Thursday, August 12, 2004 –
After checking out of our hotel, we packed up the Durango and drove north back on Highway 1 and later interstate A-1 through Anchorage. North of Anchorage the A-1 becomes the Glenn Highway along the drive to Palmer. We stopped in Palmer, home of the Alaska State Fair. Therefore it wasn’t surprising to see U-Pick it vegetable farms in the fertile valley. The town was beautiful resting along the shore of the Matanuska River and to the north of the Chugach Mountains. Pioneer Peak dramatically rises 6,000 feet to the south.
Then we drove the Glenn Highway toward Glennallen. About halfway between Palmer and Glennallen, we stopped for lunch at the Sheep Mountain Lodge. We had lamb, which was really good. Outside, the view of the mountains was spectacular. As we kept driving we passed a reindeer farm … only in Alaska!
After riding through GlennAllen, we headed south on Highway 4, the Richardson Highway – considered the most beautiful drive in America. It certainly lived up to its billing we drove over passes and past unnamed peaks that would have been national parks in the Lower 48. We topped Thompson Pass, a 2,805 foot-high gap in the Chugach Mountains which is the snowiest place in Alaska averaging more than 551.5 inches per year! We saw a number of waterfalls and glaciers next to the highway including Worthington Glacier, one of the last remaining glaciers accessible by road in the U.S. We even talked Mom into walking with us on boardwalks out to the tip of the glacier.
That evening we arrived in Valdez, the snowiest city in the U.S., with more than 300 inches per year. The city sits at the end of a deep fjord on Prince William Sound surrounded by the beautiful and snowy Chugach Mountains. It rose to importance as the northernmost port in North America that is ice-free all year.
We had dinner at Italian restaurant called Mike’s Ristorant in Valdez. We all slept well that night because we were beat from the long drive!