Valdez – the (in)famous port town in the Prince William Sound. In 1989 the Exxon Valdez oil tanker left the port of Valdez and soon became the vessel involved of the largest oil spill in US history (until the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010). That incident, its environmental impact and the clean-up effort are still probably the first things that come to mind for most people when the name of Valdez is mentioned. Last week we spent 4 days in Valdez and were rewarded with some of the most spectacular scenery of our trip to date, and some of the best wildlife viewing experiences so far. Oh, and we also caught some more fish.
Valdez is a natural harbor, nestled between some of the highest coastal peaks in the world (up to 7000 feet). The drive into Valdez along the Richardson highway is beautiful, even if the road surface leaves a lot to be desired. There are some great hikes around the area starting within the town, or very near to the town. We decided to take a hike up the Mineral Creek Trail and must have viewed at least 10 waterfalls in the 4 mile round trip. Also, along the way, we managed to pick about a pound of salmon berries – a favorite food of the local brown bears, so we kept our eyes open for bears.
Guess what? We went fishing again. This time for pink salmon, near the fish hatchery. Both Dylan and Rhys managed to catch a decent sized salmon and I hooked one so big, that my line snapped. No, really, it was huge. Our fridge and freezer are now so full of fish I’ve had to limit how much the boys are allowed to catch. Also, to make matters worse, Anwen also wants to fish.
We weren’t the only ones taking advantage of the pink salmon coming in to spawn. Right next to the hatchery we watched sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters and sea gulls all feasting on the abundant fish. I even managed to photograph many of these predators on scavengers catching and eating the salmon (check out one or two of the photographs).
After leaving Valdez, we had a 700 mile drive back to Haines. Unfortunately, that meant driving back along the worst part of the Alaska Hwy again. It took us 3 days to complete the journey and it was not something I really wanted to do, but, on the bright side, we were treated to some great bear sightings along the Haines Hwy as we descended into Haines.
More on Haines (and our “Exit Alaska” plans) in the next post.