Columbia Glacier Cruise

Trip Start May 25, 2008
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Trip End Aug 03, 2008


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Where I stayed
Eagle's Rest RV Park

Flag of United States  , Alaska
Saturday, June 21, 2008

Woke-up very late today. This was supposed to be our down day in Valdez to go walk around and maybe take a hike or two. But the morning was so beautiful with hardly a cloud in the sky which is rare in Valdez. The forecast for tomorrow was clouds with rain. So I called the Glacier cruise company we were suppose to take tomorrow and got our reservations changed to today. This was one of my best moves of the trip. We walked down to the small boat harbor of Valdez in the bright sunshine. Lots of small fishing boats here. Our cruise company is called Stan Stevens and it will take us on a Columbia Glacier and wildlife cruise for six and a half hours today. This was the first time we were using our Alaska Saver book. This book cost $100 and it is full of two for one tickets. This cruise cost $105 per person. With one free, we just paid for the book plus $5. We will use this off and on throughout our stay in Alaska. My goal is to save $1,000 from the book. We got on board the boat at 11:30 and went to the top deck all the way to the back (there were only two decks). As we left through Valdez Bay it did get a little cooler so we put on all our layers of clothes - I had three layers. Right away, I know this was going to be a great cruise, looking around Valdez Harbor with the mountains rising high in the air from the bay on a clear day. Just a few minutes on the boat and we saw 5 sea otters just floating on their back with not a care in the world. On the way out of the harbor we passed the Alaska Pipeline Terminal Complex which marks the end of the 800 mile pipeline and the spot where the tankers take the oil away. This complex supplies 18% of America's oil!!!! There use to be tours of the complex until 9-11. Now, boats cannot even go within 300 feet of it. Valdez Harbor is like a fjord - high mountains everywhere with deep water. That's why oil tankers can come in here. It is also the northern most ice free port in the US. A cool part about the cruise was the free hot teas. They had a variety of teas you could brew. I'm usually not a hot tea person, but on a cool day like today, they went down very well. My favorite was cinnamon spice tea. About an hour into the cruise they served us a "light lunch." Well this lunch was even good enough for my usually large appetite. We had Clam Chowder with bagel & cream cheese. The chowder was just as good as anything Boston has. After lunch we went to the front of the boat where all the cold wind was - time for the gloves. But the views were worth the cold. We went into this little cove and saw several Bald Eagles - one was even flying around with its huge wingspan. In another bay, we followed a couple of whales - though none of them did the classic tail shot. I only just got a glimpse of them. The best part was seeing a colony of sea lions - about a hundred of them sunning on the rocks and making all kinds of noise. Finally, we approached the Columbia Glacier. First, we had to go though some ice chunks to get there - they called these ice cubes but the largest ones were the size of a car. The crew even fished some out to let us look and feel these glacier chunks. The bad part about this cruse was the fact that you could not go all the way to the lip of the glacier. Columbia Glacier started to retreat in 1980 and it is several miles behind this wall of clogged ice. How did it get clogged? Glaciers deposit rock called moraine. At the end of the glacier it is called a terminal moraine. So all this debris left by the glaciers now clogs the waterway. As the ice falls from the glacier, it floats down the bay and gets clogged by the moraine. Of course the ship cannot get past this. The ice clog is so high you cannot see the actual glacier. The good news is that we are taking another glacier cruise while we are in Seward so I hope to see the classic glacier falling into the ocean bit. After all this ice we started our way back to Valdez. We did see some more eagles and a pair of sea lions sunning on a buoy. We passed a gorgeous waterfall that started several thousand feet high on a glacier atop a mountain and fall straight into the water and an abandoned gold mine. We were back in port at 6:30. Even if we did not have the two for one deal, this cruise would have been worth it & with a mostly sunny day made it even better. We walked back through town to the RV. I cooked a Thai shrimp dish for dinner and blogged a bunch as the internet speed was the best we have had in awhile. Overall a great day for the trip.
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