This was supposed to be a short flight, less than an hour. Remember that song about a 'three hour tour'? Here's the plane. It was actually bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside. Era only flies inside Alaska and that's important because you don't have to go through security to get on their planes. After years of succumbing to searches I found this to be unnerving.
We took off around 7:30 AM and flew over dense clouds. I took photos but they look a lot like the clouds from yesterday's posts. We got to where Valdez was supposed to be (who could tell?) and started descending into the clouds. Thick clouds that did not get any thinner as we got lower.
Scott, a nice man sitting next to me, was very calm and assured me that this was normal and if it was dangerous the pilot would pull up – and about that time he did. Quickly. When we got back above the clouds I could see snow covered mountain tops in the near distance. We circled 25 minutes and tried it again (by that time I was ready to forget it.) The fog was still too dense and we flew back to Anchorage.
After the 2nd attempt Scott (who is a private pilot with his own plane) said he doesn't fly into Valdez because fog is common. He also mentioned that the control tower at the Valdez airport is remotely controlled – there wasn't an actual person in there to talk us in. They have ground crew in Valdez but that's it. Oh my.
After some discussion with seasoned Alaskan travelers and after consulting the weather I decided that it might be better to drive the 6 hours rather than hope the fog cleared enough to land later in the day (which it did). Sheila, my contact at the Valdez Quilt Festival, agreed so I rented a car and took off.
The leaves are turning in Alaska and the scenery was beautiful! I stopped often to take photos (the drive back should be faster). This is my little car next to the elk crossing sign. If you look closely you may notice that the sign has been shot. It's a problem here – most of the signs I saw had been shot. I tried not to think about who might actively be shooting signs while I was on the road.
It was overcast and a bit rainy all day.
The drive was winding enough to keep my attention.
There are a lot of rivers and streams here. And fishermen – lots and lots of fishermen. And hunters are out because it's hunting season too. They tell me the elk and moose stay off the road during hunting season which is good. I would like to know how they know now is when to hide.
The Alaska pipeline (is there more than one?) ran near the road as I got closer to Valdez.
And there were glaciers! The next photo is more about where the glacier isn't. I think that ice covered the rough black ground in front of the ice not that long ago. It looks newly uncovered to my untrained eye.
This glacier with the split in the middle is about 30 miles outside of Valdez.
I drove in on the marked road and could have walked up close (at my own risk on unstable ground according to the signs) but it was late. I did go far enough that I ran into a couple who were nice enough to take my picture! It was blowing as you can see by my hair sticking up.
I can tell you that Alaska is BIG. Bigger than Texas, although I believe it has a much smaller population. It struck me that if I lived here I would think of nature differently. Nature is in your face here. It is easy to feel both insignificant and magnificent at the same time when you breath this air.