Fairbanks to Valdez
So, we left Fairbanks on the 18th and headed south. Shortly after the departure was a red-letter event: our first moose sighting. The moose was simply hanging out in a pond at the road side. This caused traffic chaos: the tourist half of the traffic screeched to a halt and whipped cameras out, and the local half made a point of trying to drive through as normal at 55 mph. This didn't bother the moose at all, but still, if I were 1,000lbs or more in weight I'd be pretty sanguine too.
There isn't a great deal else to describe about this trip. The scenery was as beautiful as it always is. We're in danger of being blase about this, but it's hard to describe in a way that might be interesting to others. Sometimes we pass green boggy plains of muskeg and bright green vegetation, other times it's timeless forests of spruce and hemlock towering over us. Almost invariably snow capped mountains and occasional glaciers loom in the background.
One thing that was unusual about the scenery on this trip was the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. It's about 850 miles long, and about half is buried. The other half passes through areas where the permafrost starts a few feet below ground and descends in some cases hundreds of feet further. You can't risk burying the pipeline here, because once the heat of the oil melts the permafrost everything gets very unstable. So the thing rides on stilts and suspension bridges for hundreds of miles alongside the highway. All very impressive.
Another effect of the permafrost is occasional road subsidence, where once again a little melting causes undulations in the road. These are often labelled by cunning road signs that say "BUMP". In some cases where things have deteriorated a lot, the sign might say "BUMPS" instead.
Other events on this trip: spied a herd of bison and took in (yet) another
glacier. I've given up raving about the beauty of these, so suffice to
say there's another picture here and that the Worthington Glacier is the
first one that I actually got to chip a piece off with Leatherman.
(click thumbnails for a larger picture) |
Moose hanging out at the side of the Richardson Highway
Trans-Alaska pipeline crossing the Tanana River