I took a break from blogging and social media. We left town for a few days. It rained at least 50% of the time, but we were gone! The rain was loud on the camper, but wonderful at the same time! We drove another long, long drive to Valdez, Alaska. It is about 6.5 hours. With no radio reception. All my hubby and I did was chat. It was a slice of heaven. No interruptions. No sounds other than the ones that come with driving a long ways. Some funny things? My FitBit thought I was walking. Honestly. I kept getting notices that I had met my hourly goal of 250 steps. By the time we got to Valdez, my daily 10,000 steps were done. I cracked up. The only thing I can figure is that the roads are just so bumpy my Fitbit thinks I’m walking. So I arrived in Valdez exhausted from all those steps and the immensity of the conversation I had with my hubby.
When I pack for vacation, I make our bed. Clean sheets. Blankets. Whole thing. Well, the dogs got into the camper and immediately made themselves comfy. And the bed was messy the rest of the trip!!
Valdez is a port city. It gets lots of rain. So this weekend was no exception. We got a lot of rain. But I truly did not mind. I love it there. For some reason, I relax. The mountains are all around us. My granddaughter and I counted 21 glaciers around us. We could see countless waterfalls. The colors of fall were just making their way over the mountains. It was a beautiful site to camp and explore.
This trip ended up being more about fishing with grandpa than sightseeing. And even though they were fishing in the rain, it was still a lot of fun. Ever heard of the term, “combat fishing”??? I had but I had never seen it. This trip, we lived it. It was pretty incredible. There was a late-season, heavy, silver run of salmon. And everyone that loved to fish was there. LOL. I kid you not…fishing was side-by-side and if you left your “spot” another fisherman would quickly take it. Even if that someone was a kid. People were catching their limits in 4-5 hours. And the fish were big.
I’m not sure if you can fully grasp how many people there are, but look at the photo above. Please note there are RVs and trucks, cars and campers parked all along the roadway until after the curve. There are people all on the rocks as far as there are cars. It was crazy. Raining off and on, and sort of chilly. But the fish were running, so the fishermen were there!
I learned about all the different sorts of salmon. I still couldn’t tell them apart. I suppose if I studied them, I could. But fishing is not my thing, so I just didn’t put forth the collegiate effort to learn! LOL! My granddaughter learned about fish, and zombie fish. The “fish” are swimming as if their lives depended on it (because it does) to reach their spawning grounds. It’s what salmon do. They are born in these rivers, migrate to the ocean, and after 2-3 years (depending on which type of salmon they are) then they return in early fall to spawn and die. Once they spawn, their life cycle is complete. The zombie fish are the ones who have been swimming for a long time but have not been able to reach their spawning ground. They keep swimming even after they have begun to actually decay. It is sad, really, to see all the dead fish that are floating around. There are literally 1000s that die before making it back. The wildlife take care of most of it, and nature takes care of the rest.
My granddaughter was appalled to watch fishermen reel in a zombie and throw it onto the rocks and it slowly flop around until they died. These fish have no chance of survival and they are not good to eat (decay has already begun). So most fishermen just let them die on the rocks, rather than throw them back to the sea. My granddaughter told her grandpa that “No fish should be just left to die out of the water. That is mean. We need to put them back in.” So whenever grandpa, or her dad, brother, or even she herself caught a zombie, she made sure they were “set free” back to the ocean. We all rolled our eyes but also smiled at how sweet that was. We all knew these zombies were doomed, but we loved her heart.
She delighted in everyone’s first catch. When she got hers, she was so excited. Then realized it was a zombie. But dad and grandpa had to crawl over the rocks to be sure that zombie got to swim away. What a precious memory!!!
My daughter-in-law and I supervised from the shoreline. We didn’t last as long as the men! We took off to look at the fish weir and watch the sea lions and harbor seals catching their own fish…
This trip we counted more than 27 sea lions at one time, catching fish. Oh my goodness are they loud. Not as loud as all the gulls, mind you, but between the sound of the fish weir (waterfall), the gulls, and the barking sea lions, it is not a quiet spot! And it is never dull. So much wildlife to see. And they could care less that they have an audience!
This is just one of the hundreds of waterfalls in and around Valdez. We drove – well, bounced – up this crazy road – trail – rock pile – to find this waterfall so the family could pan for gold. The story of me driving over a rickety old wooden bridge is a story in and of itself. And my eldest son was a total brat and teased me so badly about my fear of old, rickety, wooden bridges. Anyway, I digress. We found this amazing space through some trees to this waterfall. The water was brisk and bracingly cold, but nonetheless, shoes were discarded and silt was placed into pans and gold was hunted.
It was so much fun to be out in the middle of absolutely nowhere, and to run across another family biking or hiking. We would nod our heads at them like we shared a secret. We finally were doing what people think you do if you camp in Alaska! LOL! We had a great afternoon. We then chose to get all our moose chili fixings and return for high tide to try and catch more fish. Along the trek back to the trucks, I took some photos of the little things we passed by…
And we had another happy fishing session. It was interesting to watch our grandkids disengage from electronics and enjoy the company of family, learning a new sport, and spending time outdoors in this amazing place we all call home.
The afternoon passed quickly in hunt of the perfect fish. The people were congenial and helpful. Fishermen love to share lore and tricks and special ways of snagging the fish. They all helped the kids with nets at the ready, and encouraging words. It was great. And people were from all over. But we noticed a majority were from Fairbanks, with Valdez being their only ocean access. And that boggled the mind for me. We have so few roads and have to make our way around mountains and rivers – there are no direct routes anywhere.
We looked at maps and I guess it’s about the same mileage as from Anchorage. It just seemed further from Fairbanks. There is a sign along the highway where it says something like “Anchorage 312 miles/Fairbanks 320 miles” so I guess it’s a similar drive. These people come every year for the silver run, and usually around Labor Day. I’m thinking we may return next year, too!!
We then drove out to the Valdez Glacier Lake and the glacier field. It was incredibly beautiful.
We spent quite a lot of time there, gathering silt water in plastic bottles. They are fun to have because if you mix the water and the silt in the clear plastic, over time the heavy stuff goes to the bottom and you get to see all the layers of goodies contained in a glacier field. It gathers bits of the earth as it moves along the mountains. Most of the contents are quite literally thousands of years old. What a beautiful place!
We chose to stop along the way to dig in some silt and look for “Squatch trees” along the river banks, only to realize they are across on sandbars and that water is far too cold and moving too quickly to even attempt to grab a tree. And if you do not know what a “Squatch tree” is, you can read my previous posts or research it. All I can say is, “Who knew?” LOL.
After meandering through town, we drove out to the Harbor. It was just so darn pretty outside. We could walk along the harbor, among the boats, and see the fishermen bringing in their catch to process. We looked at the boats and spoke fantastical dreams about owning one of them (It will never happen) and joked about the amazing number of salmon and halibut we would catch. Then we found these amazing food trucks. The scent wafted over the seashore and had us practically drooling. We went back to our trailers and sat in the sun munching on the most delicious street tacos! They were simply the best any of us have had in – well – maybe the best ever!! So so good!
We were coming to the end of our trip to Valdez. Once more the fishermen headed out to see what they could catch. The kids have been bitten by the fishing bug. Grandpa is very happy about that. They were successful and we then made a great dinner and started to wind down our journey. We all retreated to our trailers to start the packing process. We had some of our usual evening, warm, Golden Milk and settled in for our final night of camping, ready to drive home the next day.
As we were getting ready to leave, heavy clouds rolled into the bay, and and the weather was getting rough. We had winds the night before and we knew more rain was coming, so the timing for us was good. We did not leave as early as we would have liked, but we also didn’t mind being there longer. Valdez has mesmerized us and we can all imagine many more happy days camping and fishing and exploring. This was probably our last camping trip of 2022. It seems weird to close the door on that part of our lives, for now. We have plans to map out next summer’s schedule and deciding where we want to go. We will be making camping reservations early in January for the entire summer, to ensure we get good camping sites, in all the places we have come to love, but also plan to explore areas north of us. It is exciting to even think about. But today the winds are whistling, we have heavy rains, and yellow leaves dot our lawns. Summer is pretty much over, and so is traveling the roads of Alaska with our dogs and our camper until next season. What a grand summer it has been.