Tracys Birthday Celebration in Valdez

 

Before I start, I have to give credit to Ben Brilhart for the pic of the puffin I’m using as my featured pic (above).  I had a hard time deciding since there were so many great photos this week!  Read on and I share all the best ones!

So, we left off last week, literally, on our ride to Glennallen. We had stopped for the night at the Eagle River Fred Meyer, a grocery store.


We woke in the morning to mostly clear skies and SUN!  We had not seen sun in what felt like forever!  I was so excited!

The drive to Glennallen was very nice – gorgeous scenery and SUN!  And blue skies!  There were still some clouds, but the nice white puffy kind, not the dark, rain threatening kind.

pretty
I took a pic of my shadow – its been so long since I’ve seen it!


We arrived at Northern Nights CG about 12:45pm; Jo & Ben had beat us there by about 1/2 hour!  Hugs all around was such a nice welcome!  I didn’t realize it, but Tracy & Lee had the day off!

We did have a weird thing happen in the rig on the way to Glennallen that I’m going to share to maybe help it from happening to someone else.  When we arrived, Bill hooked up the water and realized he heard water running somewhere, which he shouldn’t have.  He entered the rig and realized our shower was on – weird!  We keep our hampers in the shower (just remove them into the bedroom when we shower) so all the clothes in there got soaked!  UGH!  He quickly realized the culprit was a soap container came down out of the shower caddy and must have knocked into the water handle on its way down, turning on the water!  So – I had an unexpected load of laundry to do!  Lesson learned – take everything out of the shower caddy when towing!

After a short “what is this week going to look like food wise?” chat, us girls headed to the liquor store and the local IGA.  It was so nice to have some girl time!  Tracy got carded at the liquor store and we learned why – I mean Tracy doesn’t look old but she is clearly over 21!  Seems that some people in AK have their driver licenses marked in some way that they aren’t allowed to buy alcohol!  None of us had heard of that before!  Alcohol and drug problems are huge up here and it’s one way the state of AK has chosen to deal with it.  Wonder if it actually helps?

We enjoyed the rest of the day and into the evening – we were able to eat dinner outside!  We had yummy chicken (thanks Lee!), steamed broccoli, and roasted potatoes (thanks Tracy!).  We actually had dessert first – red velvet cookies – courtesty of Bridget (Tracy had the dough in the freezer from when she and Lee visited her a while back) (you also may remember Bridget from one of my February posts – Bill and I had dinner with her one night while we were in New Orleans!) and I quickly whipped up some cream cheese frosting!  They were YUMMY!  Thanks Bridget!  We just love how our whole RV Dreams family stays connected!

Peyton puppy kisses
frosting the cookies
hanging out
good one of Ben
dinner time!
sunset – we haven’t seen a sunset in a LONG time!

After dinner we had a FIRE!  First time in a LONG (too long) time! We sat out with our wine til it was almost dark (keeping in mind it still doesn’t get fully dark until the middle of the night)!  What a perfect ending to a most awesome day!

The plan for Sunday was to have a relaxing start, coffee and cinnamon buns (thanks Jo & Ben!) and let Tracy & Lee pack up (something they haven’t done in months!) – we were going to Valdez!  New territory!  Some place new!

Tracy & Lee were just about ready; Bill decided he wanted to fill up on fuel.  We drove up to “the hub” on the corner – what a crazy busy place!  The plan had been Tracy & Lee and Jo & Ben  would come up the road and we would pull in behind them and we’d be on our way.  Tracy had a bunch of stops planned along the route of things to see.  Didn’t quite end up that way.  We had synced our walkie talkies so we could communicate on the ride and as we pulled away from the pumps, we got a call that Tracy & Lee’s brakes and lights weren’t working – ut oh!  We headed back, hoping for an easy fix – but there wouldn’t be one.  Took the 3 guys a good chunk of the afternoon but we (Tracy, Jo & I – sitting at a picnic table out of the way!) finally saw the blinkers and brake lights!  The pull-check confirmed the brakes were also working!  Just like that – it was time to go!  We did have to pull over for a quick tweak a bit later on, but all was good!  YAY!

The ride down to to Valdez was beautiful, In spite of the clouds.  There were areas that were more bumpy than others, but overall the road was ok.  We made a few stops to see things, again, in spite of the rain/clouds.

having some Mexican from the local food truck – YUMMY!
we’ve been on better, but also worse, roads – see where the frost heave was fixed?
amazing views everywhere
don’t see this every day!
three men and a glacier
waterfalls everywhere!
Us!
all lined up
info about the tunnel
I didn’t want to go into the tunnel
3 ladies and a waterfall

img_6074

We arrived at Valdez Glacier CG, a military CG that allows the public also.  The sites are large and have lots of screening.  They are so large that Jo & Ben decided to share our site!  We set-up right across from Tracy & Lee.  It was dinner time by the time we were all settled in, and we enjoyed a delish meal of pulled pork that Tracy had made ahead of time.

The following day, after yummy biscuits and gravy, bacon and pancakes, out we went to see some sights!  Bill & I and Jo & Ben decided to also stop at the local museum to learn some Valdez history.

salmon are spawning
closer view
Valdez
the birds would fly under the bridge, land then ride the water to the edge then fly back and start again – they are eating fish eggs
it is amazing how determined the salmon were to get up there!
salmon spawning
this guy didn’t make it – got stuck when the tide – this is a Coho or Silver salmon
barge and tug in Valdez harbor
inside view of the pipe scrubber – commonly called a scraper pig
side view
inside the museum – example of a typical cabin
this is a cute little bunny
this bar was brought in and is in the museum in Valdez
more museum stuff
says it all – as a side note – this is the owner of the cruise to Columbia Glacier we went on


Later on, after dinner (hamburgers, hot dogs, brats and salad), we headed back to see if we might see some bears feasting on salmon.  Someone had told Tracy the best time was mid-tide, but I think when we were there the tide was out.  No bears, but we did walk over to the fish hatchery to see that.

I just love waterfalls – and they are everywhere

we had been hoping to see bears fishing – but no
this is part of the salmon ladder
info on how the hatchery works


Tuesday was Tracys BIG 50! She had picked going on a glacier cruise for her birthday – so we took advantage of an offer in the TourSaver book – a 7 hour cruise with Stan Stephens.  We arrived on time for the required 10am check-in, and then hung out til they started boarding at 10:30.  Exactly at 11am, we were underway.  The sun was peaking out a little bit, and clouds were higher than the previous day, so we were all hopeful none of the predicted rain would fall!

Valdez harbor
the birthday girl
be sure to read ALL the rules! ha!
Prince William Sound
unbeatable scenery
we only got little peaks of blue sky

 

glacier and waterfalls all over the place!

The crew served us our lunch of hot clam chowder (Ben opted for the veggie Minestrone), bagel with cream cheese and Oreos for dessert.  The bagels were more like round bread, but the chowder was good and hot, a nice choice considering the chill in the air!

3 BFF’s
the views don’t quit
just a little bit more blue
love this one how there are white puffy clouds below the dark stormy ones

The mountains were all around us as the captain (who looked about 12 years old!) steered toward the Columbia Glacier.  We started seeing ice chunks in the water, some were fairly small, some were real iceberg size!  Captain Ben told us about the glacier as he dodged the larger pieces, and pushed through the smaller ones.

blue ice chunks everywhere – there are different categories – growlers, bergy bits, small, medium, large and very large icebergs
OTTERS! so cute!
they are so adorable
this pic is courtesy of Ben Brilhart - Columbia Glacier - almost makes me want to spend $2000 on a lens
this pic is courtesy of Ben Brilhart – Columbia Glacier – almost makes me want to spend $2000 on a lens
there were lots of ice floating in the water – the captain navigated around the larger pieces and just knocked the smaller pieces out of the way
the dirty ice is ice that has cut away at the ground as it went down the mountain

We spent some time at the face of the glacier, snapping pics, in awe of it.  This glacier is not as high out of the water as the other one we saw, but much wider.  The crew told us at the highest point, it is only about 200 feet above the water, but about 600 feet below.

me, Bill, Ben, Tracy, Jo and Lee
the face of Columbia Glacier
was a bit chilly by the glacier – the temps drop about 20 degrees when we got that close to it

 

glacier ice the crew fished out of the water – notice how clear it is
the blue ice is so cool!


Next stop was Bullhead Point, where Stellar Sea Lions were lazing around and Puffins were buzzing about.

this shows how icebergs have so little above water while there is so much below the water line
goodbye Columbia Glacier!
Stellar Sea Lions just lazing about – we learned that these do not bark like California Sea Lions
juvenile bald eagle - pic courtesy of Ben Brilhart
juvenile bald eagle – pic courtesy of Ben Brilhart
mature bald eagle - pic courtesy of Ben Brilhart
mature bald eagle – pic courtesy of Ben Brilhart
these guys must have been up on this buoy for a while, they were dry
more gorgeous views
yes – that is Bill out on the bow!

We were disappointed not to see any whales, especially after a lady who had gone the day before told us they saw many orcas.  Wild life that is truly wild is kind of like the weather, we get no control, they go where they go and sometimes they are where we can view them, sometimes (like our day out in Prince William Sound), they aren’t.

For dinner that night, we enjoyed chicken fajitas, with the cheesecake Tracy had chosen for her birthday cake.  We were all stuffed!  Happy Birthday Tracy!

It was time to pull up jacks, dump our tanks and head out in the morning – we had another glacier to get a close up view of!  We lined up for the drive with Jo & Ben in the lead.  The clouds were higher and sun was more visible, so we were hoping for some better views on our drive out.

Jo & Ben’s leading the way – gorgeous scenery!


The Worthington Glacier is not as large as Columbia, but we got to walk right up to it!  Even Jo, who is still nursing a broken ankle!


Before heading out, we decided to have our lunch, while still able to see the glacier.  Can’t beat that view!

We got all set-up back at Northern Nights by about 3pm.  Plenty of time to chill before making Tracys “official” birthday meal of king crab and steak!  She borrowed a pot from her boss so we could more easily steam them, and we had 2 grills going with steak and chicken.  I made enough salad for everyone.  Needless to say – it was all delish!  Thanks for treating us to the crab Tracy & Lee!

Lee started a fire and we sat and chatted til about 10.  It has been a long few days, but every minute was wonderful – spent with great friends – celebrating a special time!

Today Bill and I have a long drive back to Seward.  I’ve been asked a few times now if we are still enjoying our time there or are we ready to move on.  It is difficult to answer frankly.  We generally don’t stay put this long, since we have been full-time RVers, so part of me has a bit of hitch itch, as we call it.  The other part of me is thinking “how can we ever be ready to leave this amazing place?”  Where do we go after this?  Spending this summer in AK is the fulfillment of a life-long bucket list dream – and its come true!  How does one get ready to end that?  I know as the weeks continue – I will “get ready” because I have family to see – and that will motivate me to “get ready”.  I can totally understand how people come here and never leave (bear in mind I haven’t seen a winter), as AK is a magical amazing place!  Would I return?  You betcha!  Might take awhile, as there are so many other places we haven’t discovered yet back in the lower 48, but it will be hard to not come back to this final frontier.

Mt Drum – from the driveway of Northern Nights CG in Glennallen
on our way back to our AK home
beautiful blue skies!
Sheep Mountain Lodge – our second visit to this great breakfast/lunch/dinner stop
Bill making friends with the grizzly
that grizzly was BIG!
Peyton was very curious about the moose
selfie with the moose!
Mantanuska Glaicer
four friends

21 thoughts on “Tracys Birthday Celebration in Valdez

  1. This I think is one of your best posts EVER! BTW, I’m not convinced that that was your real shadow, way too big! Ha!

  2. When we saw Worthington glacier in 2008 il was near the concrete viewing platform. Looks like you had a little hike to get to it.

    Great post!

    1. Friends we were with saw it in 2000 and said the same thing – they couldn’t believe how far back it was! Makes me extra glad we came to see them before it takes miles of hiking to see them at all!

  3. We definitely want to go back to Alaska and spend some time, Kelly. The entire bunch of you did it up right!

    All that summer daylight has the opposite flip side in the winter, and probably accounts for the need for those drivers licenses. 🙂

    1. We have long days here for sure, but in Seward – we’ve had a lot of cloudy days! You are so right – lack of sun can cause serious problems!

  4. I feel the same way about the Tetons; I am always sad the end of September that I am leaving, but happy because we will be back! I had originally planned to be somewhere different every summer, but this place has gotten into our souls, and we love coming here. I still get several weeks of traveling back and forth between jobs, and we also take off the winter, so I’m not complaining, mind you :-). Mountains in the summer, beaches in the winter, lots of sight-seeing in between…..life is great!

    1. As much as we have loved AK – I’m not ready to come back year after year – too many other places to see – but I can understand how it happens – we feel that was about the Jersey Shore – it’s “home”! Guess I’ll have to plan a summer in the Tetons to see what you guys love about it! And – you are so right! Life is great!

  5. Wow, I’m jealous of such a great trip 🙂 I had to laugh at some of the pictures with Bill in shorts and tee, and your friend Bill bundled up in a hoodie and jeans 🙂

    1. Thanks! Bill insists he isn’t cold – and mostly he doesn’t get cold – he wore shorts/t-shirts the whole time at Amazon! He’s too funny!

  6. What a great few days. Sounds like such a wonderful time. My husband wore shorts the whole time we were in Alaska. Me on the other hand, pants, long sleeve, jacket and sometimes gloves and scarf. When is your last day of work before you head out of Alaska? Have a great week.

    1. Our last day is 9/30 – leave out the following day! It’s already turning cold here! Brrrr!
      Hope you have an awesome week too!

  7. Another awesome blog and gorgeous photos !! I’ve saved every single blog from you and Bill. I have six more weeks to be over this chemo and all it’s side effects, including blurred vision…then I plan to read every blog again. Morris says hello and wishes you continued safe traveling. Cyber Hugs until we meet again in person.

    Sent from my iPhone Eliz-Anne Yates-Hendley ayh1974@live. com

    1. Thanks Elizabeth Anne! Sorry to hear you are having side-effects, but sounds like you are almost done! Then heading to SC, right?
      Hugs to you and Morris and Omega!

  8. Wow, what an action packed adventure! We did most of those things when we were in that area. It would have been cool to see the fish spawning however!

    1. Seeing the fish spawn was very cool, yet also a bit sad. I know it’s the circle of life and all that, but also sad.

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