Valdez, Alaska – July 9, 2007
On the way to Valdez, we meet a lady in Slana. She is about 75, we guess. Her art is done with bits of elk and moose antlers. Her dogs are all dead and the three log cabin dog houses stand empty. I imagine them chained up in the deep snow and huddled inside on the straw. The rusty chains and straw are still there. A nameplate says that one dog was named Pat. Pat was probably a Husky.
The lady has outlived three husbands and many dogs in this place over a fifty year period. She collects camping fees at the nearby State campground and tries to operate a lodge and RV park by herself. She also operates the Slana Post Office. She makes the beds, mows the lawn, burns the trash and cleans the salmon that she catches in her fish traps. She seems lonely now. Everything is hard. It's a 100 mile trip in to buy gasoline for her generator so she can have electricity.
She no longer has time to sell her art that she makes in the winter, since she has no help. We are her only guests. It's a slow summer. She built the lodge with her own hands. There is no Home Depot here, but I see three trailers to haul things in the yard. She talks to strangers like us. Mrs. Phred feels sad for her. I tell Mrs. Phred that there are a million stories here and we can't even change the outcome of our own.
The drive into Valdez is though jagged mountains capped with glaciers that come down to the road. We go fishing for pink salmon and catch eleven that are about four pounds each. We eat one for dinner and freeze the rest. The bay is surrounded by snow-capped mountains. You can see bears in the meadows with binoculars. We see a seal next to the boat catch a salmon for lunch. The fish here are released from a hatchery and have no place to spawn. They just mill around in the bay looking for a stream that doesn’t exist.
We see a purse seine boat catch about 15,000 pounds of salmon in its net. The sea otters and seals on buoys float in front of the oil tankers next to the refinery tanks at the end of the Alaska pipeline.
This morning we will take a water taxi for a two hours ride to kayak under a glacier in the icebergs.
Here are some Pictures of Valdez: