Alaska and British Columbia travel blog

Mat-Su Valley Chugach Mountains

Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier 2

View from Camp

August 18, 2016

2014 Storybook cabernet Sonoma County was our wine last night. We also received a very nice present of fresh halibut that a guy who Bob met outside the bathroom gave us. He was not going to process it for shipment so we benefited!

Today we had to wear sunglasses as we left the Kenai Peninsula heading for Palmer. We backtracked north on the Seward Highway through the Chugach mountains with the various glaciers, lakes and rivers. Beautiful drive and nice to see it this time without rain. At Portage we turned northwest again backtracking to Anchorage along the Turnagain Arm. (In 1778 when Cook could find no way out of the Cook Inlet south of Anchorage looking for the northwest passage to the Atlantic he ordered his ships to “turn around” hence the name.) As we passed the only Mercedes dealer in the state, we stopped to buy bulbs to replace our brake lights. A fellow in camp last night told Bob how to get the tail light assembly apart but having a MB guy do it was a lot easier! We were waiting for a call back from SSN trying to sort out a mess that has been going on for a year and needed phone access which is not easy! Decided to go to Costco for a Polish Dog and cool our heels there.

From Anchorage we headed northeast on the Glenn Highway through the Matanuska Valley, which is a suburb of Anchorage much like Healdsburg would be a suburb of SF. Similar to folks who live in Wasilla, folks from the Mat-Su Valley have over hour long commutes to Anchorage but the housing is more affordable. The valley is the only area in Alaska that primarily developed from the agricultural economy. The unique microclimate produces amazing giant vegetables because of a 100 very long days of growing season. Many of these vegetables are displayed at THE Alaska state Fair which we will just miss. (story of our travels!!!) In 1935 Palmer, the main city in the valley became the site of one of the most unusual experiments in American history. As a part of the New Deal FDR planned an agricultural economy in Alaska to take advantage of the great agricultural potential. Social workers picked 2013 families by lottery from MI, WI and MN to join the colony. FDR believed those hardy farmers with Scandinavian descent would have a natural advantage over other ethnic groups. Within 5 years only half of the 203 remained and in 1965 there were fewer than 20 families. Unfortunately, we did not see any of the famous valley produce as we missed the turn off to town.

We have some long travel days (over 200 miles per day) so decided to pass Palmer (where we were planning to stay at the Freddy Meyer parking lot) and go a bit further through the valley. We followed the Matanuska River through the Chugach mountains which are now quite majestic (King and Pinnacle mountains about 6,000 feet) and the road is steep (7% grades) and winding. About 100 miles from Anchorage on the Glenn Highway we approached the Matanuska Glacier that trends northwest for 27miles with an average width of 2miles. It is the largest glacier accessible with a personal vehicle in the state. (NOT for us). Very impressive glacier but like churches, we have had our fill for now. We are beginning to see some change in tree foliage color.

We are camped at Grand View RV park, which is small with a spectacular location in a high mountain pass. We should be able to spot Dall sheep but have not looked yet.

For dinner we are grilling halibut that is marinated in olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, basil, salt and pepper. Fried Yukon gold potatoes. 2014 Altos Del Plata Malbec.

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