Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sat, Sept 12: On the road to somewhere on the Richardson Highway

This morning we have a winter sky...high thin clouds and a weak sun peaking through.The weather can go either way today...we are hoping for sun as we head out on this world class scenic drive. This part of the Glenn Highway is a National Scenic Byway.As usual we are off to our late start. Dick was tired last night and did not download the pictures so Carolyn could not finish posting to the blog. She is rebelling and wants to get caught up since we have good Internet here. She knows, as we head into Canada, Internet will become scarce again. The Canadians don’t feel the importance to be connected that the Americans do!

We are finally off by 11AM and at 5:30PM we stop at Tonsina River Lodge at mile marker 79 on the Richardson Highway, 176 miles from where we started! Even in the winter sunlight it is a beautiful drive.
About 10 miles down the road we stop in Sutton to see the cemetery with the Spirit Houses, a combination of the Native American and Christain take on graves.The Chugach Mountains are to our southand are covered in a glorious blanket of Fall colorinterspersed with two glaciers, Matanuska and Nelchina, that you can see from the road.
We stop half a dozen timesfor pictures at the various viewpointsand, at one, see the last of the wildlife Carolyn really wants to see. We had pulled over for pictures of the braided river and sitting on a log in the middle of the river is a Bald Eagle,just watching the world go by. Several other people see him and stop too. Neat!

The Matanuska Glacier
is only four miles off the highway and there are great views of it.The Park Service has built a nice interpretive center at the best viewpoint.
The Nelchina Glacier is much more massive looking and we can really see the ice field way back up the glacier valley, but it is also farther away and there is no pull-out to stop for bad it is a neat sight spilling down out of the surrounding mountainous bowl.

At Glennallen we turn south onto the Richardson Highway. At this point, Valdez is 110 miles south. At mile marker 107 we turn off for the Wrangell-St Elias National Park Visitors Center. We want to drive into the park, one of the two roads in, the Edgerton Highway, to Chitina about 33 miles back. Hopefully we can explore a little tomorrow, but need information on road conditions. It is beginning to rain now so we will just play things by ear. While there, we watch a nice movie playing up the vastness of the park. It is larger than Switzerland with 13 million acres in the US plus the adjoining Glacier Bay, Kluane National Park and Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park in Canada which together make up a total of 24 million acres of protected land. The park has 9 of the 16 tallest peaks on the North American continent plus the steaming volcano of Mt Wrangel.

The ranger gives us the go ahead, but says most of the services are closed for the season in Chitina so we drive to Tonsina River Lodge for the night, about 5 miles south of the Edgerton turn off.

OK, as this trip has progressed, Carolyn has developed a set of standards for where we order of preference: full hook-ups; space between the sites; good, hopefully free WiFi; grass around the site with a gravel drive way; pull through site; and just a good look about the park. Well, tonight we feel like we are some where on the North Slope or maybe Coldfoot. The camp site actually has every thing Carolyn requires except the last, a good appearance! Well, this is a very remote part of Alaska and there is nothing from here to Valdez, 80 miles south, so you take what you can get and enjoy!
As we are having our cocktails and thinking about fixing spaghetti for dinner, we watch a small, single engine plane land in the grass 50 yards from the rig. The pilot gets out and walks into the roadhouse that is part of this campground setup. A few minutes later he comes back out with his take-out box, climbs into the plane and takes off! Life in rural Alaska, "ya gotta love it"!

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