The first day of our journey was Thursday August 14th and it was all journeying. We arrived in Anchorage from Chicago on United flight 1605 at 9:16pm Alaska time, which was 1:16am August 15th Noblesville time!
Above – Just kidding, this is not our flight. It was amazing how many of these we saw, however. Alaska has a high percentage of pilots because of the great distances and not many roads.
We were up early on the morning of the 15th to make the drive across the southern part of Alaska from Anchorage to Valdez. The big kid got to do a lot of rail fanning from our Premier Alaska Tours luxury motor coach (“It is NOT a bus!” said Liz, the tour guide and Steve, the driver – below):
Above: First glimpse of an Alaska Railroad freight underway. Too blurry to verify the number, I did better at getting locomotive numbers later.
Above – All those hopper cars are not hauling coal, it is gravel. They have a lot of it available thanks to the rock-crushing glaciers and they use a lot of it on their unpaved roads. Our tour was always on paved roads unless they were doing road repair.
Above – Alaska is terrific for a number of reasons, one of which is they didn’t phase out the caboose like the lower 48 did years ago.
Above – Having sun for 20 to 24 hours a day in the summer makes for some big plants. Judy saw a lot of big rhubarb growing, even being used as decorative plants!
Above – The flowers were large also.
Above – The Palmer, Alaska Lions Club made this pylon showing how far they are from everyplace in the world except Indianapolis.
Above – Number 5, a Baldwin 0-4-0T narrow gauge steam locomotive, was used by Premier Mine which was located north of Palmer.
Above – Judy and I missed the box to check that would have let us ride our bikes through the Alaskan mountains with all our gear onboard. Maybe next time. Liz said the bears call these guys ‘Meals on Wheels’.
Above – Our first moose encounter. They are big animals! We did see the living, breathing type but they didn’t seem receptive to encounters this close.
Above – Just about everyone has a spectacular view in Alaska. This motel and restaurant was a lunch stop.
Above – Another thing that Alaska does very well is glaciers. There are 600 named glaciers there. This split glacier was unusual.
Above – This was big glacier, check the people shown in the lower right of the picture.
Above – A close-up of the glacier photo above showing how tiny people look next to one.
Above – Some German folks picked a nice place to fix a flat tire.
Above and Below – Almost to Valdez via the Richardson Highway, Alaska’s first highway and the only one to Valdez. It has incredible scenery every millimeter of the way. Above is ‘Bridal Veil Falls’ (kind of a ‘girly’ name, if you ask me). Below, however, is ‘Horsetail Falls’, a name that inspired a raft of crude 5th grade jokes. To the Alaska Commission for Naming Waterfalls – outstanding choice!
Smart phone users: If the above picture is sideways, click HERE for a lo-res but correctly oriented version.
Above – Valdez city map – It was common to see Alaskan cities with the ‘Park Strip’ right down the middle. It was the first airstrip that Valdez had in years past – pretty handy.
We had dinner that evening at ‘The Totem Inn’ (noted on the map above). I had my first reindeer sausage, it was good but tasted more like caribou to me ; ^ )