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North to Alaska - Sherrila Only - Day 15 (May 31)

Monday - 2,650 miles so far. After remembering to set our clocks back an hour (to Alaska time) we went to the cookhouse for a "famous sourdough pancake breakfast," the starter for which was supposed to have begun in 1956. The pancakes were wrapped around reindeer sausage with eggs on the side. Our 14-year-old waitress told us that their family had moved here from Seattle three weeks before to start the new business. They seemed like very nice people and we hope they are successful. After breakfast Margaret made friends with a local golden retriever, "Copper," who flopped over for scratches on his tummy.

We left before the kids (around 9:30), telling them we would drive slowly so they could catch us. No cars passed us going in either direction for about 30 minutes. Suddenly there was a loud crash and we could see sparks flying out behind the truck. The trailer hitch, apparently improperly connected, had bounced off the truck hitch and was sliding along the road, held by the safety chains. We slowly came to a stop and got out to assess the damage.

The leveling post that raises and lowers the trailer hitch had dragged so violently along the road that the friction melted a large glob of asphalt over the opening. Part of the metal edge was worn away and the post itself was bent. Since we were on a narrow, two-lane road with absolutely no shoulders, in a trough between two hills, we were in danger from vehicles coming from behind us.

Margaret went back up the small hill, ready to wave her burgundy vest at oncoming traffic. Ben got the trailer tongue up off the road and rehitched while five or six vehicles drove carefully past, some drivers offering to help (which Ben declined, as it would have put more people in danger). Soon G & S arrived and, thinking we were just waiting for them, sat in their van for a several minutes. At Ben's signal Margaret ran back to the truck and sat, gasping for breath, as G strolled over and asked, "What's up?"

Margaret and Ben laughed nervously, and after explanations we moved on. Around noon we stopped at Menatasta Lodge for gas ($2.49 per gallon, US) and bought two 20 oz sodas for $1.75 each. After crossing the Slana River we drove along between mountains covered with snow, scarred with black slashes where ravines came down. Soon the scenery consisted of beautiful little ponds surrounded by forests of bizarre, skinny firs, reminding us of bottle brushes. Then there were dark, blackish-green spindly trees intermingled with silvery green willows, and bright chartreuse aspens and poplars, newly leafed-out for spring. Framed by the trees was a myriad of wildflowers, including vast patches of short-stemmed chrome-yellow dandelions, deep blue-violet lupines, mounds of unknown (to us) magenta blooms forming nosegay-like clumps, and pale blue-lavender ground cover that looked like Blue Star Creeper. Of course we took many pictures.

G & S had gone on ahead after the last gas stop and we couldn't raise them on the handheld radio. We had to keep our eyes open so we wouldn't unknowingly pass them by. After 132 miles there they were, taking pictures as usual. We helped them record the scenery, including shots of Mt. Billy Mitchell, along with a sign telling of his contributions to Alaska. Continuing through spectacular vistas we rounded a curve, and there was an amazing sight: The Worthington Glacier, right next to the road! It would be foolish to attempt a verbal description of this awesome ice behemoth, but do check out the snapshots.

"Okay," said Ben, finally. "Now you can be impressed. The real mountains are here."

After a couple of hours exploring and playing we moved on, so we could arrive in Valdez at a reasonable hour. However, there were more magnificent sights along the way. When we crossed the Lowe River Bridge we came to waterfall heaven. Keystone Canyon offered many beautiful falls plunging down right next to the road. Margaret caught some water from Bridal Veil Falls to drink because, she told us, "Local legend states that one who drinks from this falls is sure to return."

We made it to Eagle's Rest RV Park in Valdez just after 6:00 PM and took a site on their flat, open lot with gravel and grass around. It wasn't fancy, but it was clean, with good restroom facilities (which have become a priority), and we were surrounded by breathtaking views. To the north we saw mountains, snow, waterfalls, ever-changing clouds and mist; while in the opposite direction we could see small-boats bobbing in the blue water of Prince William Sound, and across to the Marine Pipeline Terminal at the foot of the mountains, on the far side.