Black & Blue
June 8, 2017
Miles Driven: 374
Sunrise (Copper Center): 3:58am / Sunset (Tok): 11:37pm
Latitude: 61.96N to 63.34N
National Parks Visited: 0
Wacky Roadside Attractions: 0
After I posted last night, while I was sitting outside on the quaint motel deck enjoying the midnight sun (correction: 10pm sun) and avoiding the mosquitos and ‘no-see-ems’ (the latter of which I did not see, but I’m told have a ferocious bite), I met a nice guy who worked on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Many times a year he makes the 800-mile drive from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez checking on the pipe and various pump stations. The drive north from Fairbanks, he says, is not the easiest of roads, but when there are long nights the treeless and star-filled sky are breathtaking. He also listens to a lot of audio books. In what I figure to be genuine Alaskan taste, he recommended Crow Killer, which is a story about a mountain man who endures years of hardship to seek revenge upon his wife’s murderers. I was reminded of Leo’s movie The Revenant. Anyway, back to the point of this narrative – the black gold which he works to maintain pays for many things here in Alaska. Have I mentioned that there’s no sales tax?
This morning we followed that Alaskan Pipeline south to Valdez. I had not realized how close we were, at least, close by Alaskan standards. What a fascinating drive. It got colder the closer we came, wind was sweeping over the snow-covered mountains and coming down off of a couple more glaciers, notably the Worthington Glacier. Then suddenly you dip down into the Keystone Canyon. Waterfalls careen over the cliffs down clefts surrounded by lush green vegetation. If it hadn’t been 50 outside, I would have thought we were in Hawaii. The waterfalls run off into streams the color of which I can only describe as slate blue. It seems to be the predominant color of the water I’ve seen in much of Alaska, clearly much of the water is composed of glacial melt.
Valdez is a cute little town, situated on a beautiful, slate-blue bay. If you are a fishing fan, they’ve got Fishing Derbies here for you. Exactly what a fishing derby is I’m not sure, but it sounds quintessential Alaskan, replete with combat gear. They’ve also got tours out into the bay by boat or by kayak. Oh, any you too can see the vast oil facility across the waters and the occasional tanker – the end of the line for that 339,600 cubic meters/day of black crude. Oddly, gas here is quite expensive. We ate a late breakfast, then headed back north.
Incredibly we hit bright blue skies for marvelous vistas of Wrangell – St. Elias, a sight my pipleline friend told me is a real rarity. It was near 80 for much of our ride to Tok. The town is pronounced like ‘toke’, not ‘talk’ as I was corrected; although he said really, it didn’t matter. The feeling conveyed was one of indifference to the names people attach to locations. The land is bigger than any name. And so, many a frost-heave mile later, we find ourselves once again on the Alaskan Highway. Everyone says we have to eat at Fast Eddies when you’re in Tok. According to the web, that can be translated as you must eat there, there are no other restaurants advertised.
Until tomorrow from Haines Junction…