Saturday, July 30, 2011

School Days

We took a tour of "old" Chicken in the afternoon and climbed down a dirt path to get there. This town was at its heyday at the turn of the century during the gold rush. The last gold dredging operations closed in the 1960's and it has depended on tourism since then. The cabins and stores have mostly fallen down, but a few buildings remain. They have sunk due to the permafrost, but give a clue as to how people lived. Our guide showed us the living quarters behind the general store. It has a sod roof that has been covered with a tin roof. Another building had the dining room set for dinner. Must have been the hotel. The last two photos are special to me as I read a book about them. The building housed the school and living quarters for the teacher. A book called "Tisha" tells the story of this gal and how she came to Chicken. She encountered bad weather, bigotry and some nasty people, but she brought an education to the children and found happiness. Seeing the schoolhouse and her room brought it to life for me.
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The Chicken Dance

I'm standing in front of the Chicken Post Office, the first one established in Alaska and decorated with kitschy chicken stuff. They are closed on Saturdays, but this cute fella was there to greet us. Our campground is one of three in "town" and that is all that's there for the new part of Chicken. We had a cafe with a surly crew. The fish tacos were excellent and they had freshly made apple pie that was too hot to cut. We waited and it was worth it. Activities included gold panning in the cold river and browsing in the gift shop. The other two campgrounds also have cafes and gift shops and there is a tiny strip with a bakery and a few other stores. All are log cabins and very rustic. The year round population is about 12 with a few more summer workers. It is truly a place to relax and read a book if the weather cooperates. And, you have to like gravel and dust. At one time there was lots of gold here and the town boasted 400 people. I'll do another blog with photos of the old town that is now abandoned.

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Follow the Yellow Brick Road

The lonely road to Chicken. 79 miles of beauty and potholes and bumps. Along the way we saw a beautiful moth and some foxtail growing. Luckily it is a sunny day and that makes the ride more pleasant. There is nothing between Tok and Chicken except for a few pull outs to enjoy the scenery. The bumps and gravel patches make the trip take almost three hours.

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Friday, July 29, 2011


Time to leave beautiful Valdez and start heading back to civilization. This is always the point where we realize that the trip will end soon and this will all be a wonderful memory. We retracd our route back to Tok as there is only one road between there and Valdez and passed the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls. Along the way we saw a mommy and baby moose running along the road. Back at Tok we stayed at the same campground - Sourdough. They have dinner and entertainment every night and tonight we had karaoke. I sang Crazy with Deb from our group and also Twist and Shout with two others. Jeff joined Deb and Felicity in I Want to Hold Your Hand and he also sang Sweet Caroline. We did a duet of I've Got You Babe and it was a fun night.
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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Baby Face

More sea otters sitting on ice bergs in front of Columbia Glacier. This is the closest I've ever gotten to this glacier and it is amazing. It is so high and wide, but no calving. It was very cold as we approached and I was bundled up against the elements. Later we saw a beach "littered" with hundreds of Steller Sea Lions and, of course, a whale's tail. The whale was totally uncooperative and never surfaced or showed more than the tail. We did see lots of puffins, murres, gulls and bald eagles.
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Jamaica Farewell

I'm off on an all day boat cruise in Prince William Sound. Jeff opted not to go and came to see us off. He's sitting on the side of the harbor as we exit amid some magnificent scenery. The water was as smooth as ice and in photo #3 we could see five cirque (hanging) glaciers at once. Some furry seat otters check us out as we float by. The ship was comfortable and the weather was perfect.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Teddy Bears Picnic

Another trip to Dayville Road after dinner and we saw the same bear as last night. He has a white spot on his neck so easy to identify. As we drove up to the dam area we saw some cars pulled over. Sure enough the young bear was in the water and then strolled along the rocks towards us. Everyone was cautious and kept moving back as the grizzly approached. He stayed on the rocks and passed us and then came up to the road. He actually strolled down the middle of the road and walked up to a car. He finally crossed onto the grass and then took off into the woods. We continued on to see more seal lions, otters, eagles, gulls and salmon. It is such an amazing place and so beautiful. I feel so lucky to spend a few days here.

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

A free day in Valdez and sunshine and animals make it very special. This is an incredibly beautiful place and we are surrounded by water and mountains. I took a morning walk along the harbor and saw this gull eating a fish head. It almost looks like they are having a conversation. Some gorgeous scenery and an afternoon ride to Dayville Road to look for wildlife. we saw some eagles close up and more Steller Sea Lions bobbing. As usual the gulls swim close to the seal lions and otters and wait for them to catch fish and discard the scraps. These two are having a tete a tete.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bear Necessities

Lions and tigers and bear - oh my! Tonight was rainy and the fun was all at the fish weir. There were so many salmon splashing around in the high tide and many more critters there ready to eat them. Hundreds of gulls were swimming around while otters and sea lions were plentiful. There were six sea lions near us feasting on the salmon and bobbing in the water. Several large bulls had entourages of gulls surrounding them waiting for scraps. A lone eagle stood on the rocks and quietly ate his fill of salmon while a few more eagles looked down from the trees across the street. The real excitement came when a young grizzly walked out of the woods, crossed the street and made his way onto the rocks lining the shore. Several guys fishing gave him a wide berth and all the tourists went running to snap pictures. We all kept a safe distance, but the bear was only interested in the fish. He walked along the rocks and finally grabbed a salmon. He ran up the dock, across the street and into the woods. It was quite an adventure. My photos are blurry as the lighting wasn't good, but want to share them anyway. I hope to have another chance tomorrow night to see this drama again.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Just a Spoonful of Sugar...

Here's a fish tale.... Top photo the gull in the center chomps down on an entire salmon. Photo #2 shows just the tail sticking out of his mouth while he flaps his wings in delight. Photo #3 just a bit of the tail fin still shows. Last photo is another gull grabbing up a salmon. You can watch this for hours although it is very sad for the salmon. Makes you want to be a vegan.

Splish, Splash

We pulled into the campground in Valdez and went out to look at salmon and otters. Jeff has a favorite place here on Dayville Road. It is a large bay and one section has been dammed and has a fish ladder and hatchery. The fish need to enter the ladder and climb to the top to enter the hatchery and continue their trek to their spawning ground. It is amazing to see them swim against the strong current in their quest. In the third photo are hundreds of pink salmon in a holding tank. Meanwhile there is drama at the entrance to the fish ladder. Hundred of gulls congregate to fish as well as eagles and otters. The top photo shows an eagle with a crow and several gulls. Lots of fish for everyone to share. Photo #2 is a Bonaparte's Gull making a little splash. The last photo is why Jeff comes here - an otter eating a salmon while a gull waits for the leftovers.

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