Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Day 24 – Canada/Alaska: Valdez… pronounced ‘Valdeeeez.’

This is what we woke up to this morning. The Silver Muse was still making her way towards the docks at Valdez. The air was fairly cold but it was all utterly serene.

This was the view from our balcony once we docked. It looked almost like someone could drive right on up to the ship!

At breakfast, I was talking to a lovely American couple that we met on the first day. She was saying that they have a helicopter flight to the glacier booked for 10 AM, but the clouds look to be too low.

“My husband Hank’s a pilot. He said that even if they say it’s ok to fly, we’re absolutely not going. It’s a shame because it was so expensive.”

I was so glad I chose to do mine earlier in Juneau! Those clouds look beautiful and mysterious, but not so wonderful when you want to fly.

We were loaded onto a full-sized coach and off we went. We drove out of downtown Valdez pretty quickly, though Faith, our guide, informed us that there used to be an old town and a new one.

“The old town was set a little ways out of New Valsez,” she said. “It was destroyed by a 9.1 Richter earthquake on Good Friday in 1964. The epicentre was only 40 miles from here.”

That must have been awful. The people were given 3 years by the government to move their homes onto the new site. Two wealthy families in the town gave people land in the new town so that they could afford to move.

The water in this place is everywhere.

We turned down the road that would have led to the old town of Valdez. Our tour guide kept telling us where things used to be, which struck me as a bit odd. She said she’d been here for 13 years, so it wasn’t as if she had a personal memory of the old bank… the hotel… etc.

Everything was just reclaimed forest land.

Then she said something which blew my mind. She talked about the Exxon-Valdez accident – you know… that oil spill that killed hundreds of thousands of birds and animals and shocked the entire world?

I hadn’t put the two together in my mind, since until last night I’d not been pronouncing it as “Valdeez”.

See those two ships? They’re always there, ready to start a clean-up in case it ever happens again. They have ships like this positioned all around where the oil tankers sail.

 If you look at the mountainside you’ll see a little series almost like a long dotted line with white on the top. That’s part of the tank farm that is Alyeska, which is the terminus for the Trans-Alaska pipeline.

And that is where the Exxon Valdez left, from the terminus, on Good Friday February 28 1989. She left the port and ran aground on the reef just outside. 

“So we are known for the pipeline, we are known for being settled by prospectors, we’re known for the Exxon-Valdez and we’re also known for the 1964 earthquake.”

Weirdly, the earthquake also happened on Good Friday.

This was so exciting. A guy sitting at the front of the bus saw a bear racing across a field. It was running full pelt. He yelled out and the front part of the bus was able to see it running across the road.

I taught half the bus how to air drop (thanks, Antarctica pals!) when I sent everyone the crappy photos I was able to take. Then, half an hour later, I was air dropped this video.

A thing I like about travelling in Canada and Alaska is that so many highways run beside rivers.

I couldn’t believe the height of the snow beside the road. This was at my eye-level in the coach!

As we got further into the pass, we started driving into cloud. I was reminded of the day in Ireland when we were driving around trying to see the Ring of Kerry through all of the rain.

I felt for my American friend and her lost helicopter ride.

Here is the glacier.

It’s tucked back a bit behind the foothills. After yesterday’s viewing, it was a bit of an anticlimax. I dutifully took a few photos, then turned around and saw this:

Look at how much snow is lying on this pass.

IT’S SUMMER. This place gets ridiculous amounts of snow every year. It’s the snowiest town in Alaska. The record for snowfall in a single day is 5’8″/176cms – which is taller than I am! In 1989/90, they had an incredible 46 feet/1,402 cms of snow.

I cannot ever conceive of living here. It takes a special breed of person.

Remember yesterday when I showed you the poles that were set up on either side of the road in Haines, to guide the snow ploughs?

These things tower over the bus. They have a reflective strip at the top so that people driving in the Pass during winter can still find the road.

“Everyone living in these parts has a white-knuckle story of driving through here in winter,” said Faith.

We drove for a little while longer, then got off at the Pass. It was stunning.

The first thing I noticed was this cute little caravan parked at the edge.

The views went on and on.

“If any of you want to come here in the summer,” Faith said, “I’ll happily hike with you all the way down to the bottom of the pass. with the third-graders”

That’s a hard no from me.

I air-dropped this one to the woman I caught taking a photo. I really like this one.

After a little while, we hit the road again.

Greenery started to appear as we went lower.

We were heading to a place on the highway that has lots of waterfalls. We passed them on the way up, but it’s easier to park when you’re driving on this side of the road.

This video is worth listening to, just to hear Faith talking about what the locals do here at Bridal Falls when the waterfalls freeze in the winter.

And here is Horsetail Falls, just 2 minutes down the road.

This shot was taken by a guy who was showing me hw much better his phone was at taking pictures than mine was.

I think I’ll be getting a new phone soon and giving my current one to Mum. Her phone is so ancient that it’s still on 3G, which is getting cancelled in September.

I walked towards the road to take this shot. Scared myself silly when a car shot by me out of nowhere.

Honestly – the North Americans, the Chinese and the Europeans should get their acts together and drive on the proper side of the road!

It’s so pretty.

Here’s the Silver Muse through the windscreen of the bus.

I passed Megan on the gangway, as she was headed into town. She had an hour or so to kill before her bus trip started. I went to the room and yes – our cases were out, and Megan’s was already zipped up, ready to go.

This was really our last day.

So I had my last lunchtime bubby in the café on deck 8.

Meanwhile, Megan was sending me photos of her discoveries down in the town:

Yes, really.

O always thought that Americans didn’t like to swear, but here we are.

I found this one very interesting. What an awful life these women must have endured!

And finally, in the museum, Megan found this. A fur fish.

She helpfully enlarged the blurb about this rare creature:

One last fun fact about Valdez – Commander Will Ryker, from Star Trek Next Generation, will be born here in 2335.

For our last dinner we went back to the restaurant that had my favourite staff member, Amit. We saw him at every breakfast too. He was so funny.

I slipped him the last of my Canadian money. The ship was heading back to Vancouver so I knew he’d be able to use it. I kept my remaining 25 USD to give to Evan27 – as he’s leaving for the US a few days after I get back.

This restaurant also had the best garlic naan I’ve ever tasted.

omg. Worth the price of the cruise.

When we went back to the room we settled into a movie – ‘Gentleman Prefer Blondes’ with Marilyn Monroe singing ‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.’

I had that song in my head until we hit Anchorage the next morning.

(One more post for this trip!)

Dad joke of the day:


  1. sandyg61

    Looks just a bit chilly!!! Love the waterfalls so close to the road. You’ve had some wonderful scenery.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Thi place is a bit like Venice – it’s almost impossible to take a bad photo. But you already know that. 🙂

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