The drive to Valdez is very beautiful. Palmer is on the Glenn Highway which intersects the Richardson Highway at Glennallen. The Richardson Highway is the highway that goes from Valdez to Delta Junction and then on to Fairbanks. This basically is the route of the Alaska Pipeline which carries crude oil about 700 miles from Prudhoe Bay to the ship loading terminals across the bay from Valdez. Along the Glenn Highway we passed the Matanuska Glacier which runs north out of the Chugach Mountains to the valley along the Glenn Highway. For the nearly 150 miles to Glennallen you have the Chugach Mountains to the south and Alaska Range mountains to the north. As you approach Glennallen you are looking at the Wrangell Mountains in Wrangell Saint Elias National Park and Preserve which is the largest national park in the US, dominated by Mt. Sanford which is over 16,000’ tall. From Glennellen, we passed through the Copper Valley heading south and following the path of the Alaska Pipeline to Valdez. The last section passes through the Keystone Canyon nearing Valdez. Here there are several waterfalls that are beautiful in the canyon. Valdez is very picturesque in the Prince William Sound with the pipeline terminal on the eastern side across from Valdez. The Good Friday Earthquake of 1964 was centered not far from Valdez and basically destroyed the town with the earthquake and tsunamis that wrecked the town so the original site was abandoned and a new more stable site was selected about 4 miles from the original site and was rebuilt.
While in Valdez the caravan arranged for a glacier cruise to Columbia Glacier in Columbia Arm of Prince William Sound. While on the cruise we saw orcas, Dall porpoises, harbor seals, sea lions and bald eagles. The approach to the glacier in Columbia Arm had a lot of floating ice from the glacier that prevented us from getting very close to the glacier but we could see it through the rain and fog. The weather could have been nicer but it was a very good trip. The ship’s captain really was great in that he narrated the area’s history, geography and wildlife in the area. Although it was overcast and rainy in Valdez, it cleared up beautifully for the drive to Tok the next day.