We finished driving the Richardson Highway which began in Fairbanks and ended in Valdez. For us this town was put on our mental map with the oil spill of the Exxon Valdez in 1989 shortly before we arrived here. The town was a madhouse of frantic locals and a massive influx of clean up workers. We felt lucky to find a place to camp and find ourselves in the same campground still owned by the same folks after all these years. This time we are in their adults only annex, an unusual feature for a campground and have a beautiful view of the inlet surrounded by mountains, with the pipeline terminal across the bay. We toured the terminal in 1989, but since 9/11 it has been off limits - too great a security risk. So we'll just admire it from afar.
It's ironic how expensive gas and diesel are here, since so much oil has been flowing past us as we've driven the Richardson Highway. There are no refineries here and it all has to be tankererd away and brought back again. Every so often we note how expensive things are here and wonder how people can afford to live here. There is no sales or income tax and every Alaska resident gets an annual check, proceeds from the oil profits being taken out of the ground here. The size of these checks vary with the year and perhaps they make up a bit of the difference between prices here and in the lower 48.
Today's drive had amazing views, partly obstructed by low hanging clouds. The road was bordered by mountains to the east, mountains to the west, and mountains in front of us, capped by the Worthington Glacier. You might think that after the glacier hike yesterday, we are tired of glaciers, but you would be wrong. The Worthington is easily accessible to anyone driving by. In 1989 it came almost to the road, but the effects of climate change are noticeable here as well. The glacier's retreat left space for a huge parking lot and we hiked up to the glacier's face. We could have gone farther, but needed those crampons we learned how to use yesterday.
The road was rough in places and we had a lengthy wait for the pilot car to lead us through the construction zone. We didn't mind. It gave us even more time to soak in those great views.