ALASKA   July 8-15, 1997

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50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration


On July 16 we would be married 50 years and on November 7 our good friends, Betty and Bob, would be married 50 years. We all decided to celebrate by going to Alaska on a land tour. None of us had ever been there and were pretty excited about going. It was 2839 air miles to Anchorage from Chicago. The trip was five hours and forty-five minutes long. Glaciers, frozen rivers, and the Wrangler Mountains were visible from the air as we flew over Alaska.

It was 65 degrees when we arrived at 3:15 in Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska. We didn't know what to expect but found, on a short bus tour of the city, that there were no eskimos or igloos but beautiful flowers everywhere. The long daylight hours must be responsible for their abundant growth. After getting settled in our Holiday Inn we went out for dinner. Betty tried reindeer stew, which was only o.k., and we had the halibut.

We then explored Anchorage. In one of the parks a group of "Aleutes" (native Alaskans) were entertaining people by playing music on unusual instruments while an old guy danced. At another park we watched a couple of guys practicing juggling with knives and fire sticks. It had been a long exciting day and even though we were tired, it was hard to go go bed because it was still daylight here.
Wrangler Mts., glaciers, and rivers of frozen ice from the air
Long days make beautiful flowers

"Aleutes" entertained us
Wednesday's agenda was a bus trip to Valdez and we saw many interesting things on the way. The rivers are grey because of glacial "flour". There's lots of road work and we're told it's a never ending job because of being built on permanently frozen subsoil. A stop was made at the Matanuska Glacier to take pictures. A longer stop was at the Worthington Glacier where we were able to walk right up to the glacier. From here we went over Thompson Pass where there are 14,000 and 16,000 peaks but since it was a little cloudy we didn't see much of the mountains. We did see several beautiful waterfalls.

We finally arrived at Valdez, a tiny town of 4,000 people and an annual snowfall of over 300 inches. It's sometimes called the "Switzerland of Alaska" because it's ringed by snow capped mountains but we didn't see them because of the clouds. In 1964 the largest earthquake in North America destroyed the old town and it was relocated 4 miles west to here. There are no stoplights. We checked grocery prices and it would be costly to live here. Bananas are 99¢ a pound; milk $3.69 a gallon; bread $2.59; Doritos $5.89; Coke $10.95; coffee $12.49.

Valdez is the terminus of the Alaska pipeline and has some things pertaining to it on display. One is an open pipe showing a "scraper pig" device used to remove wax deposits from the inside of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline at the Pump Station. There are other pigs, called "Smart Pigs" that are used to collect info about the pipe such as deformities and corrosion. There were lots of fishing boats and a couple of oil tankers in the ice free port here. It was still daylight but time to go to our motel, the Westmark Motel. One thing we've noticed is that the motel rooms have light-blocking drapes at the windows.
Millie Ralph
Ralph and I walked up to Worthington Glacier
A cache to store food above the snow and away from animals
Ralph is sitting in a section of the Alaskan Pipeline on display
A trip to Alaska wouldn't be complete until you saw the icebergs and this is what we did on Thursday. We boarded the Glacier Spirit and went out in 800 feet deep Prince William Sound. We saw lots of bald eagles, sea lions, sea otters, and chunks of ice. When we got close to the Columbia Glacier the captain stopped the boat for an hour turning it slowly so everyone could view the different icebergs. We were impressed and even though it was a cloudy day, bad for photos, we took a roll of film. On the way back we stopped for lunch at Crowley Island. This is a neat little three mile island that the captain and his wife have leased from the Indians just to serve lunch to their guests on boat trips. It was such a pleasant experience we called it a "treasure island". Stan Stephens is the captain and Mary Helen is his wife.
Betty and Millie
Looking at the icebergs
Bob, Betty, Millie, Ralph
Our treasure island
The next day's journey was through beautiful Keystone Canyon where the mountains are so green it looks like a rainforest. We stop at North Pole, a small town, and mail post cards. Next we go to Fairbanks, near the geographical center of Alaska and are treated to a show and outdoor salmon bake at a pioneer theme park called Alaskaland. The salmon is fantastically good. It is such a beautiful night (daylight) we walk to our motel. Fairbanks is noted for being the warmest and driest town in Alaska. Ralph took an outdoor picture at 11:30 PM.

A salmon bake--super delicious

Discovery III holds 900 people

Parka made of dyed furs and animal skins
We took a trip on the sternwheeler Discovery III to an Athabascan Village. Our guide told us about the history and wildlife on the way. We passed Susan Buecher, winner of the Iditerod. She showed us one of her dogs and it's new puppies. We also passed an Indian lady who showed us how to filet a salmon she had caught. We saw many beaver and a dead salmon in the river. At the Athabascan Village the natives told us about their traditional life in Alaska. Some natives are Inuets and some are Aleutes. Most everyone in Alaska has an airplane.

In the afternoon we were taken to a place with a good view of the pipeline and after that to Eldorado Gold Mine where we panned for gold. With help I got gold worth $8.40 and Ralph got $11 worth and we put the flakes in a $10 locket for me. Neat!
The Alaskan Pipeline
Ralph and Millie
Panning for gold
Sunday, we had a pleasant 122 mile trip to Denali National Park on the Alaskan Railroad. Soon after we arrived at 12:30, we went on a rafting trip that was offered for those who wanted to go. So many warnings and cautions were given that we were pretty apprehensive but it turned out to be great fun in spite of the misting rain and the cold. At 5:30 we had reservations at the Cabin Dinner Theater. The ribs were delicious but the show wasn't too good. However, when they asked if anyone had an anniversary, we made the mistake of raising our hands and ended up having to go up on the stage for some razzing. It was a jam packed day and we were tired.

Rode the Alaskan Railroad to Denali Park
Went river rafting on the Nenana River
Monday was a bus tour of Denali Park which was disappointing because of the rain. We saw no wildlife nor were we able to see Mt. McKinley. Then it was time to head back to Anchorage. It's definitely bigger than Fairbanks and looks like any other fairly large city. We had a farewell dinner at the Sourdough restaurant. This was a memorable fun trip with our good friends, Betty and Bob, and we were sorry it was over.