First Time in Valdez

I covered the first 3/4 of the road to Valdez in my previous post First Time Walking on a Glacier so I won’t cover the first part of the journey again, but I will say that every drive is different depending on the light and the clouds and how much water has melted.  The last 40 miles of the trip which was all new territory was absolutely amazing and definitely proved that this Highway deserves its designation as one of the most beautiful in America.  It was cloudy going down and over Thompson Pass, but it was clear that the views on a clear day would be spectacular.  Along with just seeing Valdez we also had a mission, to visit the campgrounds in the area and see which one would be best to stay at for my birthday.  Kellie, Bill, Jo, and Ben will all be here and since we have booked a Glacier cruise in Valdez for one of the four days we are taking off, we all thought it would be best to stay close to Valdez.  Plus I figure by that point I will want a change of scenery, so I had a list of campgrounds to check out along the way.  

The first one is called Blueberry Lake and is a first come, first serve dry campground that costs $15 a night.  The sits were well spaced and the views would be spectacular, but they only had a few sites that would fit our and Bill/Kelly’s rig.  Since it was first-come, first-serve we regretfully had to pass but I would absolutely recommend staying here if you are passing through the area and it has space.  It is buggy though because of the dense foliage so definitely come prepared. 

The views from Thompson Pass

The views from Thompson Pass

Blueberry lake campsite

Blueberry lake campsite

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Blueberry Lake

Next up was Keystone Pass which I was really looking forward to.  I had been told that two major waterfalls were right off the road, but no description prepared me for the sheer majesty of these falls.  I absolutely loved both of them and particularly enjoyed that there was plenty of parking and unlike most major falls you could walk right up to them.  Phenomenal!!

The Keystone Canyon was beautiful even without the falls

The Keystone Canyon was beautiful even without the falls.  See the water running alongside on the left

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Bridal Veil stood over 300 feet tall

Bridal Veil stood over 300 feet tall and was stunning

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You can see why it's got its name

You can see why it’s got its name

Then right down the road was Horsetail Falls.  It was hard to pick a favorite, but I think I liked Horsetail better because you could climb the rocks and get “inside” the falls.

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It was hard to tear ourselves away, but I knew we had to drive back through the pass to get home so next stop was Allison’s Point. To get to the campground we turned onto Dayville Road prior to reaching Valdez.  Whether or not you are going to the campground I definitely recommend the drive as this is a major fish hatchery area and wildlife abounds.  We didn’t see any bears but saw an eagle with it’s nest in a tree and two eagles down on a log in the bay.  We spent lots of time getting pictures and Lee walked down on the bay and got VERY close to the two eagles getting some amazing shots.

My shot of the eagle flying to its nest

My shot of the eagle flying to its nest

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The nest ...couldn't see any babies but could hear them

The nest …couldn’t see any babies but could hear them

The eagle stayed on watch and was not happy we were down below

Lee’s shot of the eagle on watch.

The bay

The bay

My shot from the road was ok

My shot from the road was ok

Lee's from the ground was better

Lee’s from the ground was better

But Lee's was amaing

And this one was fantastic!!

The bay even without the eagles was beautiful and it’s a shame the campground is little more a pull off on the road.  The views from the campground weren’t that great either although you could walk down to the water and see some amazing views.

Allison's Point

Allison’s Point “campground”

The walk to the bay

The walk to the bay

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If the sites would have been on the ocean proper I couldn’t have resisted, but we still thought we could do better.  I was getting hungry though so we went straight to Valdez and ate at a local place called the Alaska Halibut House. It has been around for some time and at $21 for a full halibut basket (4 pieces of fish and some fries) the prices were pretty steep.  The fish was local, and tasted ok plus my half order price of $11.75 was way more reasonable, still I certainly wasn’t blown away.

Alaska Halibut House

Alaska Halibut House

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This was the $21 dollar portion size

The dock was pretty though and we went to a fantastic gift shop called Orca Bay Gifts.  The place was crammed full of native alaskan made items and Lee was very patient as I went and looked at every single thing.  They also had a small army surplus section in the back which kept Lee entertained and we ended up buying a couple of things for the beet harvest.

The view from the docks

The view from the docks

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Amphiteater

Amphitheater at the docks

Civic Center

Civic Center

Marmots living in the rocks by the dock were very cool

Marmots living in the rocks by the dock were very cool

The babies

The babies

Lee's pic

Lee’s pic

Ferry Station

Ferry Station

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Orca Bay

Orca Bay

The town was so beautiful with mountains and or water on all sides but unfortunately we didn’t much care for the town itself.  I was really looking forward to visiting the Safeway and found it to be dirty and cramped with some empty shelves (they were out of milk) and rude staff.  Plus the prices were no better than the small IGA we have in our town so definitely grocery runs to Valdez are off the table.  The folks at the Halibut House weren’t that nice, the in town campgrounds were cramped little parking lots and really the whole town (except for that one gift shop) was a serious disappointment.  So we headed back out of town and stopped out our last campground on the way, Glacier Campground. Glacier Campground is a military campground that is also open to the public and they had some sites with electric ($30 for 30 amp and $50 for 50 amp) and some older well wooded dry sites.  It wasn’t bad by any stretch and was out of town so we thought this might be a good choice.

Safeway in Valdez

Safeway in Valdez

One of the group camping sites was really cool

One of the day use areas was really cool and had a little waterfall.

After getting some information to take back to the group (it’s first come, first serve), we continued down the road because there was a sign that said Valdez Glacier.  Wow amd I glad we did, because stumbled across an amazing site.  There is a lake that you can kayak on and pieces of glacier in the water that you can walk right up to. So, so cool and completely unexpected.  Plus there is a large parking lot back there and no signs that say no overnight camping so we may try some boondocking back there if the group is up for it.

What we saw at the end of the road!

What we saw at the end of the road!

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This piece had a huge rock in hit. For scale it was about the size of a car tire

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Lee was fascinated by how the pieces of crystallized ice fit together like a puzzle

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I wanted to walk on it

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Success!!

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You could see the water flowing under the ice

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Can’t wait to do some kayaking

The professional outfit that was there had our exact same Sea Eagle

The professional outfit that was there had our exact same Sea Eagle

They even had a huge firepit. This spot was awesome

They even had a huge fire pit. This spot was awesome

Then we stopped in Old Valdez which is where the town stood prior to being completely destroyed by the Good Friday Tsunami of 1964.  It was amazing how the land was taken over in such a short period of time.  They had signs showing where the old buildings were and the views were once again spectacular.

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Feeling excited we got to drive through Keystone Canyon again and this time we stopped at a tunnel in the rocks that was never finished because of a gun battle.  Lee was very excited, but I refused to go all the way in.  Instead I wandered down to another great waterfall and we sat on a rock chair overlooking to river and did some smooching.  It was a great way to end a wonderful day and whatever you do if you visit Alaska, I definitely recommend the road to Valdez if not Valdez itself.

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the “little” waterfall that didn’t even have a name

The "little" waterfall that didn't even have a name

Lee was fascinated by the US Geological Survey camera

Cool rock chair someone built

Cool rock chair someone built

The river view

The river view.

 

 


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8 thoughts on “First Time in Valdez

  1. Barb and I really enjoyed that area, you will really like the cruise! We boondocked at the end of airport road right by the lake. We also spent a night on the right hand side just before you get to the end where there is a gravel lot. There were a couple rigs there with us and the police drove by a couple times so it must be all right.

  2. WOW…what a day!!! Love the eagle photos and the waterfalls. You sure packed a lot of beauty into one day. The Rock Chair made me smile;o)) Now can’t wait to see all you discover when you spend more time during your Birthday visit!!! Keep having fun…we are watching and enjoying your adventure!!

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