Just look at what AK Fam found yesterday aboard a Stan Stephens Glacier and Wildlife Cruise! An entire whale was attached to that tail, and he/she was one big creature cruising around the chilly waters of Prince William Sound. This is what Alaska family travel is all about – scenes like this. Don’t you love it?
We’re still bopping around Valdez after a wonderful July 4th celebratation in this community of around 4,000. Folks here have a lot to celebrate with respect to independence; a devastating earthquake in 1964 that caused a giant wave to crash over their entire town; an oil spill in 1989 that destroyed pristine land and altered relationships between oil companies and residents forever – Valdez residents are a determined lot, and that spirit continues in everything they do. Whether fishing on their boats or skiing down the high mountain glaciers, people here love life and everything attached to it, and we’ve managed to catch a little of that energy, ourselves.
The fun continues this weekend with a continuation of the 4th of July Pink Salmon Festival; today is a kite festival and Saturday begins the pink salmon fishing, catching, and eating as 12 celebrity chefs compete in the Salmon Cookoff all afternoon. I’m ready to do my ultimate Alaskan duty as a judge for this event, and have been sneaking peeks at potential recipes these master salmon-ers might dish out. AK Kid will be competing in the Salmon Dash, carrying one of the slippery suckers, and AK Dad will no doubt be manning the camera, laughing all the way. Stay tuned, this will for sure be funny. Traveling to Valdez? The Alaska Marine Highway ferry leaves at 1:45 p.m. from Whittier and arrives in Valdez around 7:30 p.m. Why not make the loop and drive back home along the stunning Richardson Highway and Thompson Pass? We’re headed that way today for a little hiking and exploring, especially the waterfalls plunging from cliffs above the road.
Day cruising out of Valdez is best experienced with a pro; and Stan Stephens Glacier and Wildlife Cruises are simply that. Offering two tours, the 6-hour Columbia Glacier tour and the 9-hour Meares Glacier tour, guests will be thrilled with excellent narration, abundant wildlife, and oh-so many chunks of ice floating around and creating a popping, bobbing seascape. We took the Meares Glacier trip yesterday, feeling that AK Kid had finally reached the point where 9 hours of boat time wouldn’t be too much, and we were right. Thanks to a crew who knew how to keep a child engaged with stories and books, an excellent meal service featuring both lunch and a hearty soup snack, and pod after pod of whales diving around the sound, it was a fantastic day. I also spied a number of Alaska TourSaver coupon books making their way across the check-in counter, since Stan Stephens and family have participated in this program for years – a great way to travel 2-for-1.
We’re staying at the Mountain Sky Hotel; a property undergoing a pretty extensive renovation after years of neglect from the former owners. More later on their mission to serve all ages and stages, but we’re pretty happy at the location, right downtown and within easy walking distance to just about everything, including our favorite restaurant, the Harbor Cafe.
Valdez claims “Even Mother Nature Has Favorites,” and honestly, looking out my window this morning at the snowy peaks above the city and the placid water of Valdez Harbor, today I’m inclined to agree. But with one addition; when you’re here, you become a favorite, too.
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