Valdez: Heaven on a Sunny Day

June 3rd, 2009

View of Vadez from High School hill

At last we arrived in Valdez. When we got there it was - as it often is - cloudy and rainy but it was exciting to see our friends and catch up and drink and generally have a good time. We were to stay at a neighbors house just across the green space from the Bride’s house, and what a house this was! The entry was full over impressive hunting trophies and the basement where we would be staying… let’s just say a REI store wishes they had this much gear. Kayaks, skis of all sorts, climbing gear, a wall of sleeping bags, a homemade rowing skull… the works. It was incredible. And there was a sauna! The sauna really sealed the deal.

Rainy low-tide on the beachThe next day the Wedding Party got busy doing wedding stuff, so we had some time to roam around. Some highlights were walking on the beach at low tide, exploring the docks, eating miscellaneous fried seafood at the Alaska Halibut House, a drunken beach bonfire and a short ski day on Thompson Pass which I will talk about later… but the thing that intrigued me most was the house we were staying at. We had mostly been hanging out with Montana friends, but while chilling with the house’s residents (the daughters at least, home for the summer from various schools) I learned it was the castle of the late Andrew Embick. The name wasn’t familiar to me, but if I were much of a kayaker or climber it probably would have been. While I was there I greatly enjoyed flipping though Fast & Cold, A Guide To Alaska Whitewater, which he wrote. The guy did so many Alaskan whitewater first descents, it’s crazy. He also wrote Blue ice & black gold: A climbers [sic] guide to the frozen waterfalls of Valdez Alaska, a lesser known work about ice climbing around Valdez. I think he even started the ice climbing festival there. And in addition to being an all around bad-ass outdoorsman, he was a Doctor. An article I found online at the Alaskan Dispatch best sums up his life and death, but I bring it up because staying at his house added some extra - and very wild - Valdez flavor to our visit.

Bonfire on the beachLight - even after midnight! Alaska in summerThe day dawned clear and prefect

A perfect Valdez wedding

Moose ribs!!! Yay for Alaska weddingsThe day of the wedding finally arrived and LO, and BEHOLD, the weather was clear, beautiful, and perfect in every way. The ceremony went down without a hitch on the beach, framed by the magnificent Chugach glinting in the sun. The cast and characters assembled on the beach were a riot, ranging form very nicely dressed people, to folks wearing what was obviously their only tie (with a stain on it), to t-shirt clad locals just stopping by. The reception at the Eagles Hall was a hoot as well, consisting of good friends, good food (Moose ribs!), hours of wild dancing, and good times all around. The Alaskan Wedding this whole trip revolved around was everything I hope it would be, and would have been worth the drive by itself.

Bridal Veil Falls in Keystone CanyonThe day after we (as in: everyone who came to the wedding who wanted to) we treated to a short raft trip down Keystone Canyon! It was one of those early season deals where the guides are getting back in practice and need guinea pigs, so you get to go for free. The water in Keystone is fresh snow melt this time of year, and glacier melt the rest of the summer, so we had to suit up in ultimate-dry gear. The float was short, but fun with a few big splashes and great up-close views of Bridal Veil and the other magnificent waterfalls into the canyon.

Lastly, we were able to pull a few strings and work the “local” angles we had and secured some sea kayaks for a brief jaunt out of the harbor. The good weather held the whole time we stayed in Valdez, so it was a real treat. The last time I went sea kayaking in Valdez we got dropped off at Shoup Bay, which was awesome, but the winds kicked up on our paddle home and it was a little scary. Not this time. Clam water and blue skies. We saw some Eagles, and maybe a seal. Mostly, I just don’t get to spend much time near the ocean living in Montana, so I always enjoy the novelty.

Sea kayaking in Valdez-Prince William Sound

Finally, on our way out of town, we did another short ski day on Thompson pass, but I’m reserving the next post for that so as to include extra pictures. Let me just say now, though, for the record: skiing on the pass, sea kayaking, whitewater rafting, seafood, [ice] climbing, towering beautiful peaks all around… on a sunny day in the summer, Valdez is pretty much heaven on Earth.

Flowers above Prince William Sound

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One Response to “Valdez: Heaven on a Sunny Day”

  1. [...] Valdez we headed to Central, the home turf of the groom of the wedding we just attended. The small town of Central is, well, basically in central Alaska as a matter of [...]

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