At last we are in Alaska. We have been met with clouds, rain and cool weather. The town of Petersburg is an old Norwegian fishing community. Quite picturesque; with views of the Sound, quaint houses and friendly people. Virtually everyone here has a boat or two and the men are out fishing every day that it is possible.
After four days here we pushed on by ferry to Sitka, old capitol of Russian Alaska. This little city is best known by its Russian Orthodox cathedral which is located in the middle of the main downtown street. The original structure burned down and was re-built according to the original plans. The fire started in the steeple so there was time to save almost all of the original icons and paintings and furniture.
Juneau, the capitol city of Alaska was our next stop. The city lies in a rather narrow strip between the sea and the mountains. We camped near the Mendenhall Glacier which was rather impressive for our first up-close look at a real live glacier.
Next we ferried to Skagway, the jumping off point for the gold rush of 1898. There is interesting architecture and a legendary story of Jefferson R. (Soapy) Smith who was a notorious con man. He died in a shoot out with his rival Frank Reid. Reid also died from his wounds, but was declared a hero as he “sacrificed his life for Skagway”. Soapy’s grave:
From Skagway we took a short ferry ride to Haines where we intended to spend a couple of days. The rains failed to let up so we ventured north to Haines Junction in hopes of leaving the “rain forest” and finding some much needed sunshine. This little hamlet had a charming luncheon place and a couple of interesting churches. Here is a picture of the town’s welcoming monument:
From Haines Junction we went northwest toward Tok, stopping for the night at Cottonwood Campground on the banks of beautiful Kluane Lake.
We found a surprisingly well-crafted museum up the road at Burwash Landing. The settlement’s famous gold panning monument follows:
From Tok we headed south on the Tok Cutoff to Glenallen where we took the Richardson Hwy to Valdez. The rains kept us inside most of the time, but after traversing the Thompson Pass we ventured out at Worthington Glacier. Here we were able to hike up the foot of the glacier and actually touch the eons old ice.
We stayed two nights at Blueberry Lake Campground surrounded by high mountains on the edge of a Robe River. It is one of our favorites. The sun came out as we went south to Valdez through the Keystone Canyon. Falling water again.
At Valdez we found young people swimming off the ferry dock! The air temperature was in the 70s but the opaque grey water was far colder, probably low 50's.
From Valdez it was back to Glenallen and then southwest to Palmer, Anchorage, and around the Turnagain Arm down the Sterling Hwy to the Kenai Peninsula and Homer, home of story teller Tom Bodett . The city lies at the south end of the peninsula and has a little arm called Homer Spit that juts out into the sea. It is a sailor’s and fisherman’s paradise.
From a bluff above the town we saw three glaciers across the sound
From Homer we went back up the Sterling Hwy to Kenai and east to Soldotna and south to:
Seward was the original starting point for the Iditarod sled dog race to Nome. Due to lack of snow, the start has progressed north to Wasilla. There is an excellent Sea Life Center in Seward where one could easily spend two days studying the exhibits.
We camped at the city campground right at the water’s edge. Seward was the home of Benny Benson, the 13 year old boy who won the contest to design a flag for Alaska when it was still a territory.
We went north to Copper Center, an old mining town where we enjoyed a visit to the local museum. The facility was replete with a volunteer who was a trained museum curator.
The rains continued to dog us to Denali National Park and Preserve. As a result photography was nearly impossible. We did get to see a sled dog show where we learned about the breading and training of these fascinating animals
We took the bus ride to Eielson Visitor center 66 miles from our campsite. The muddy road splashed up on the side windows so it was difficult to see, but the driver stopped whenever wildlife was spotted.
We did get these pictures of Caribou,
And bears, Oh my!
Looking for a chance to get out of the rain and to replenish the larder, we went out of the Park north to Healy where we saw some kayakers and rafters.
With still no view of Denali, we gave up and headed north, stopping at Nenana for lunch and a chat with the visitor center guide who gave us good information about Fairbanks and surrounds. His information building looks like this, sod roof and all.
Before we got to Fairbanks we took a side road to Ester which was once a mining town of about 30,000. As most of them lived in tents, there is little evidence of there existence. However, there is a saloon which carries a famous name:
Of course, this is not the same one as referred to in Robert Service’ poem The Shooting of Dan McGrew as that joint was in the Yukon.
Our next stop was Fairbanks, The Golden Heart of Alaska. The weather here was great. There was sunshine and temperatures in the low 70s
Flowers were abundant and decorated nearly every building and the parks were full of them.
It was from the edge of a bluff at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks when we finally caught a glimpse of Mt McKinley about 120 miles to the south of us.
We did stop at a place north of Fairbanks where you can get up close a d personal with the Alaska Oil Pipeline. Just in time, too as I was needed to hold it up so repairs could be made.
No trip to Alaska could be complete without travelling the Alask Hwy end to end. The highway was built in 1942 as a means to get military supplies and equipment to Alaska, there being no road for such purpose at the time. It runs 1422 miles from Dawson Creek, Yukon Territory to Delta Junction, Alaska. Tis incredible undertaking was completed in 7 months! Here we are at the northern terminous of the highway.
Next we start home...