After Anchorage we made a side trip to Valdez. The drive along Glenn Highway to Glenallen was spectacular, especially the high point east of Palmer but just west of Matanuska Glacier. For many miles along this section of the highway, there were breathtaking view to the south of the Chugach Range with its hillsides and valleys all covered in "school bus" yellow foliage. We both lived our entire lives in warm climates, so seeing autumn in full swing was quite a big deal to us.
Matanuska Glacier overlook is a perfect location for lunch with plenty of picnic tables at just the right spot but you have to come prepare for the misty weather. One can also drive into the private Glacier Park for a close up look at the glacier, and camp next to it. After Matanuska Glacier, we came upon an area where the hills changed into orange, yellow, and even reddish gold. At first we thought it was the minerals in the soil, but in fact it was the result of iron stained gypsum in the limestone cooked up by volcano some 150 million years ago.
Glenallen was nothing more than a place to stop for the night. From here, we turned south to Valdez. Just when we thought our road trip couldn’t get any more scenic than the Denali or the Matsu Valley; it did. We saw less traffic in this section of the Richardson Highway than elsewhere. We literally stopped in the middle of the road and watched the yellow leaves slowly fell off the trees. It was unreal. It was like putting time in super slow motion. On top of that, there were pretty waterfalls cascading down the snowcapped hills on both sides of the highway. Valdez was more pleasant than we thought. You know, the images of the oil spill in 1989 were still imbedded in our minds. If the weather was clear, it would be nice to take the AMH ferry from Valdez to Cordova, a small fishing town with more glaciers. Well, clear weather in September’s Alaska is simply wishful thinking.
On the way back up north, we made a side trip on Edgerton Highway to Chitina. The paved road ended at a lake with camping and lodging nearby. We did not go further on to the gravel covered McCarthy Road to Kennicott because we did not bring a full size spare, and cell phone reception was nil.