Lonnie and Sue - Traveling North America

2013 Alaska 6 - Travels to Chitina, Valdez, Slana, and Tok



 My campground rating system is on a scale of 5/5 with the first number being the levelness of the site and the second being the appearance.  A 3/3 would be an average site.



 I have left the prices in for comparison and to give a general idea of what to expect.  Depending on when you read this, factor in inflation.



You can read it through or select specific locations below.

 Travel Log - August 8 to August 16, 2013        [Tab 2013 Alaska 6]


08-08-2013     Thur      Trip Meter:   157.2         

Driving Directions:   Took AK 2 “Richardson Hwy” south.  Note.  At Delta Junction AK 2 continued to Tok and becomes the “Alaska Hwy”.  “Richardson Hwy” becomes the AK 4 and goes to Valdez.  We stayed on the Richardson.  

Road conditions:  AK 2 south is good 4-lane for about 10 miles then goes to good 2-land, with shoulders.  At Delta Junction we took AK 4 and it went immediately to good 2-lane road with no shoulders.  At MP 230 have fairly new pavement, with shoulders.  At MP 226 back to no shoulders. 

Days Activities:   Departed campground at 8:30 am.  Will be heading towards Valdez but will stop in route for the night. 

Before leaving town we went to Crowley Propane.  Got the valve on the propane tank check out and was told it was good.  The service tech seems to think the problem is the regulator on the grill but they don’t have one. 

Fuelled the motorhome with propane while we were there.  The tank showed one-third.  I figured it would take about 20 gallon to fill it.  The man didn’t get the pump meter reset properly and it did not register as it filled the tank.  I explained to him that since the tank was down to a third that I believed 20 gallon was a good estimate.  He said that 8 gallon was probably more accurate so we paid for 8 gallon.  Departed here at 9:25 am. 

At the North Pole stopped for some last minute grocery shopping and picked up some breakfast sandwiches at McDonald’s.  Back on the road at 10 am.  Good road so going 55 mph. 

At MP 296 stopped and took pictures of Tanana River. 

At MP 293 we were travelling southeast when we ran into some very heavy smoke.  Cut visibility drastically.  After about 4 miles it started clearing but not effecting driving conditions.  By 285 it was clear again but to the west could still see the smoke haze.   

By MP 277 back in the smoke again, but not heavy enough to effect driving.  Very high winds coming from the south.  I estimate 20 to 30 mph with gust up to 40 mph. 

At MP 275.4 the Big Delta Bridge crosses the Tanana River.  The pipe line crosses the river here next to the bridge.  It is a great photo op, but since we took pictures of it in 2009, and since it is smoky and very windy, did not stop for pictures today. 

By the time we got to Delta Junction, around MP 266, I estimate the wind at a fairly constant 30 mph, and we are headed directly into it.  There is still smoke in the air.  It cleared again by 263.  Have no idea where the fire was. 

When we entered AK 4 at Delta Junction I slowed to 50 mph.  The road is good but has no shoulders and I don’t drive over 50 unless there are shoulders, no matter how good the road is. 

At MP 246 got pictures of a mountain cover in snow.  Also, the wind has dropped to about 10-15 mph. 

At MP 243.3 the pipeline crossed the road from west to east.  Did not stop for pictures because had taken some in 2009 and it is still very windy today.   

At MP 241.3 stopped at a pullout and took pictures of the Delta River with sand blowing. 

We are driving through the Alaska Range and getting a good view of many small glaciers.  This is a wonderful drive for scenery, however, trees line both sides of the road for miles and miles which makes it hard to really see much.  We are up high in the motorhome so imagine people in cars only see trees. 

We have been getting an occasional glance of the pipeline but the trees obstruct most of it. 

At MP 230 have nearly new road with shoulders so went up to 55 mph.  At MP 226 back to the old road with no shoulders.  Back to 50 it was fun while it lasted. 

At MP 217 took some pictures through the windshield.

The mountain views from about 225 are fantastic.  We started looking for a pullout that would be sufficient to stop overnight.  Finally found one at MP 216.

  • Campsite:   Pullout at MP 216 on the Richardson Hwy, AK - overnight - gravel pull out – No Services - Rating 5/5 - Got setup at 1:15 pm.  Setup was just put down the jacks and put out the slides.  

This pullout is called “Denali Fault/Pipeline Visitors Viewing Area”. 

We had sun all morning but by the time we had parked it had disappeared.  It did shine on some of the mountains off and on during the evening. 

I tried the grill again and it still would not work.  It will light for just a few seconds then go out.  Not getting much gas.  Then I put on a small bottle and got a little more flame but not much.   I pulled the regulator and drilled out the orifice.  Now it worked great with the small bottle but not on the regular propane bottle.  I have never had much of a flame on this grill, even when it was new.  The flame has always been the same on high and low.  I now have a high flame that I can adjust down.  That tells me the problem is either the valve on the bottle or the hose, and has always been a problem. 

Took a lot of pictures of the mountains surrounding our campsite.  We are setting in a bowl with small glaciers in view.  The wind is still blowing around 10 mph. 

Did not unhook the pickup.

Our campsite at Pullout at MP 216 on the Richardson Hwy, AK.

08-09-2013      Fri      Trip Meter:   137.9         

Fueled Coach:   At Tesoro in Glennallen, AK.  $4.589. 

Driving Directions:   Continued south on AK 4 “Richardson Hwy”.   At the jct of AK 1, it ran concurrent with AK 4 to Glennallen.  AK 1 continued to Anchorage and AK 4 went to Valdez.  We continued south on AK 4. 

Highway conditions:  At MP 165 to 159 the road was really rough so had to slow down to 40 mph.  At MP 147 to jct of AK 1 the road was real rough.  Had to slow down to 40 mph.  I travelled the rest of the road at 50 mph. 

Days Activities:   It got really cool last night.  With the wind blowing off the glaciers, I wonder why?   

We have been here over 20 hours, and have seen or heard very little traffic on the highway and less than a half-dozen visitors at the pipeline. 

Started a light sprinkle about 9 m.  Good thing we don’t have to do anything to break camp except put in the slides and raise the jacks.  Departed campground at 11:00 am.  Heading for Squirrel Creek in route to Valdez. 

At MP 209.5 took pictures of Rainbow Mountains and the Delta River. 

At MP 208.5 stopped at a long pullout and took more picture of Rainbow Mountain.  Hope the color comes out.  Would be much better if it was not so overcast. 

From MP 225 to 200 is probably the prettiest drive we have been on this year.  There are over 2 dozen areas to pull off and camp.  At least 6 of them are suitable for large rigs like ours with slideouts.  We saw at least 50-60 nice pullouts suitable for overnight camping on the section of road from Delta Junction to the intersection of AK 1.   

At MP 101.6 we stopped at the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge for lunch but didn’t find anything on their very short lunch menu we wanted, so we left. 

A couple of miles on toward Valdez we stopped at a bar that advertised pizza.  It was called the Grizzly something, didn’t get the full name.  It was really small and a 15 passenger van had just stopped there and the place was packed; only had one bartender to wait on everyone, so we left.  Ended up having lunch in the motorhome after we got parked. 

  • Campsite:   Squirrel Creek Campground SRA, MP 79.6 Richardson Hwy - 2 nights - site 5 - gravel pad - pull thru – NO services, picnic table, fire ring – Alaska SRA - Cost $15.00 per night - Rating 3/5 - Got setup at 3:10 pm.
Our campsite at Squirrel Creek Campground SRA, MP 79.6 Richardson Hwy .

08-10-2013     Sat    

Days Activities:   We took a drive out to Chitina to view the fish wheels on the Copper River.  Got there by way of the Edgerton Hwy at MP 82.5.  When you first turn onto the highway you have a magnificent view of the Wrangle Mountains for about 3 miles before the trees obstruct your view.  We stopped and got pictures but it was overcast with low clouds so they didn’t come out very good.

Stopped at an overlook and took pictures of the Copper River. 

Stopped at Liberty Falls State Recreational Area and took pictures and video.  There are 6-8 small camp sites here. 

When we got to Chitina we just drove through it to the Copper River, about 2 miles.  The river was really high and we had to drive through some deep water to get out to the fish wheels.  I took pictures and video. 

Then we went back into Chitina and had lunch at the Chitina Hotel; Reindeer Sausage on a hoagie bun.  It was very good.  I took pictures of the hotel and the surrounding buildings.   

We drove out O’Brien Creek Road.  It ended in about 3 miles at a large camping and fishing area.  I took pictures.  The last quarter mile, to the end of the road, is about a 18-20% grade with a lot of large pot holes. 

On the way back to camp, about 20 miles from Chitina, we stopped at a Yak farm and took pictures of the only animal that was close enough to the road for pictures.  We could see others in the distance.   

This is the same farm we stopped at in 2009 and took pictures of a herd in the pasture next to the road.  Following is my comment from 2009, “On the way back we stopped at MP 15 and took pictures of something that looked like a cross between cattle, buffalo, and musk-oxen.”   

Today found out from the waitress at the hotel restaurant that they are Yak, a cross between musk oxen and cattle.  They serve a Yak Burger in the restaurant. 

Drove pickup 92.4 miles.

Liberty Falls State Recreational Area on Edgerton Hwy on the way to Chitina.
 Fish wheel on Copper River outside of Chitina.
 One of the few businesses in Chitina.  We ate lunch here.
A yak on a yak farm on Edgerton Hwy on the way to Chitina.

08-11-2013      Sun      Trip Meter:   83.3      

Driving Directions:   Continued south on AK 4 to Valdez, AK. 

Days Activities:  Departed campground at 11:15 am, going to Valdez. 

It was overcast when we left this morning.  At the top of Thompson Pass we drove into a cloud and for about a mile visibility was 200-300 yards.  After that it cleared but started to sprinkle.  Had a light mist all the way to Valdez.  The river was high and we saw some flooding.  

We took some pictures of the Worthington Glacier but the weather was so bad I don’t think they will come out very good.  Will drive back out on Tuesday and get our pictures. 

  • Campsite:   Bayside RV Park, Valdez, AK - 3 nights - site 31 - gravel pad - back-in - 50 amp, water, sewer, WiFi (FREE), cable (FREE) - Cost $40.00 per night - Rating 5/3 - Got setup at 1:35 pm.  Have 4G Service.

Found out when we checked in that they have had about 4 inches of rain during the past 2 days.

At the campground office I made reservations for the Stan Stephens Columbia Glacier Tour.  It is 6.5 hours longs and cost $120.00; we used the TourSaver coupon.  Be at the campground office at 11 am for our ride to the harbour.

Since it is my birthday we went out to dinner.  Went to “The Hook Bar and Grill” at the Best Western Motel.  It was a bit pricy but the food was good and we sat looking out over the boat harbour.

Our campsite at Bayside RV Park, Valdez, AK.

08-12-2013     Mon               

Days Activities:   Got picked up at 11:15 am for our ride to the harbour.  I took a lot of campground pictures while we were waiting.

Boarded the Glacier Spirit at 11:45 and departed at noon.  On the tour we saw: 

            Sea Otter
            Eagles
            Dall Porpoise
            Stellar Sea Lions
            Puffins
            Pigeon Guillemot
            Black Legged Kittiwake
            Harbour Seals
            Glaciers
            Great scenery

 The Eagles were too far off for good pictures.  The Porpoise were feeding so only gave us a couple of looks, not enough for pictures.  The Puffins and Pigeon Guillemot’s were too far away and too fast for good pictures.  However, did get a lot of good scenery, ice, and glacier pictures and video. 

In 2005 we were able to get to within ¾ mile of the Columbia Glacier.  In 2009 there was so much ice we could not get past the terminal moraine that is 10 miles from the glacier.  Today we were able to get to within a ½ mile of the face of the glacier. 

Got back and docked at 7:20 pm.  The weather was great and it was a most enjoyable ride.  We met and visited with some really nice people from Maryland and Louisina. 

Went to dinner at “Ernesto's Taqueria”, a Mexican restaurant.  I didn’t care for the food and Sue said she didn’t want to go back.

Sea Otters.
Approaching the Columbia Glacier.

08-13-2013     Tue    

Days Activities:   We went to the Sugar & Spice Gift Shop and purchased 2 CD’s – “Though the Earth Be Moved”, about the 1964 earthquake, and “The Trans Alaska Pipeline”.  Each one was $14.95. 

We went to 2 museums after lunch; the Old Valdez Museum and the Valdez Museum.  Admission to both was $6.00 each senior rate. 

At MP 2.9, 7 miles north of Valdez, we took Dayville Road to the terminal side of the bay and stopped at the salmon run next to the fish hatchery.  The hatchery is not open to visitors but the salmon run is.  I took pictures and videos. 

Then we drove out to Worthington Glacier and took pictures.  We drove back out today, instead of stopping when we came in, because we weren’t sure we could turn the motorhome around.  There is a very large parking area with long RV spots at the glacier. 

On the way back we took a side road and noticed a name plaque in front of a house for “Mahan”.  I stopped and knocked on the door and introduced myself to Johnny Mahan.  His wife has been working on his genealogy.  It seems his great great grandfather came here from Ireland as a boy.  Johnny remembers talking to him about Ireland.  Do not see how we could be related unless it goes back to before 1750. 

We drove out to Valdez Glacier.  Took pictures.  Drove through the Valdez Campground.  There are some electric sites but none with water.  Looked like all the electric sites are taken by long term campers since they all had huge propane bottle; about 200 gallon each. 

Drove pickup 115.6 miles.

08-14-2013      Wed      Trip Meter:   194.0         

Fueled Pickup:   At Tesoro in Valdez, AK.  $4.379. 

Driving Directions:  Took AK 4 north.  At the jct of AK 1 took it north toward Tok.  At MP 59.9 took Nebesna Road to our camp site.  

Days Activities:   I went to the hardware store and checked on a propane hose but they didn’t have one like I needed.  I had already checked the other 2 stores here.  Have been checking every place we have been for the past 10 days. 

Stopped at a store and purchased some smoked salmon.  Stopped and fueled the pickup.  Then I picked Sue up and we went to Peter Pan and purchased 2 pieces of frozen salmon and a fresh salmon filet.  Will have the filet for dinner tonight. 

Departed campground at 10:30 am.   

Stopped at MP 15 and took pictures of an old train tunnel that was started but never finished.

Richardson Hwy goes over Thompson Pass.  Going north I considered the climb to start at MP 18.7 at a crossing of the Lowe River.  The climbing lane starts at MP 18.9.  It is 7.1 miles to the summit with a climb of 2,125 feet to MP 25.8.  That calculates to an average grade of 5.7%.  A small bit of it may be around 7% but not much.  I went up it on cruise and never dropped below 40 mph, and that was starting from a stand still at the bridge.  The bridge was having some minor repairs and was reduced to one-lane traffic.     

At MP 50 we saw a black bear cub on the side of the road but it ran off into the woods before we got to it. 

Turned onto AK 1 “Tok Cutoff”. 

At MP 85 saw a moose, with a calf, but there was no place to pull off for a picture. 

At MP 59.9 turned off on the Nebesna Road at the small village of Slana.  We are going to drive the road tomorrow so will be spending the night at a pullout.  Only drove the motorhome in 3.8 miles to the pullout.  At MP 2.8 we saw a moose but it ran off into the trees as we approached. 

  • Campsite:   MP 3.8, Nabesna Road, Slana, AK - overnight - pullout - gravel pad - pull thru – No services   Rating 4/4 - Got setup at 3:10 pm.  Setup was just put down the jacks and put out the slides.  National Preserve. 

We actually arrived at the pullout at 2:40 pm but did not setup.  We unhooked the pickup and drove back to the Ranger Station to see if we could park the motorhome there in the morning while we drive the 41 mile Nebesna Road.  Yes we can.   

Saw the moose as we were going back to the Ranger Station but it is camera shy and ran off into the trees again.

Our campsite at MP 3.8, Nabesna Road, Slana, AK.

 

 

 

 

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 08-15-2013 

     Thur      Trip Meter:   66.1   

     

 

Driving Directions:   Continued north on AK 1 and in Tok got off for the campground. 

Days Activities:   We departed the campsite at 10:55 am and drove back to the Ranger Station and parked the motorhome.  Departed in the pickup for our drive out Nabesna Road at 11:05 am.   

The 2012 Milepost said the road was paved to MP 4.  We discovered it was paved (seal coated) to MP 15.1.  I asked the ranger, when we returned about it and she said they had been seal coating a few miles every year for at least the past 4 years.  The plan it to seal coat it up to MP 29.   

As we drove out, the Mentasta Mountains was to the north and the Wrangell Mountains to the south.   

At MP 27.8 drove through the Kendesnii Campground – a National Park Campground that is FREE.  There are 10 sites, all back ins, 30 to 50 feet long, and most of them fairly level.  The road was in good condition all the way to the campground and the motorhome would have made it just fine if we had taken it – but didn’t know about the campground or the condition of the road.  The campground overlooks Twin Lakes. 

At MP 28 took pictures of the Sportsman Paradise Lodge.   

At MP 41, at the end of the road, took pictures of the airfield office, some airplanes, and the runway.  The furthest building to the east is the “End of the Road B&B”.  There was a sign posted on it that said Bed and Breakfast but didn’t give the name.  However, in the “Park News”, a newspaper I got at the park office, there was a picture of it and it is the same as the one I took.  The building north of it also had out a sign that said Bed and Breakfast, and no name.  I suspect these are both part of the “Devils Mountain Lodge”. At MP 37.9 stopped and had a lunch of summer sausage, cheese, and crackers.  Stopped on top of a river crossing.  Looks like a new culvert had just been installed.  I took pictures.  

At MP 9.5 saw 2 ptarmigans.  By the time we got stopped one of them had gone into the brush.  Got good pictures of the one that stayed. 

Drove pickup 98.6 miles. 

Got hooked up and on the road to Tok at 2:40 pm. 

The sun was out all during our drive to Nabesna and to Tok but the smoke was so bad that the view of the mountains looked like heavy overcast with sunshine. 

  • Campsite:   Sourdough Campground, Tok, AK – Overnight - site F-15 - gravel pad – long pull thru - 30 amp, water, picnic table, WiFi (FREE-available at the office only) - Good Sam Park - Cost $36.90 per night - Saved $4.10.  Rating 5/4 - Got setup at 4:25 pm.  Have 3G service. 

I roughed out our return trip route from here to Saskatoon and from Saskatoon to Salt Lake City.  Will finalize the one to Saskatoon when we get to Whitehorse.  Will finalize the one to Salt Lake City while we are in Saskatoon. 

Did not unhook the pickup.

A Ptarmigan, the state bird of Alaska.
Our campsite at Sourdough Campground, Tok, AK.

08-16-2013     Fri      Trip Meter:   128.1         

Fueled Coach:   At a Shell in Tok, AK.  $4.499. 

Fueled Pickup:   At a Shell in Tok, AK.  $4.159. 

Driving Directions:  Took AK 2 “Alaska Hwy” east.  At the Canadian border it became YT1. 

Days Activities:   I called Gordon Howell Campground and made reservations for a month starting 2 September.  We are only planning on 3 weeks but 3 weeks is the same rate as a monthly and you get free sewer pump out with the monthly.  Also gives us the opportunity for a few extra days if we want them.  Phone 1-866-855-6655 – conformation #35935. 

We had originally planned to return over the Top of the World Hwy, in mid-September to see the colors, but changed our minds.  We have been to Hyder twice, first time on Sep 12 and the second time on Sep 7th.  Both time we were too late for good bear viewing because the salmon had already stopped running.  We decided to try and get to Hyder by the end of the 3rd week of August to have a better chance at the bears.   

Departed campground at 10:25 am.  Stopped in town and fuel the vehicle then head for Canada.  Back on the road at 11:05 am. 

It was very smoky this morning.  It is hanging over us like a heavy overcast with a very smoky smell.  The sun it out. 

AK 2 was a good road all the way to the border.  Immediately after crossing into Canada the road became very rough for the first mile. 

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