Day 32, 6/30/15, Tuesday
Weather: Misty in the morning. Clearing in the afternoon as we drove inland. Temperatures were in the 60s.
Today we are one month into our trip- after a month it’s really more than a vacation!
We left our camping area about 10 am and drove to the general store where we purchased a few items before departing Valdez. There was something that made it a little hard to leave this town. Possibly it was the beauty of the mountains that surrounded us on all sides, the friendliness of the people who we met each day, or because this was the first time in weeks that we were back to sea and the salt air since leaving Brielle.
Since there is only one way into the town and through the mountains, we were back on the Richardson Highway travelling in the direction of Glennallen, 120 miles again following the pipeline. It is at Glennallen where we will take the Glenn Highway west and head for Anchorage.
We stopped briefly in Copper Center to mail some cards. This area looks mostly rundown and abandoned. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which. We then continued on until we reached the visitor center for the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Gail especially wanted to stop here and it was an excellent decision. This is the largest national park in all of the 50 states. It is similar to the size of Switzerland and one of its thousands of glaciers is the size of Rhode Island! Access to the interior of the park is by gravel, dirt road about 90 miles long in order to get to camping spots. That was NOT for us! It is made up of the Wrangell and the western part of the St. Elias mountain ranges. The eastern part of this range extends into Canada. We could not pass up taking a mile long hike on a trail through the dense woods down to the Copper River. It was our hope to meet up with a moose or possible see a bear. However, they must have been on vacation because all we found was a continuous swarm of mosquitos.
The Rangers told us of a special presentation that one of them would be doing at 7:30 pm at the Copper River Princess Lodge. We went to the Lodge which was only a two mile drive away. The Ranger’s presentation was excellent. He went into the development of the park from its birth resulting from volcanic and plate action to what we see today. The park has four active volcanos that have not erupted for thousands of years, although Mt. Wrangell can be seen steaming in colder weather. The movement of the Atlantic and western plates continue to take place daily and is the cause of the earthquakes that take place on a regular basis. In fact, Alaska is known to have approximately four thousand quakes per year. The plate activity is caused by the same plate that goes through California.
The Ranger’s presentation concluded at 8:30 and we proceeded to leave the Lodge. However, we encountered a nightly activity that caused us to stop. The Lodge staff was holding a flag lowering ceremony being held on the front lawn (they don’t wait for sunset closer to 11:00 pm but do it at 8:30). To the sound of appropriate music, the flag of the fiftieth anniversary of Alaska statehood was lowered followed by the Alaskan State flag and finally the Stars and Stripes. This was a very moving and unexpected ceremony. At the conclusion all current or veteran members of the military in the assembled crowd were recognized and presented with a small flag that was 100% made in the U.S.A. This was a perfect end of the day and great to see such patriotism in action.
By 9:30 pm we were still on the road and eventually joined four other campers who were set for the night in a rest area on the Glenn Highway (N 62.10723° W-145.51589°, elevation 1550/ft.).
G & P