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Carson's Alaska Newsletter #14
Location: Palmer, Alaska Date: June 25-28,2003
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On the Road with Fred and Barb - Newsletter #14

June 25-28 Valdez to Palmer

After our great adventure on the kayaks, we decided to stay an extra day in Valdez just to relax and regroup. Besides it was pouring rain and we were hoping for a nice day to travel the road back from Valdez. Caught up on laundry, grocery shopping, email, etc. Wanted to do a tour of the pipe line terminal but because of 9/11 it is now closed to outsiders. Instead, the community college shows a film about the building of the pipeline and its operation today. We had not realized that it was built by a consortium of 7 oil companies whose first initials make up the name Alyeska. It was quite an engineering feat to design and build so that it could withstand the permafrost, earthquakes and severe weather. It is also raised enough above ground so that moose and caribou can migrate under it. The college also included a film on the 1964 earthquake and tsunami . It wiped out the town of Valdez such that it had to be rebuilt 4 miles further down the road.

Horsetail FallsWe left Valdez under partly cloudy skies which lifted just enough to see the mountain peaks along the road. Just outside of the city, the road winds through Keystone Canyon which has a multitude of waterfalls running down the mountainside. The closest to the road are the bridal veil falls and horsetail falls. We had lunch at a beautiful rest area overlooking the river valley.

Our stop for the night was just outside Glennallen at a lovely campground beside a rushing river. Fred tried to catch some of the greyling for dinner but we ended up with pot roast instead! He caught 5 small ones that weren't worth cleaning. The next day we drove the Glenn Highway to Palmer. This was a very scenic drive, winding through several mountain passes with views of glaciers. Unfortunately the road was not in the best condition due to permafrost causing dips and heaves. Decided not to take the turnoff to the Matanuska Glacier as we had been so close to the Shoup - if you've seen one glacier…But we did take some photos from the viewpoints.Matanuska Glacier

Stopped for the night at the Elks Club in Palmer where they have 8 sites with electric. Unfortunately, Fred discovered that they had wired them wrong and the polarity was backwards. So the guys went to the local hardware store and bought parts for an adaptor to reverse the polarity. Problem solved. The Elks Club is one of the nicest we've seen, right on a lake. They even rent paddleboats and canoes. The dining room looks out over the lake to the mountains. We decided to take advantage of the inexpensive dinners they serve Thurs. and Friday nights. The baby back rib dinner special was especially delicious.

There is quite a bit to do in the area around Palmer. Every Friday the NOAA Tsunami Warning Center gives free tours. When an earthquake occurs (as one did last week) they have to quickly assess whether it has the potential for generating a Tsunami Wave anywhere along the west coast. They don't want another disaster like 1964. We also visited a Musk Ox Musk OxFarm. The Musk Ox became extinct in Alaska in the 1800's. But they still exist in Greenland and northern Canada. The Musk Ox looks a little like a bison only with longer fur. The hair underneath is called qiviut. It is extremely soft and warmer than wool. This farm was started strictly to provide a source for the quviut which is used by the natives for knitting scarves, hats, etc.


The most interesting place we visited in the area was the Independence Mine State Historical Park. Independence MineThis is a 30 minute drive up over Hatcher Pass and is surrounded by mountains. It reminded me of the Swiss Alps. The gold mine was in operation from 1935 until 1942 so many of the buildings are still standing and can be toured. The mine was shut down in 1942 due to the war. There's still gold in them thar hills but evidently it costs more to harvest it than what it is worth!

Last night we found out they were holding some stock car races at a local track about 5 minutes away. It was a ¼ mile asphalt oval and the view from the grandstands was of the snow covered peaks of the Chugach Mountains. It was a beautiful "warm" night (natives were in shorts but Fred and I wore long pants, shirts and jackets!). Since the sun doesn't set until after 11:00, there was no need for electric lights on the track. All kinds of cars were raced including something called Bandeleros which are glorified go-karts with a fiberglass shell. Our favorites were the Legends - looked like miniature London Taxis. Lots of spinouts, one crash so it was good fun.

We are now off to Anchorage for a few days before heading down to the Kenai.

Barb and Fred

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