We ran into “Wild Bill” one afternoon in a waterfront saloon overlooking the Valdez Small Boat Harbor.  He was sitting at the bar and Zook and I kept looking at him trying to figure out where we knew him from.  Finally I went over and asked him if he recognized either of us because we both recognized him from somewhere.  He suggested that we probably know him from the TV show but neither of us had spent much time watching that show so we began the search for other places we may have actually met.  As it turned out, he lives in San Carlos, Mexico, and visits many of the same cantinas and restaurants that we do when we spend the winter there.  I guess you can put this one in the “Small World” file along with one more we’ll tell you about a little later.  Although many folks journey to Valdez for the abundant fishing opportunities, it is also a treasure trove of natural beauty (think Hawaii when looking at the following pictures)…

These folks caught several Silvers from the breakwater in Valdez harbor in the few minutes we were watching.  The young man is holding a billy club with which they whack the fish in the head to kill or stun it before cutting it through the gill area to bleed out.  This method prevents the blood from contaminating the meat thereby ensuring tasty salmon filets…

The gold rush days may be  long over but there are still a few modern “miners” like Jake, who roam the back country streams in search of that elusive bonanza…

 Alaska 2010 - Part 8                                                September 3, 2010

Appearing much like a bunch of sand dunes, these gravel piles are actually medial moraine deposited atop the icy foot of the Kennecott Glacier by the 2 smaller ones which terminate at its side.  The gravel deposited at the side of a glacier as it moves is called lateral moraine and the gravel at its end is called terminal moraine.  The medial moraine you see here is actually the terminal moraine deposited on top of the Kennecott Glacier from the 2 smaller ones.  

And now for the second of those “small world” moments.  During our stay in Chitina we had dinner one evening at the Chitina Hotel.  As luck would have it they had live music that evening provided by a group called the “G-String Orchestra”…

These fish at the mouth of their spawning creek in Valdez are a few of the millions of fish that just “run out of gas” before ever getting the chance to reproduce.  Many others fall victim to eagles, bears and a few lucky fishermen…

Fireweed.  According to Alaskan lore this plant marks the passage of summer as it progressively blooms from bottom to top throughout the season.  When the uppermost flowers are in bloom Alaskans know that the summer months have run their course and fall has arrived…

We happened upon him when we were exploring an ATV trail through Mineral Canyon in the Jeep. We were actually able to follow the trail for nearly 10 miles until it abruptly turned into a bicycle path.  The wildlife in Valdez, other than the fish, proved to be pretty elusive on this visit which left my up and coming National Geographic wannabe photographer in hot pursuit of creatures somewhat more diminutive then her usual targets of moose and bear…

The National Park Service has been restoring many of the buildings associated with the copper mill and they offer guided tours of these buildings which include a colorful narrative of life during the copper boom.  One of the more interesting factoids we happened upon was that miners went into the mine in October and did not re-emerge until March!  Can you imagine living without sunlight and fresh air for 6 months!?  Kennecott is situated at the base of 3 glaciers, the largest of which is the Kennecott Glacier…

Valdez is a picturesque little fishing village in south-central Alaska…

It became famous when the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef on March 24, 1989.  This reef was given its name by Captain Cook in honor of his second officer, William Bligh, who later had his ship, HMS Bounty, taken from him by Fletcher Christian and his band of mutineers in the South Pacific in 1789.  In addition to Captain Cook, Captain Bligh and the infamous Captain Hazelwood of oil spill fame, Valdez is also the hangout for at least one of the captains from the TV series, Deadliest Catch, Captain “Wild Bill” Wichrowski…

They are a pretty scruffy looking group of musicians whose specialty is Klezmer, Gypsy and Eastern European folk music (HUH???).  It wasn’t long before they played a couple of New Orleans style blues pieces and finally some bayou zydeco began to float through the room and we were suddenly aware that we had seen these guys somewhere before...

Another of the harbingers of fall is the arrival of the Coho salmon and the demise of the remaining summer run Sockeye salmon…

Chitina (pronounced chit’na) was our next “base camp” from which we took the Jeep down the 60 miles of dirt road to the abandoned copper mining towns of McCarthy and Kennecott, within the borders of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, America’s largest, which at 20,625 square miles is nearly the size of the state of West Virginia…

During our stay in New Orleans this past winter we ran across them playing their music on Royal Street in the French Quarter.  Now, “What” you ask yourself “is a New Orleans street band doing in a remote Alaskan town like Chitina?”  The answer, “We’re on tour!”  Speaking of which, we are now heading out of Alaska, through Canada and back into southeast Alaska for a final taste of bear viewing before heading back to the Lower 48.   We are, after all, “on tour” too!  See y’all next time. Hugs!!  Chuck and Zookie