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July 12, 2011 / Jim Fenton

Alaska Day 5: Kennecott to Valdez

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in Alaska.  To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

Root Glacier

Standing on the Root Glacier

We awoke to a beautiful morning. Our flight out wasn’t until the afternoon, so we had breakfast, checked out of the hotel, and took the Root Glacier Trail to the tip of the Root Glacier, about 2 miles away. The trail started out as a tractor road but eventually narrowed to a well-maintained trail. The scenery was excellent, although we didn’t see any wildlife, perhaps due to the frequent hiker traffic. We crossed a couple of streams (with footbridges, fortunately) and then descended to the glacier and stepped over onto it. We were on the “dirty” portion of the glacier, which was a good thing because we didn’t have crampons and the grit provided at least modest traction. We were careful not to venture out too far, especially since one of the other guests at the Lodge had sprained his ankle very badly the day before.

Kennicott and Root Glaciers

Last view of the Kennicott and Root Glaciers

The return flight, on the same airplane but now with a pilot named Kelly, was smooth and with considerably more visibility than the trip to McCarthy, even though it was not as clear as it had been earlier in the day.  We spent less time flightseeing on this flight, but there was still a great deal to see.

The drive to Valdez down the Richardson Highway, as many of the locals had said, was very scenic. As we approached the Chugach Mountains, we saw a dark shape beside the road, which turned out to be a moose — the first significant wild animal we have seen. The Chugach Mountains were also very impressive, as was the trip through the Thompson Pass, apparently one of the snowiest places in Alaska. There were many attractive waterfalls along the way, but we were anxious to get to Valdez and decided to stop on the return trip instead.

Valdez, the southern terminus of the Alaska Pipeline, was somewhat as expected. Many workers, both from the pipeline and the fishing industry, were in evidence, and the town (and the Best Western, where we stayed) had a mix of tourists and people who were there to work.

The restaurant we chose for dinner, supposedly one of the better ones in town, wasn’t particularly good. We will hope for a better restaurant tomorrow.

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