July 11th – We woke up to clearing skies and very windy conditions at the Gakona campground and after a quick breakfast started our drive down the Richardson Highway toward Valdez. We were not sure what we would find in Valdez at the end of the day, but we had heard that the drive was spectacular.
We were not disappointed. The Richardson Hwy follows the Wrangell-St Elias National Park boundary on the west side of the park and the views of the snow capped mountains were breathtaking.
Every turn in the road brought another amazing view.
As we got closer to Valdez and began our climb to Thompson pass we saw Worthington Glacier in the distance. That is it in the right center of the above photo. It appears to be draped over the mountain.
The size of glaciers is so deceiving when seen from a distance. It’s hard to grasp the immensity of these sections of ice field, but the 18 wheeler on the road gives some perspective.
This glacier is one of those that can be reached by a trail in the foreground and we watched a group of hikers do exactly that as we stood on the observation deck. It is always a good idea to do this with a guide (because of the many hazards on top of the ice) and that was exactly what they were doing.
The ice color is always such an amazing shade of blue.
Our Airstream is beginning to look right at home in the icy conditions.
It was 39 degrees and Jade and Fred were having a hard time adjusting to this in the middle of July.
Thompson Pass is at an elevation of 6700 feet and the snow can be close to 50 feet in the winter. The poles help guide the snow plows. I’m guessing until they disappear (the poles), and then they (the snow plows) probably just give up!
We pulled over to take a look at this tunnel just a few miles before reaching Valdez. See the sign below.
A couple of more miles and we viewed these stunning waterfalls cascading from the top of the mountain. This drive had certainly lived up to the hype. Not a mile went by without us seeing a breathtaking view!