peaceful night at the Chitina airstrip, we awoke to the sound of a plane
landing. Tim went outside and greeted
Bill, our pilot from the previous day.
All was quite again as the plane took off to McCarthy with a full load
and I had arrived at the airstrip, we noticed several fish wheels in the Copper
River, so we walked down to take a look.
I had never seen one up close, except for the traditional one at the
visitor center at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Every summer Alaska residents may obtain
permits to operate fish wheels, and the Copper River is a prime location to see
them in action. Fish wheels and dip netting
are subsistence programs to help people feed their families. No salmon were snared in the wheel while we
were there, but the process was interesting to watch.
|Traditional and Contemporary Fish Wheels|
was a drive to the small town of Chitina, where we stopped at the National Park
ranger station. Here we had the most
interesting chat with Ranger Earl. Earl
has lived in the area for over 30 years and has some amazing stories that he
can tell. He witnessed the creation of
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in 1980 and the intense opposition on the part
of local residents who felt their lifestyle was being taken away from them. Things have cooled since then, and Alaskans
still retain ownership of their private property in the park. Unlike older national parks in the Lower 48,
these properties will always remain in private hands unless the owners choose
to sell to the National Park Service.
Earl is a great resource for the National Park Service, and it was a privilege
to spend time with him.
stop was the Hotel Chitina, where we had the second best meal since leaving
Haines. I had been a bit hesitant to
order the salmon cakes, but I’m glad I did.
They were delicious.
we had no plans to drive the McCarthy Road from Chitina to McCarthy, we did
want to cross the bridge over the Copper River to see if any fishermen were
still there. The riverbank was still
quite active, and we saw more fish wheels, as well as people using dip
nets. I’m really glad we waited until
Sunday to go down there, however. The
rest of the weekend was said to be nuts!
|More Fish Wheels on the Copper River|
loved our time in Chitina, McCarthy and Kennecott, and I feel that we were able
to experience a bit more of the “real” Alaska.
We encountered almost no tourists from outside the state, and this was certainly
different than our time in Southeast Alaska.
originally decided to spend one more night in the area, possibly at Kenny Lake,
before making our way to Valdez. As we
were driving back on the Edgerton Road, I mentioned to Tim that we might want
to think about driving to Valdez that day.
I’m always open to changing my mind, but Tim thinks I’m nuts. Why the sudden change? The weather was beautiful, we would have a
guaranteed view of the gorgeous scenery along the way and it was still early in
the afternoon. After a bit of
hesitation, he agreed and we were off.
a lot of scenic highways in Alaska, but the Richardson Highway has to be one of
the prettiest. The road took us through
the Chugach Mountains, next to deep blue lakes and up close to the Worthington
Glacier before cresting at Thompson Pass.
We caught glimpses of the trans-Alaska pipeline and made our way through
Keystone Canyon where we saw cascading waterfalls before arriving in
Valdez. We could not have asked for more
perfect weather for making this drive.
|Traveling the Richardson Highway to Valdez|
|Following the Tonsina River|
|Spotting Worthington Glacier above the Highway|
|Lining Up to Enjoy the View of Worthington Glacier|
|Descending from Thompson Pass|
|Passing by Blueberry Lake|
|Passing through Keystone Canyon|
|Admiring Bridal Veil Falls|
an interesting town that has been struck by tragedy on at least two
occasions. The 1964 earthquake decimated
the town and forced it to be relocated four miles away, while the Exxon Valdez
oil spill created an environmental disaster in the adjacent waters of Prince
William Sound. Valdez is a pleasant town
in a beautiful setting, and it’s especially nice when the sun is out. That doesn’t happen too often, so we were
grateful for a sunny day to explore the town.
along the harbor, watched a boat as it was being lifted out of the water and had
a delicious salmon roll at The Roadside Potatohead. We drove out to Allison Point where we observed
fishermen reeling in large salmon and spent an hour or so at the very
informative Valdez Museum.
|Enjoying a Walk along the Beautiful Small Boat Harbor|
|Getting a Lift|
|Fishing Near Allison Point|
as we enjoyed spending time in town, what we really craved was some downtime. We had been moving every night since leaving
Haines, and we were growing weary. After
one night at the very-crowded Eagle’s Rest RV Park, we decided to check out a
possible boondock location. Several
years ago I had read about a scenic spot at Robe Lake just outside of town, and
that’s where we went. It was everything
we were looking for.
|From This . . .|
|To This! (And, It's Free!)|
that our spot on Robe Lake was just about perfect is an understatement. The lake is beautiful, it is surrounded by
mountains, and it has a solid Verizon 3G signal. We pulled in so I would have a panoramic view
of the lake from my front seat, and we decided to stay for at least three
nights. Rain was in the forecast, but we
was not exactly quiet during the day and early evening, but that actually
turned out to be ok. Two seaplanes were
tied up on the lake, and I loved watching them take off and land. Kayakers and a few boaters came by to enjoy
time on the lake, and it was also fun to watch them. A truck camper pulled in each night, and we shared
tips with the couple from Belgium.
|Different Moods at Robe Lake - Sunny|
|Foggy and Rainy|
|A Bit Cloudy|
|Our View Included the Other End of the Lake, Which Was Just as Gorgeous|
I made a
point of talking with many of the people who stopped by, all of whom were Alaskans. One gentleman has lived in Valdez for 30+
years and operates the orange aquatic weed cutting machine that is parked in the
lake. Two pilots were here to spot fish
for a group of commercial fishermen, while several others were in town to work
for the oil company. Families from
Fairbanks were here for a vacation. All
had a story to tell, and we learned quite a bit about the various lifestyles of
this amazing state.
leave Robe Lake for two days. Our
respite here was just what the doctor ordered.
We’re ready now to do a bit more sightseeing, and next up is a glacier
and wildlife cruise in Prince William Sound.
It should be fun.
This sounds like the perfect way to see Alaska...seeing the nontourist areas and meeting locals! I would imagine a visit to Alaska could be exhausting. It would be hard to let time go by without touring but we all need to recharge in order to enjoy the rest of our visit. This looked like a beautiful spot to just enjoy the beauty of the area:) I enjoyed learning about the fish wheels. Thanks for sharing!ReplyDelete
Although we love meeting fellow RVers on the road, especially in Alaska, we have really enjoyed talking with the locals to get a different perspective on life here. We do find that taking a break is essential for avoiding burnout. I'd hate to come all this way and burn out before the summer is over!Delete
Each place is more beautiful than the last! Enjoyed learning about the fish wheels but I must say that next time I eat salmon, I'll think of the fish wheels. :)ReplyDelete
After the next post, you may think about nets instead!Delete
Even with the fog your site on the lake was beautiful ... I can see why you didn't leave for two days. We had our first encounter with a fish wheel when we did the Riverboat Discovery Tour in Fairbanks ... they had a working wheel that the guide described as we watched it run.ReplyDelete
That site was very special, and it was very hard to tear ourselves away from it. The fish wheels were so interesting. I'd love to see one actually catch a fish. The ones we saw up close came up empty!Delete
Robe Lake was absolutely beautiful - I wish we could have stayed there. Must have been a wonderful and relaxing two days!ReplyDelete
Robe Lake was one of the prettiest places we've camped, and it was a wonderful place to relax.Delete