Monday, October 31, 2016

usbackroads destination--Dead Dog Hill Turnout, Nabesna Road, Wrangell_Elias National Park, Alaska

usbackroads destination--Dead Dog Hill Turnout, Nabesna Road, Alaska

travel date: August 16th, 2016

Bugaboo and Snowpatch are NOT fans of the National Park Service. So you can imagine their surprise when they were told they were headed for Dead Dog Hill Turnout inside Wrangell-Elias National Park. There was not a dead dog at the turnout so they were a little concerned about which one would become the namesake.

I believe there were three cars go past the turnout in the 16 hours that we stayed there. The pull out had plenty of room for the Ram and Casita.

 The plan was to head for Chicken, Alaska with a stop to dump the tanks in Tok. That meant just an overnight stop. Wrangell-Elias is the largest National Park in the system. On the road I had heard comments about the Nabesna Road so i stopped at the visitor center thinking we would spend the night at a commercial RV park. Instead the receptionist at visitor center convinced me to drive the Nabesna Road and spend the night at one of the pull-outs. A good decision.

Farther down the road there are other turnouts for camping overnight. This is Rock Lake.

The other attraction at Rock Lake is that it is the trailhead to the Viking Cabin. Click on photo to enlarge and read the text. If your not in an RV this seems like a great alternative. Of course, dogs are not allowed on NPS trails so it was not an option.

Here is the official Park Service guide to the road:

After the bad experience at Denali National Park this was like a breath of fresh air. Except for the choice of the Dead Dog Turn-out even Bugaboo and Snowpatch like the area. They did make comments about breaking all the rules and hiking on the trails!!

Here is the link to the rest of the Park. Worth a visit.

Bugaboo and Snowpatch were relieved when we left Dead Dog Pull-out.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

usbackroads destination--Blueberry Campground, Valdez, Alaska

usbackroads destination--Blueberry Campground, Valdez, Alaska

travel dates--August 14th and 15th, 2016

It was a long haul from Tangle Lakes Campground to Valdez. So I was looking for a campground or campsite for the night. Valdez would have to wait until tomorrow.

On the internet there was note about Blueberry Campground just 24 miles from Valdez and located in a high alpine area. Two lakes with grayling fishing. That was enough to get me excited about stopping for the night.

Here is the link to the official site:

The fee was $20/night and there is no garbage service, plus you have to bring your own toilet paper!!

We decided a campsite number 9. It was kinda off by itself so the dogs would not be an issue for the neighbors. There was this little clearing by the campsite and I hiked up to it. That led to a spectacular view ridge that went for quite a way. Snowpatch was interested in exploring the smells. For a dog that sits and watches the view as the truck goes down the road, he wasn't paying much attention to the scenery. So I guess the smells are more important than the view.

All those views and for the dogs it was nose to the ground. Sniff, sniff some more and move and then sniff some more again.

Here is the view of campsite number 9 from the ridge. I believe you can access the ridge from campsites 10 plus and there are much longer allowing for 5th wheels and trailers.  The best lakeside campsite was number 7.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

usbackroads destination- Valdez, Alaska

usbackroads destination--Valdez, Alaska

travel dates--August 14th and 15th, 2016

It was a long drive to Valdez and I was thankful that Blueberry Campground, 20 miles, short of Valdez was available for camping. The next day I made the drive down to Valdez.

Valdez is a working town. It is the end of the Alaskan pipeline. This is where the the oil gets loaded onto tankers for the trip to the lower 48 and your gas tank. Well, most of the time. That one tanker the Exxon Valdez did not quite make it out of Prince William Sound.

Here is the Wilkipedia entry: The Forest Service got involved in the clean up efforts and it was interesting to hear the stories. Exxon also got the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 passed which limited liability to oil companies to 75 million.

Times do change. Exxon managed get their total costs of the spill down to about 4.3 billion dollars. The costs for BP's Deepwater Horizon are 62 billion dollars.

As noted, Valdez is a working town. Oil and fish. They don't mix well, but they do coexist in Valdez. Here is a picture of the returning salmon to a commercial fish hatchery just outside of town. It appeared that an area of 10-20 acres was covered with fish as they waited their turn to go up the fish ladders to the hatchery....and their processing. The bears were well aware and stroll down to "fish" and do the seals on the water side. An interesting spot if your timing is just right.

You can increase your odds of catching a salmon by fishing them from the campgrounds along the sound. It does have a certain charm to it, but I prefer my fishing a bit more primitive. Of course, given my poor track record at catching steelhead and salmon on the Snake River in Washington, maybe I should have moved the Casita down from it lofty perch at Blueberry Campground and joined the crowds.

There is a nice bike path in the area that runs back into town.

The original town site was destroyed in the Alaska earthquake of 1964 and the resulting

This video covers the quake in Alaska:

I was in Anchorage in 1994 driving towards the Kenai and kept looking at the landscape wondering if it was bad highway construction or what caused the environmental conditions along the road. And then it dawned on me that 30 years later this was result of the 1964 quake. Truly a historic event.

Valdez was moved to a new location. I suspect much of the charm and history went out to sea on that day in 1964. It was laundry time and shopping for groceries.

Seafood was also on the agenda. You can catch your own or save a whole bunch of money and just buy it. We bought our seafood here just as they were closing the "outlet" store for the season: The snow crab was great as was the other seafood. They were located down by the dock. Ask for will find it, eventually.

Stopped by this place and got some salmon eggs. The kind you eat not fish with! Somewhere in my youth my parents could not longer afford sturgeon caviar and we switched to salmon caviar. My father was able to buy sturgeon caviar on a minimum wage salary in the 1950's. On a pretty good middle class salary I hesitate these days when buying salmon caviar. However, place an order and try it on real french bread with butter. You will never look a salmon eggs as bait ever again. Solomon Falls:

On  humorous note this is how you tell native Alaskan's from the tourists. Native on left. The tourist must be from Maine. I do like the LL Bean boots with shorts look.

The road into Valdez is pretty special with glaciers and waterfalls. This must have been what Yosemite Valley looked like 10,000 years ago.

Just north of town is a glacial lake with ice bergs. The only people taking advantage of  the scenery and lake were kids learning to kayak.

Valdez is a pretty special backroads destination. Today, it is little know. However, a town where you can see more than two dozen glaciers from downtown is a pretty special spot. It is slowly being discovered as the blog site notes: Go now before it is "discovered" and becomes a tourist town rather than a working town.

Then you can always sound like a old-timer and state "it was much better before Oprah built her summer home here". Valdez is a must do part of ANY trip to Alaska. We only spent two days there this time. Next time it will be a week or more.

Leaving town this is the view in the rear view mirror. That will make you come back.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

usbackroads destination--Tangle Lakes Campground, Denali Highway, Alaska

usbackroads destination--Tangle Lakes Campground, Denali Highway, Alaska

travel dates: August 13, 2016

The Denali Highway was interesting, but dodging potholes and running washboards for over a hundred miles was starting to wear thin by the end of the day. I was really looking forward to pavement and a nice place to spend the night. Tangle Lakes Campground was the beginning of the pavement and looked like a real attractive place to spend the night.

Tangle Lakes is an interesting area. It is the start of a interesting canoe trip.  Here is a report from the first party headed downstream this year. Notice the melt-out date for the lakes.

The BLM does note that Tangle Lakes is on the National Register of Historic Places as an archaeological district. That was enough to convince me to camp there for the night.  Here is the background info on the area:

Now that was not what I expected. Here is further back info:

The weather the previous day was perfect. I was looking forward for another day of perfect weather. This photo pretty much explains the weather. Dark clouds and light clouds with wind and rain.

Off in the distance there were mountains somewhat visible. The weather just got worse and pretty soon the mountains were gone for good..

Even in the poor weather the scenery around the lakes was still pretty impressive. It was not long before I was bored with gray and muted green.

I was really looking forward to that pavement after the previous days driving. Well, there were still some potholes to dodge, but not as many as on the gravel portion. However, the washboard was replaced by whoop-de-do's. That is the frost heaving. Well, after potholes, and washboards the whoop-de-do's come in third. There are efficient in changing the arrangement of stuff in the trailer. So at every stop is in interesting to open the trailer door and see the new "arrangement".

As you can tell by this picture the road does wander across the landscape. The truck and trailer was somewhat pointed to that bring spot on the horizon. The good news is that later in the day it did finally clear, but only after we managed to get past all the "scenic" spots.

Here is a view of the campground. A stop worth spending a couple of days grayling fishing and hiking. When the wind quit blowing the Alaskan state bird made its appearance. So probably worthwhile having plenty of bug juice on hand.

The road to Valdez beckoned. It was a long day with "heavy" traffic for Alaska. Must have seen about ten vehicles on the road, though there were lines at the gas station in Glennallen.

Here is a final picture of the campground. Hopefully, I will be back to spend a few days there in the future.