December 19, 2013

AK Adventures | Marine Highway to Valdez

Alaska is a big place, with over 650,000 square miles of rugged wilderness, scenic beauty and abundant wildlife, and traveling in the great state can present some unique challenges as well as opportunities. Unlike the 'lower 48', many of the communities are not accessible by a land based road system, making the primary means of travel to them by air or sea. The Alaska Marine Highway makes up a large part of the 'highway system' and is a route so special it has been designated a National Scenic Byway and an All American Road, the only marine route with this designation. Whether your interest is in secluded coves for kayaking, hiking trails or camping, the Alaska Marine Highway is the perfect way to experience Alaska's diverse and scenic coastline.
Nestled between glacier-capped mountains and the Prince William Sound, Whittier is a focal point for marine activity.  In June 2012, we decided to experience the Alaska Marine Highway with a trip from Whittier, across Prince William Sound, to Valdez, AK.

When we boarded the Aurora in Whittier, it was a beautiful day - the sun was shining, and despite the snow still on the mountains, it was tshirt weather. Our kind of cruise.  The sights were beautiful as we passed through Prince William Sound and the Chugach Mountains. We saw bald eagles, harbour seals and stellar sea lions galore. However, towards the end of our 5 hour and 45 minute cruising time, the weather started to change. We knew the sunny skies were too good to be true. With our destination of Valdez in sight, the rain started to come down... and didn't stop. Once we docked, we took shelter at a local pub for a pint and pizza, hoping the rain would pass. But again, the rain did. not. stop. (On a side note, rain kind of became Steve and I's thing in Alaska. Any time there was an adventure planned, it rained. Our friends could always count on rain when we were around.

With no end in sight to the rain, we decided to find a place to stay for the night. Knowing we wanted to camp, despite the rain, Steve called the local camp ground (we liked to be spontaneous and fly by the seat of our pants). Well, apparently that 14 feet of snow we got in Anchorage just a few months prior was more like 30 feet in Valdez and therefore still hadn't disappeared... there was still at least 5 feet on the ground the man at the camp ground told Steve. We were shit out of luck. And so we drove, and drove some more, until the snow disappeared, but the rain persisted.  The only times we stopped were to watch a mama moose trying to teach her calf how to cross a flowing stream and to take a quick shot with the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, a pipeline carrying oil from Prudhoe Bay south to Valdez. That night we ended up driving almost 3 hours, half way home, and stopping at the camp site we stayed at the weekend before. Not only was it still raining, but were we at each other's throats... Driving any further was not an option. So, we decided to blow up the air mattress in the back of the truck and fall asleep to the sound of raindrops on the roof. Our fun-filled three-day weekend in Valdez quickly turned into one night.

The weekend may not have been as successful as we had hoped, but like all of our other AK adventures, it was one filled with beauty and awe, and some good memories for the books.

Past adventures:

Coming up next: 26 Glaciers

 photo marsignature_zpsfb974fa3.jpg

1 comment

  1. Such beautiful pictures! I love reading your stories about your time in Alaska...makes me want to visit there even more than I already did :-)


I would love to hear from you!

Blog Design Created by pipdig