Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tax Day Blizzard

We decided to take an impromptu trip. We were headed for the Mat-Su glacier, which Cass hadn't visited before. We had a nice drive out there, an hour from the B&B. The day was overcast, but it was still really nice scenery. We decided to keep going. The drive to Glenallen is so scenic, we kept just going. By the time we got to Glenallen, we had dinner at the Caribou Hotel restaurant (awesome half pound burgers), then thought there was plenty of time left in the day to scoot down to Valdez. Cass hadn't been to Valdez or Glenallen, so it was all new to her. It surprises me how many Anchorage folks don't get out into Alaska much! The weather turned to spitty snow, but light. It made it really ethereal and pretty through the dramatic high mountains of Thompson Pass. The last time I went to Valdez was 2 years ago, and in the late summer, so this was my first time to see the walls of tall snow through which the road was cut. We must have seen a half dozen driveways in which sat a helicoptor with its rotors covered in canvas shields to keep the snow off. At the driveway were signs that proclaimed this the home of a heli-skiing adventure company. Several times we saw people getting ready to go up in the choppers with their skis. It seems this sport was in full swing those days.

We got to Valdez about 8 p.m. I showed Cass around town, which takes all of about 10 minutes. I thought we might get out and give the dogs a nice long walk by the docks and down to the ferry terminal, but Cass was too cold to walk in the chilly rain. We thought about leaving town pretty quick, to make it back through Thompson Pass before the rain turned to ice or snow, but it also sounded good to call it a night and stay over there. Otherwise, we would have gotten home at 2 a.m. That would have been ok, but we were ready to be done driving for the night.

We got a good room for a good price at the Best Western, which takes dogs, likely the only time I'll be able to afford to stay there. I'm guessing summer rates are a lot more than the $89 we paid in this off-peak season. They had a nice continental breakfast in the morning. When we got back to Glenallen, Cass asked what the road looked like, going towards Canada. We headed off east for a few miles, then came to the junction with the Richardson Highway, which turns north to Fairbanks. That road looked more interesting, so we turned up that way.

Within the hour, we were into snow and the weather was getting worse. We marveled in the swirling storm about what we were doing out here on Tax Day in a blizzard. It got pretty thick. It was a gorgeous drive, though, and we were still able to go about 55 mph. I just love the quiet of Alaska highways where we can drive down the middle of the road and not meet another car for most of an hour. The area around Summit Lake was incredibly beautiful. We made it into Fairbanks about 3 pm, not bad time, and went for a late lunch. After exploring town a bit, we hopped on the Parks Highway and headed back home by way of Denali.

The weather on this side of the state was much better and the roads were clear instead of snow-packed. We got home right at the stroke of 10 pm and had a wonderful day and a half of adventuring under our belts!
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