“On the road again; can’t wait to be on the road again…”

On the road again….making memories..

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.

Kolbe and Maggie on our bed in the camper.

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!!

Rainy Saturday

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.

The first fish of the trip…

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.

Valdez Labor Day 2022

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.

First Catch – Zombie fish…

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!!!

Me and Kathleen

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…

Sea Lions Labor Day. Valdez 2022

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!

Valdez Waterfall

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.

Is it????
Could it be????
I think there is a spec in there, Grandma!!!

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…

Spores in Valdez
Moss??
Fish 2 was caught!

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.

Our route is through Glennallen to Valdez

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.

Floating Glacier Ice
Valdez Glacier Lake

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!

Valdez Glacier Tributary

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.

Valdez Harbor

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!

Grandkids being kids…loved it.

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.

Valdez Harbor

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.

Valdez in the rearview…till next time!
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“…eternal joy to the soul.”

My heart is full.

We just returned from a glorious five-day journey down to Valdez, Alaska. My heart is so full. There were so many firsts on this trip. First of all, it was a 6.5 hour drive. We split the initial drive into two parts and spent the night halfway, in an area called Tolsono. It was simply gorgeous. It rained most of the time, but between the raindrops the mosquitos were out in full force and we were all so grateful we were staying just one night!! The showers were amazing, but the mosquitos sort of killed the joy. LOL.

Tolsono Campsite View

This campsite is almost stereotypical of what you would expect when camping in Alaska. And it is everything I had wanted to experience. What I did not take into account is that to the right of this photo is a stagnant area of water. Kinda greenish. Yeah. Mosquito hatchery in full swing. LOL. But even saying that, I would return. I would plan around mosquito season and also take lots and lots of netting and bug spray. The sound of the stream going by our camper was so cathartic. It was mesmerizing and I fell deeply asleep in no time at all. We chose to forgo breakfast and even coffee, because of the bugs. We took off towards Glenallen, which was a short hop, to gas up and get some breakfast. We ate on the road…

Bridal Veil Falls Outside Valdez, with my grandson.

Our first big stop was outside Valdez at Bridal Veil Falls. They were magnificent. My grandson and I walked around to try and get a good view of them. It was pouring rain but it just didn’t matter. The sound of the falls was overpowering and the beauty was just stunning. In person, what a magnificent stop!!

We drove through to Valdez and it was full of rain and curves and so much to see. The roads are typically Alaskan….bumps and potholes…but the views make up for it! Valdez is on the coast and is a fishing town, as well as where the Alaskan Pipeline ends. We saw so many fishing vessels, as well as lots of oil tankers. The tide is pretty stark – when it is in it is so flush with water, but when it is out, there are miles of mud. It was pretty incredible. We could see distant glaciers, and even drove past one that we took the time to drive to on a different day. Worthington Glacier. Amazing.

One of the many piers in Valdez

We happened upon a festival that we had no idea was occurring the same weekend. We traversed some booths and had some good food. It was still raining like mad, so we chose to visit the local museum. It was filled with dioramas of the big earthquake and tsunami that flattened Valdez and it was not the best thing my grandkids wanted to see, so we ventured out into the rain and chose to go to the Fish Hatchery across the bay. Oh my goodness. Literally the highlight of our trip!!

Valdez Hatchery

This is a view of the Hatchery, on the right, as we approached along the highway. The clouds settling into the mountains made this view just incredible. And yes, it was still raining!! LOL.

I was so imbued with nature. It was surreal. Being raised in Southern California, where nature is held at bay and contained behind fences and cement pools and glass enclosures, this day was monumental for me. For all of us, really. It was so cool that we all experienced this first together. And I’m going to just post a series of photos. And even though I think they are pretty good, the sights and sounds just cannot be fully conveyed in a photograph!

Sea Lions gorging themselves on salmon trying to spawn upstream. Valdez, Alaska
Brown bears gorging on spawning salmon. Valdez, Alaska
Sea Lions-Salmon-Gulls
Lone Gull taking a rest…
Herd of female sea lions barking out orders for the males hunting…
Hubby and I with sea lions behind us.

I cannot fully express how wonderful this experience was. It was so loud – the sea lions barking at each other and all the gulls squawking at each other…it was a cacophony of the sounds of nature. Right in front of us. Life and death. Right in our faces. Incredible. The brown bears were along the roadside as we left the hatchery and the salmon ladders. The salmon spawn all over the coastline in Valdez. And when the tides were in, it was a feeding frenzy for all the wildlife. It rained the entire time we were there, but it was so incredible, we simply ignored the weather.

Valdez Harbor, Alaska

I wish that everyone would have an opportunity to ignore media. To stop rushing here and there. To sleep in the middle of nature, rain and all. To take in the glory that is the creation of God. We are so blessed to live here. And this weekend, we experienced so much more than what I have shared here. I actually went into a shale-lined, water-filled dark cave that was created in a rush to create a faster access from McCarthy and the Kennicott Mine to the sea and the ships that could take the copper. It was blown into the side of the mountain. The back side of the cave was where they gave up creating a train tunnel. I do not do caves. LOL. But my kids encouraged me, held my hand, and my husband was by my side the entire time. I overcame my fear and made it out the other side!! We climbed up to a glacier. We went on a tour of the hydro-electric plant. The kids went gold-panning. We walked up to and touched the Alaskan Pipeline. We drove through hours and hours of God’s country, displaying all its glory. We saw fireweed blooming, eagles soaring, and incredible mountains. I just pray that other people can be blessed to experience this amazing place called Alaska.

The Cave

“Be still…”

Mirror Lake

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

This quote, by John Lubbock, spoke to me. We have had friends visiting from the “lower 48” this week and I know experiencing some pristine nature is never a waste of time. I have watched them visibly relax. I have seen the wonder on their faces and their joy burst forth when coming face-to-face with bears at the Wildlife Preserve, with watching the salmon jump as they climb to their spawning grounds at our Hatchery. I love sharing the blessing of where we live with people who do not get to experience it as often as we do. This lifestyle is certainly not for everyone, and I would not expect others to embrace where I live just because I do. I know it took me more than 40 years, once I first imagined this place, to actually live here. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7). It is amazing to me how close to God you can feel, immersed in nature.

PalmerAK

I jokingly asked our visitors if they needed some time with asphalt and smog, with all this “nature overload.” And we chatted about how tired they are because of processing all that they are seeing, hearing, breathing, and tasting. It takes a lot out of you to travel to an environment that is so foreign to your daily routine. As we meandered along our coastline and mountains, we all remarked about how brave the early explorers were. We were imagining the native peoples making their home here, and the early explorers and then miners, making their way through these near-impenetrable mountains. There are places here that have never experienced the footfall of man. How remarkable that we live here, in among all the stupendous magnificence of a God who loves us.

Salmon ladder

Occasionally nature needs our help. In this state, we encourage natural activities and assist in raising the live birth numbers of many of our indigenous species. Most people who come here to sports fish would be sorely disappointed if nature was the only provider! Our Fish and Game Department is doing themselves proud with how they are helping our salmon spawn successfully.  There were approximately 6.5 million fish released into the waters of Alaska in 2016. Pretty impressive. We recently learned that an entire herd of Wood Bison, over 130 of them, were released successfully from our Wildlife Conservation Center. Wow! I love walking through our hatcheries, learning the stories of the many fish we have here in Alaska. At the Sealife Center in Seward, they work so hard to rehab the different animals back into the wild. In amongst all this nature, thriving here, you certainly feel humbled.

Aurora August 2016

One of the things that people always want to see is the Aurora Borealis, or the “Northern Lights” when they visit us. In the summertime, that is pretty hard because it doesn’t really get dark enough. Last night we got notices through our news and weather sites that the Aurora possibility was a +6, which is high. We stayed up until 1:30am, and even got up again at 3:30am, but it was either too light or too cloudy where we are. The photo above was taken north of us last night. “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” (Hebrews 9:24). When you see the magnificence in the heavens, where the stars seem to dance, you certainly feel small, humbled, and in awe.

The experience of nature, up close and personal, away from the noise, smells, and interference of thousands of people, can ease your suffering and your pain. It makes your spiritual connection strengthen. I know for me, when I go to Church and can watch the snow dancing on the windows, and the candles are burning brightly, I can feel God. Learning to be still and seek His presence can be difficult in the midst of asphalt, smog, freeways, and social insanity, but it can be done. I found God in the middle of Southern California’s rush hour lifestyle. But I was constantly seeking my peace elsewhere. My prayer is that more and more can experience God in the stillness of His creation. It is truly magnificent, humbling, and breaks open those walls we place around ourselves when we live in a crazy, crowded world. Prayer seems to come naturally, in nature’s wonderland.

Be Still