Richardson Highway to Valdez, AK

We spent the night in Tok, refueled, got groceries and then headed down the Richardson Highway toward Valdez. These are some of the pictures we took along the way.

Richardson Highway

Alaskan Pipeline

Alaskan Pipeline

Richardson Highway

Wrangall Mountains

Richardson Highway

We pulled into the great little Sourdough campground for the summer solstice. The sun only set for about 2 hours and it remained light enough to read all night.

Sourdough Campground

We took this last picture of the sunset from the Sourdough campground about midnight the night.

sunset

Melinda got up three hours later and took this second picture of the sunrise. In between these two pictures is called dusk.

sunrise

Here we are on the road. It was a rainy morning. We’re heading into the mountains north of Valdez. The oil pipeline runs parallel to this road all the way to the Valdez terminal.

Richardson Highway

Traveling along the Wrangell – St. Elias mountain range is pretty beyond words. The Wrangell – St. Elias National Park is the largest national park in the country.

wrangall mountains

It was still pretty early in the afternoon but we knew this beautiful stream needed to be our front yard for the night. Sleeping with a fast moving glacier fed stream gurgling just outside your window all night is definitely the way to sleep. Even the occasional 18 wheeler going by 50 feet away couldn’t keep us awake.

mountain stream

We pulled out from our overnight camping site Friday morning and got our first look at the famous Worthington Glacier. It’s hard to see in the pictures but it is a beautiful blue….almost a turquoise blue.

Worthington Glacier.

We took the road up to the base of the glacier so we could get some close-up pictures. You can tell by the way Melinda is dressed that it was pretty cold standing there. 150 years ago the foot of the glacier was .4 miles behind us further down the hill.
20,000 years ago during the last ice age the ice was 4000 high where we are standing. The Worthington glacier was just a small part of the glacier that covered this part of Alaska.

Worthington Glacier.

The Worthington glacier didn’t look very big standing at the base of it, but looking back at it about two miles further south as we went through the pass, you can see how really large it is. It flows about 8 feet a month as fresh snow at the top each year replaces the melting snow at the bottom. When the snow at the top is more than the melting at the bottom, the glacier is growing. When the snow at the top is less than the melt at the bottom, the glacier is shrinking. It has been shrinking for the last 150 years.

Worthington Glacier.

Just north of Valdez we got to drive past many waterfalls as the snow capped mountains shed their winter snow. It’s very hard to get a good perspective but this is a VERY high waterfalls.

waterfall

Here we are at the RV park is Valdez. A boy threw a small fish up into the air to attract the eagles. There wasn’t an eagle in sight when he threw the fish so we figured this was going to be a long wait. It was more than a minute before the eagle  swooped in to get the fish laying on the ground.

bald eagle

It was amazing how fast they could swoop in, grab the fish on the fly and be back in the air. The fish was in their mouth and swallowed in about four or five seconds as they flew away. They were so fast, it was hard to get the picture even though we were only fifteen to twenty feet away.

young bald eagle

From the time the boy threw the first fish into the air it was only about two minutes before the sky was filled with eagles swooping down for supper. Apparently the park has permission to feed them every afternoon until the salmon start running. They are a week or so late coming in from the ocean this year for some reason.

bald eagles

The young eagles are brown in color and a lot more aggressive than the older mature eagles (5 years) with the white head. Occassionally one of them would land right in front of us. You can see the look in his eye as he holds his fish…….”Don’t even THINK about taking this fish away from me!”

Here is a teen-aged eagle. You can see how big these guys are. Imagine them hitting you with this kind of weight at the speed they swoop in to grab the fish!! The collision alone would take out most small critters….to say nothing of the talons!!!!

young bald eagle

Melinda got some great footage in the video of them feeding. Don’t miss watching it on YouTube. It was too big to load here.

Eventually they were full. Some of them headed for the mountains in the distance….some decided to land in the tree before heading back to where ever home is. I learned that the reason their eye site is so good is because they have two retina’s in the back of their eye to see with. They were a LONG ways away when the boy threw that first fish in the air and the first eagle was over the feeding area in less than a minute. What a great way to end the day. We finished our wine and went over to the harbor for Halibut hors d’oeuvres.

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2 Responses to Richardson Highway to Valdez, AK

  1. Trish June 10, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

    Hi there – we are 2 aussies with a 32′ class A Motorhome. We came down White’s Pass from Whitehorse into Skagway a few days ago and smelt our brakes burning. Thankfully there were pull offs to let the breaks cool. My husband is keen to know whether the Thompson Pass road down into Valdez will be the same? If so, he would prefer to miss that drive. What was your experience? Thanks Trish

  2. melsuerau June 10, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

    Hi Trish,
    We don’t remember exactly what it was like, but all of the passes to the coast were pretty steep. However, I hope you can make that trip over Thompson Pass because it was one of our favorites. Valdez was my favorite place in Alaska. The eagles there were fantastic and the people in the little town of Valdez were so friendly. Camp across the bay from the town in the public park near the end of the oil line. There will be eagles in the trees over your head and you can fish in the bay across the road. There is a mother bear with triplets that hung out there last year. I think the cubs were only a year old so they should still be there this year. Enjoy your time in Alaska.

Love to hear from you!