Friday, June 16, 2017


While visiting Alaska we took a side trip to Switzerland.
Or is it the other way around?

Sign on Van in Valdez, Alaska
We left Tok and headed southbound on the Tok Cutoff. 
Our destination was Valdez,  250 miles to the south on Prince William Sound.

We had taken this drive (as far as Glenallen) a few years back and it was a rainy day
and I recall telling our traveling partners how we were missing some beautiful views
because of the low clouds.

On this trip however we had perfect weather and reaped the rewards.

Tok Cutoff Alaska
 As always - the pictures just cannot do it justice.

The 360° views of snowcapped mountain and endless forest were stunning.
Tok Cutoff Alaska
About 120 miles south of Tok you come to Glenallen where the road forks.
To the right is Anchorage...   We went that way last time.

To the left is Valdez where we were headed today.

To get to Valdez you must climb over Thompson Pass.
Its not a particularly high pass (2,800') but due to its location it can be challenging at times.

Our weather was perfect and we only had to contend with some road construction at the top. 

Road Construction Thompson Pass Alaska
 Soon we were at the top and started down the other side to Valdez and sea level.
It was unbelievably beautiful on top of the pass and down the south side to Valdez.
Thompson Pass Alaska
 Its an easy ride down the pass.
At about 40mph I was able to coast down the grade with the engine brake alone.

At the bottom you enter a canyon that leads to the sea.
Alaska is waterfall country...
All that snowpack and the glaciers send their winter load downhill and streams and waterfalls
dot the mountainsides everywhere you look.

Approaching Valdez we spotted a pair of Moose Cows and we finally got a couple
of good pictures of these elusive creatures.

There are several RV parks to choose from plus some boondocking locations.
We chose the Bear Paw 2 Adult Only park due to its waterfront location.
The reviews were stellar and upon arrival it was immediately evident why.

Bear Paw 2 Valdez, Alaska
A million dollar view from our front window.

This is a beautiful place!

The backdrop of the boat harbor is stunning!
It really does look like Switzerland...
Or does Switzerland look like Valdez?

We keep spotting the Yukon Lovebirds everywhere we go.

Directly across the bay from us is the Valdez Marine Terminal.
It is the termination point of the Alaska Pipeline and where the tankers 
are loaded with crude oil from the North Slope.

It is also where the Exxon Valdez departed from on its ill-fated voyage in 1989
spilling almost 11 million gallons of crude into Prince William Sound.

When we arrived I saw a tanker being loaded.
The next morning it departed and immediately a new one took its place.

MV Polar Enterprise arrives at Valdez Marine Terminal 
Less than 24hrs later the tanker in these photos (M/V Polar Enterprise)
departed and tanker #3 took its place.

Tanker turning 180° to dock
 I made a 24hr Time-lapse of the view out of our front window.
You can view it below...

Or at this link

Be sure to do full screen for the full effect.

About the time you see the tug boat in front of us move
into position -if you look closely across the bay -  - you will see one tanker depart
and another (the one in the photos above) arrive.

You will note that it does not really get dark.  It seems darker than it is because that is how
it looks using the GoPro Camera but you can see the clouds are still bright.
Also notice how short the "night" is in comparison to the day.

This morning the Polar Enterprise departed with its load of about 1 million Barrels,
(42 million gallons) of crude oil headed for a west coast refinery.

Polar Enterprise Departs Valdez, Ak

As it departed, minutes later the tanker Liberty Bay Arrived.

Liberty Bay Arrives Valdez, Ak
The port keeps busy.

Today we took a ride around to the other side of the bay.
While we were not allowed inside of the Oil Terminal, we got close.

Below is the end of one of the berths where a tanker would tie up and be filled.

Valdez Oil Terminal Berth
Also on that side of the bay is the Solomon Gulch Salmon Hatchery.

It is interesting how the process works:
About 600' above the hatchery is a dam and Reservoir.
Water flows down hill to power a hydro electric plan but some is diverted to provide
water flow thru the hatchery.

The arrow below shows the water flow.

The water flows into the hatchery in the tanks below

Eventually the water flows out of the spawning tanks and out into the stream
and Prince William Sound.
The arrows below show the water flow direction and the upper right shows where the water would exit into the stream.
That is where the spawning Salmon - swimming up stream - would enter the hatchery.

In late June thru August when the Salmon are spawning - this water course if filled
with spawning Salmon and hungry bears feeding on the Salmon.
We might have to come back later this summer to check out that sight.

Meanwhile we will just have to settle for the sight out the front window.

Tomorrow we are going to visit a nearby RV park where a licensed individual feeds
fish heads to Bald Eagles each night.
They swoop down to grab their share of food and its supposed to be an
awesome opportunity for some great Eagle Photography.

It promises to be a sight... and the seed of the next post.

Till then.


  1. It looks like the same awesome site we were in!

  2. OMG, this could be your best blog ever. Time lapse and all. O M G!!!!!!! That is so beautiful up there. In the marina I only see 3 brave sailboats. Looks like we need a trawler :-) Thank you Greg and Kate, your travel adventures up here and really incredible.
    Hayden.....pulling weeds and working on da house...errrrrr

    1. You should be arriving next week with Team Cutterloose. No weeds to pull on the road. Stay cool bro!

  3. Loved watching the 24 hour go pro w/ the tide coming in and out. Everything is just beautiful. My son and family are spending a week in Banff and he's posting similar pictures.

    1. Just in case they don't know what to do.... tell them to drive the Bow Parkway to Lake Louise and stop at Johnston Canyon and hike to the falls. Then at lake Louise be sure to go to Moriane Lake which is right nearby. Take the tram up to the top of the mountain in Banff, Have lunch at the Banff Hotel, and if they have the time - drive the Icefield Parkway to the Columbia Icefield and back. Just a few of the highlights.

  4. The time lapse was phenomenal! So enjoy the blog. Looks like you are still enjoying your adventure. We are having a neighborhood kayak launch today. Donating ours to the kids. Beautiful day in Beaufort. Miss you both!

    1. Yes I was happy about how the time-lapse came out. One picture taken every 30 seconds for 24 hours. 2,880 pictures all stitched together. Enjoy your weekend and say hey to the RoastMaster General!

  5. Great photos! I hope i'm as lucky with the weather when we return to valdez. We had rain, fog, and wind. I KNEW we were missing out on some beautiful scenery. You proved that point!
    We visited around Aug 20 .....lots of bear activity at Allison Point. Enough that they set up a digital sign to warn folks.


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