is being conducted.  We also ducked into one of the small bays to observe salmon returning to a hatchery to spawn.  These were silver salmon and they are known for their high jumps out of the water.  It was amazing to see this great fish flying up out of the water.  Also, you could see dark streaks in the green water, which when our boat pulled up next to one, you could see that it was hundreds of salmon swimming together. 

            Our captain then steered into Unakwik Inlet and we again began seeing ice.  After about 30 minutes of threading through ice, we were at the face of Mears Glacier, which is an advancing glacier, meaning it is increasing in size.  Our boat was turned sideways about ½ mile from the face and the engines and generator turned off.  We floated as we all stood on the deck and listened to the glacier.  The noise made by these ice fields is quite loud.  Due to air trapped in the ice under pressure, these glaciers make a cracking and popping sound.  We also heard the loud sound of ice calving.  We were not fortunate enough to see any large bergs come off, only smaller pieces.  There was also several times when you could hear it make sounds much like thunder.  It was an experience we all enjoyed.  We also were able to see many harbor seals hauled out on the ice floes.  We even saw 3 sea otters out on a floe.

            After leaving Mears Glacier, we headed back out into the sound.  The weather had cleared a little and the sea was quieter, so our captain decided it would be comfortable to head out into more open water.  We pulled into an area that is a resting place for sea lions and spent some time watching the large group hauled out there.  We also saw puffins and kittiwakes roosting in the sea caves.

            We also passed by Bligh Reef, the sight of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.  The oil actually did not affect Valdez in a negative way, as it was away from the bay and the oil spread the opposite direction.  It did affect the city in a positive way.  The city was a center for clean up operations.  It is said that at one point, the Valdez airport had more planes landing and taking off than O’Hare airport in Chicago.  Everyone who owned a boat was hired and everyone else worked at clean up.  There are still some areas where oil still exists and the recovery process is still taking place. 

            When we returned back to port it was 6:00 and we were cold and tired.  We boarded the bus and were driven back to the RV Park.  We had a light dinner, warmed up, and then drove a few blocks into town.  We had tickets for a performance of “Boom Town the Show”.  Local residents put on this show in a large tent.  It is a fun production with audience participation.  We were each given a kazoo when we entered and we got to be the mosquitoes.  We also had rocks (made of foam) on our tables that we got to throw at the cast during one part.  It was a great show and we really enjoyed it. 

            We were quite tired when we got into bed.  It had been a long day.

August 21 – Moving day, so of course it is raining.  We got packed up and headed back up Keystone Canyon.  We crossed Thompson Pass and on to Glennallen, where we turned onto the Glenn Highway towards Anchorage.  We began seeing trees with turning leaves and some of the high mountain peaks had new snow on them.  Winter is on its way. 

            We had to again go through the 10-mile stretch of construction that we had gone through a week ago.  It was very muddy and slick.  Dick stayed back from the vehicles ahead of us in case anyone made a quick stop, he didn’t want to risk sliding.  The trailer was really filthy when we got through that section of road.

            We arrived in Palmer about 4:00 and got registered at Fox Run.  We had stayed here earlier in July.  Dick and Phyllis will be meeting us here on Tuesday and we will be attending the state fair, which opened today. 

            After getting set up, we drove to the Noisy Goose Café and had a good home cooked dinner.

August 22 – The weather is still cloudy and cool.  We spent the morning cleaning house and getting things in order.  In the afternoon we drove to Wasilla for a trip to Wal-Mart.  After our shopping trip we drove back to Fox Run and dropped off our bags, changed into our hiking boots and headed south to Eagle River. 

            We had dinner in Eagle River, and then drove out River Road to the Eagle River Nature Center.  Millie had seen a note in last week’s paper about a Beaver Watch Hike this evening and we decided to take advantage of it. 

            At the center, Carol, our leader, gave us a brief talk on beavers, and then we hiked down the trail to the beaver pond and the viewing platforms.  The beaver lodge here was quite large.  Carol told us it had been occupied for a number of years by the same family of beavers.  The dam was quite a marvel.  It is about ¼ of a mile long.  We waited at the viewing platform for the beavers to wake up and make their appearance. 

            While we waited for the beavers, we observed 3 kingfishers and several ducks feeding in the pond.  The pond is also a spawning area for sockeye salmon and there were a large number of them to watch.  The sockeye is the salmon that turns the beautiful red color with a green head. 

            After watching for about an hour, we were finally treated a beaver.  One of the youngsters emerged from the den and swam to the bank.  Soon he returned with something to eat and went back into the den.  In all, we were able to see 3 of the younger ones, but when we left the adults still hadn’t emerged.  It was a treat to see these animals; only the second time we had ever seen beavers.

August 23 – The sun was out this morning so we decided today was good for a drive over Hatcher Pass.  We left the RV Park and drove through Palmer, then turned onto the road leading to Hatcher Pass.  

            The road to Independence Mine State Park is paved and the drive skirts the River.  This is a glacial stream but it is not the dark milky color we have seen in other streams.  The streambed is strewn with very large boulders and the water moves very fast. 

            We arrived at Independence Mine and parked.  Our first stop was the visitor’s center where we saw displays on the history of the mine.  Independence is a gold mine that operated in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s.  Many of the buildings have deteriorated beyond repair, but some are still standing and are being restored by the state.  As this is quite a remote area, the mine was self sufficient, even generating their own electrical power by generators.  The park does the same, and about the time we arrived the generator quit working, so there was not power and we were unable to see the film about the mine.  We did walk the pathway through the area and visit the buildings

            Leaving the parking lot, we began climbing up to the pass on the road, which was now graveled.  We were surprised to see a lot of people on the mountainsides.  They were berry picking.  We arrived at the top of the pass and were unable to find a place to park and get any photos of the view.  There were too many people up there.  We saw a couple of hang gliders catching the air currents.  This is one of the favorite places for them in this area. 

            The road became narrower and quite muddy and full of potholes as we descended the other side of the pass.  There were vehicles pulled over anywhere there was a spot wide enough and people were berry picking.  The native blueberry here grows quite high up and above the tree line.  There are a surprisingly large variety of berry types that grow here in Alaska.

            After a very long trip over very bad road (we were calling it the “pick a pothole road”), we came to the intersection with the Parks Highway at Willow and turned south towards Wasilla and the Glenn Highway.

            We stopped and picked up some milk and bread, then back home for the evening.

August 24 – It is gray and overcast again today.  We drove to Palmer and had breakfast, then headed south towards Anchorage

            Our first stop was the Alaska Wild Berry Co.  This gift shop features Alaska souvenirs, plus candies and jellies made on the premises with Alaskan berries.  One feature is a large chocolate fall.  This chocolate fall is made of copper and the chocolate is heated and circulated through the fall.  It holds 3400 pounds of melted chocolate.

            After browsing the gift shop and making our purchases, we walked through their garden path and visited the resident reindeer, George, Precious and Jingle Bell. 

            We then went to Best Buy to pick up a small flat screen TV that we wanted for the bedroom.  Afterwards we had an early dinner at Chili’s and headed back to Palmer.

August 25 – The weather isn’t great today so we just hung around the RV this morning.  Before noon Dick and Phyllis arrived and got set up in the site next to us.  After they got set up they came over and we visited for a while.  After they left we drove into Palmer to the post office and picked up a few things at the grocery store. 

            Millie fixed a dinner of spaghetti, salad and garlic cheese bread.  Dick and Phyllis joined us for dinner and we spent the evening visiting and catching up, comparing things we had seen and places we had been.  Phyllis brought a sopopilla cheesecake for desert, which we all enjoyed. 

August 26 – This morning we did laundry.  It was rainy and cool.  After lunch Dick went to Anchorage to return the TV we had purchased.  It wasn’t working properly.  Dick and Phyllis Davis and Millie went to Palmer to the Alaska State Fair.

            We first toured the agricultural center that contained the animals and the crop exhibits.  We saw some really unusual rabbits and a lot of the giant vegetables that this area is noted for.  While we were looking at the vegetables, Dick Paxton caught up with us and the four of us headed outside. 

            Outside the Ag Center an antique car was on display.  The unusual thing about the car is that it was driven to Alaska from Chile by a young couple.  The car is a Graham-Paige.  This couple left Chile 3 ½ years ago and arrived in Anchorage this summer.  Along the way they conceived and became parents of a son, who is now two. 

            We next walked through the grounds, enjoying the many booths.  Of particular interest was the carousel display with the animals made of plants.  It was really beautiful.  We stopped in the booth of the producers of Birch Syrup and sampled the product.  Dick Davis and Millie decided they liked it and each purchased a bottle.  Birch syrup is produced by tapping the birch trees for sap, much like maple trees are tapped.  It requires 100 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of syrup.  This product is unique to this area.

            We decided we were ready to eat and everyone headed to the food booths to get something.  After eating we visited some of the exhibit buildings.  Millie and Phyllis walked through the flower exhibits, looking at the beautiful and very large dahlias on display.  Some of the blooms were larger than dinner plates.  There were also displays of houseplants and other garden flowers. 

            Dick Davis and Dick Paxton joined the ladies as we toured the exhibits of quilts and fiber arts.  The quilts were marvelous and there was a very large exhibit of them.  The goal for this year had been to have 300 quilts entered and they exceeded that by about 50.  Alaska has many fine quilters!

            We headed to the Borealis Theater where the entertainment for the evening with Mark Wills was to take place.  We stopped on the way to get Millie an elephant ear and Phyllis some kettle corn.  We had purchased our concert tickets when we got to the fair grounds earlier and were not prepared for the venue.  We had assumed that it would be in the covered pavilion.  Not so!        It was outside and our “seats” were the damp ground.  It was very cool and windy also.  Mark Wills gave a great concert; he had a great time interacting with the audience.  He also had not come prepared for the weather, telling us he had gone shopping in Anchorage to get a jacket and some jeans. 

            We were quite chilled when we got home and glad to be in the warm RV.

August 27 – It was still windy and cool this morning.  The sky was grey and cloudy, looking much like winter.  After breakfast Millie and Phyllis drove into Wasilla and visited the local Quilt Shop.  The ladies there were very nice and we enjoyed talking to them.

            We then went to the local JoAnn’s store and browsed for a while.  On the way back to Fox Run we stopped at a gift shop and looked at the beautiful handmade baskets.  We spent the afternoon puttering around at home, and then went over to the Davis’s motor home for a dinner prepared by Phyllis.  We had a great dinner of BBQ sandwiches, baked beans, tortilla chips and pink lemonade.  Afterwards we finished off the remainder of the sopopilla cheesecake.  After an evening of great company and conversation we came back home and headed to bed.

August 28 – It is still grey and cloudy, with a pretty brisk wind, but it isn’t raining.  After breakfast of waffles and Birch syrup, Millie did a little house cleaning.  We then drove into Palmer and checked at the Post Office for our mail.  One box arrived, but according to the box, we should have another package.  Hopefully it will show up tomorrow. 

            We did our grocery shopping and got that over with.  We wanted to stock up before leaving here, as some things are harder to find in Canada. 

            About 2:00 the Davis’s and Paxtons hopped in the truck and headed for Anchorage.  Dick and Phyllis had not seen a bore tide and wanted to see one.  Today was listed on the chart as a good day, so off we went.  We drove through Anchorage and along the Turnagain Arm to Beluga Point. 

            Shortly after 4:00 we could see the wave of the tide advancing up the arm.  This bore was a little more dramatic than the one Dick and Millie had seen earlier this month.  We also saw another phenomena, a whirlpool formed not far from the shore.  There seemed to be a strong current flowing outward along the shoreline and when the bore flowing inward reached that area, it began to swirl and the whirlpool formed.  It was really awesome to see. 

            We had dinner at Chili’s and then drove back to Fox Run.  After we got back to the park Millie took her laptop over to the Davis’s motor home to let Dick look at the information she found on the interned regarding bore tides.  None of us were very informed about them and wanted to learn more about them.  Our wireless Internet setup worked great and Phyllis was also able to take a look at our website, which she had not seen since May.  They have to us dial up connections and so do not have much time to surf the web.

            As Millie was heading back next door we viewed a beautiful sunset.  Maybe tomorrow we will have better weather. 

August 29 – It’s cold and cloudy today.  Not much promise for sunshine.  After breakfast we did some housekeeping chores, then drove to Palmer to the post office.  We did have another package.  We came back to Fox Run and went through the mail.  Our absentee ballots were in the packet; we got them filled out and ready to mail back. 

            After a quick snack, we got our things together to head over to the fair.  Dick and Phyllis went with us.  We will be more prepared for the concert tonight; we are taking chairs and blankets.

            We got our concert tickets at the ticket booth and headed into the fair.  Our first stop was the exhibit hall that contained needlework, canned goods and baked goods.  There were a lot of entries in the jams & jellies and baked goods categories.  After viewing the exhibits in the first hall, we headed back to the hall containing the quilts.  We wanted to get some photos of our favorites. 

            We attended the Lumberjack Show at 3:30.  It was a great show that showcased many of the techniques used by traditional lumberjacks.  There was a lot of humor in the show also and we had a good time.

            After the show it was time for some fair food.  We all found different things we wanted to eat then met back at the picnic area to eat.  This fair had something for everyone as far as food was concerned. 

            After dinner we walked around looking at the various booths, etc until time for the concert.  We headed to the Borealis stage and found a place to set up our chairs.  The entertainer for the evening was Aaron Tippin and we really enjoyed the show, even though it was cold and windy.  It was a sold out crowd and everyone seemed to have a good time. 

            After the show we headed over to the Ag Center to see the highlight of the Agricultural exhibits, the giant cabbages.  The official weigh off had occurred while we were in the concert, but we wanted to see these huge vegetables.  Before we went over to the concert we had seen folks unloading the cabbages from their vehicles to check in.  They had to be transported in wheelbarrows!   The top cabbages were still in the weigh in area when we got to the Ag Center.  The first prize winner weighed in at 77.6 pounds.  Now that is a lot of coleslaw!  This event is the highlight of the fair every year.  Alaskans hold a number of world’s records for giant vegetables. 

August 30 – Moving day.  We got packed up and said goodbye to Dick and Phyllis.  They are staying on in Palmer until next Tuesday.  As we drove towards Glennallen the sun came out and made for a pleasant drive.  The leaves are turning and the gold on the mountainsides is spectacular.  Some of the trees almost look as though they have a light in them they are so brilliant.

            As it was the weekend, construction was at a halt but we still had the 9-mile section that we had to follow a pilot car through.  We waited at the staging area for about 15 minutes, then the line from the other direction came past and it was our turn.  Much better driving when it is dry!

            Not far from Glennallen it began raining again.  We stopped and filled up with diesel then turned north on the Richardson highway.  Not far north, we turned onto the Tok Cutoff.  It was still raining but the scenery was still nice.  It is disappointing not to be able to see the Wrangell Mountains.  There are 4 very high peaks that are visible from this highway when the weather is good. 

            We had several gravel areas to drive through on this highway.  Some of the repair resulting from the strong earthquake that took place here last fall. 

            We had decided to stop at Tok RV Village as it is within walking distance of Fast Eddie’s and we wouldn’t have to unhitch.  We could just walk over to the restaurant for dinner.

            Dick went in to register us while Millie and the cats stayed in the truck.  There were several units in line ahead of us and after they pulled out, Millie got behind the wheel to pull forward to the office.  When she put the truck in gear it wouldn’t move.  She tried all 3 forward gears, nothing!  Oh no, looks like the transmission is acting up again.

            Dick tried and couldn’t get the truck to move.  We called Willard’s, which is just across the highway and he came over and towed us to our site.  Looks like we will be stuck here until Tuesday at least.  Tok is where we lost the transmission the last time.  This is not good, two transmissions in just a little over 7 weeks, both in Tok.

August 31 – Raining again today and nothing much to do.  We watched some TV and DVDs.  Tok is just a small crossroads and nothing much to do so we just hung out and watched the rain.

            Dick discovered that he had left part of his sewer connection behind in Palmer, so we called Dick and Phyllis to see if they had noticed it.  They had it and said they would stop by here on their way to Whitehorse and drop it off.