Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

North to Alaska - Live!

by Kathy 3. July 2011 20:55

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Cordova: Off the Beaten Path


You cannot drive to Cordova. With a population of about 2400, the town sits on the edge of Prince William Sound in southeastern Alaska, accessible only by boat or plane. It is promoted as “Alaska’s Hidden Treasure.” That alone was enough to stir our interest. Toss in a massive glacier a short drive away—one that drops huge chunks of ice as you stand gawking across the river—and the deal was sealed. Cordova, here we come!

We arrived via a 2-hour ferry from the town of Valdez.

Our ferry:

Driving into the belly:

We were required to leave our RV on the lower deck during the ride:

That was fine with us, as the upper floor was very comfortable, and the views were serene from beginning to end:

Once off the ferry, we drove through downtown Cordova on a search for a campground or RV park.

There was a municipal RV park about a mile from town, and a tiny camping area about five miles away next to a bay. After visiting both places, we were still undecided. And then we found the perfect spot—a 72-hour parking lot right by the harbor and the downtown area.

We loved seeing all the boats and being able to walk to any place in town whenever we wanted. And the fact that it was free was a nice bonus.

The harbor:

It was fascinating to watch the huge fishing nets being loaded and unloaded:

Next to the harbor was the Fisherman’s Memorial—a sculpture by artist Joan Bugbee Jackson, with numerous plaques all around with the names of fishermen (and women) who have died:

On our way up the hill to the main street of Cordova, Genevieve and Sebastian spied numerous long black slugs, like the ones we had seen last month in Whistler, Canada:

This prompted a game in which the kids counted all the black slugs that they found during our time here. (The ultimate number was 27!)

One of our first stops in town was the Cordova Museum:

Inside were hundreds of items connected to the history of Cordova, including exhibits about the Native Americans who have lived here for hundreds of years, as well as the town’s creation in the early 1900’s when the site was chosen to be the railroad terminus for the Kennecott copper mines.

One of my favorite items was this waterproof jacket made from bear gut and sewed together with porpoise sinew:

Sebastian was intrigued with this linotype machine that was used to print newspapers:

He also liked this old-fashioned music player with the giant disc that created musical notes:

Even though we enjoyed the displays, the best part of the museum was the vibrant and generous spirit of the curator. Her name was Aurora—quite fitting, we all thought! Here she is with Genevieve and Sebastian:

Aurora enthusiastically answered all our questions about the town’s history, and she gave a little demonstration for Sebastian’s music player. We also learned that she was born in Juneau, Alaska, and is used to the rain and overcast skies, which we have seen so much of (too much, perhaps) over the past month. In contrast to our yearning for some blue sky and sunshine, Aurora starts feeling a little edgy and really misses the rain if she travels to a place where there is bright sunshine for more than a couple of days!

The museum also contained a monochromatic model of a new building—the Cordova Center—that was being constructed across the street:

The Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 had wreaked havoc on the economy here, which is based on fishing. As part of its rejuvenation plan, the Cordova Center was being constructed as a gathering place for the existing community as well as tourists. The center will ultimately contain a conference center, museum, library, theater, visitor’s center, an oil spill response center, a science discovery room, and city administrative offices.

We loved the vibe in Cordova. There was absolutely nothing pretentious here.

A colorful sculpture near the museum:

Those who follow our travels are familiar with my love of old houses and buildings. Let me tell you, there were quite a few structures in Cordova that set my heart a’yammering.

The old school, from 1925:

The top part of this building on First Street had two curious doors:

Two homes:

The “fanciest” building seemed to be the office for the U.S. Forestry Service:

Another bright spot in Cordova was “Baja Taco,” a café with the best fish tacos I have ever tasted (with battered and crispy salmon—yum!), thick milkshakes, excellent coffee, and free WiFi.

We were frequent customers.

One of the highlights of our stay in Cordova was climbing to the top of a mountain directly behind the downtown area.  (Yes, there was also a glacier to talk about, but it was 50 miles away, and was so knock-your-socks-off that it deserves its own story. Stay tuned!)

The path to the top of the mountain rose steeply, and we powered onward, singing songs and talking to warn any bears of our presence.


The mountain had a ski run in the winter, and our trail passed by the chair lift:

After about an hour and a half, we were rewarded with some far-reaching views. First, the town and harbor below:

Genevieve, with a view to the side:

To the back of the mountain, we could see Lake Eyak and the road called the Copper River Highway, leading to the glacier:

(The road starts out paved and straight, but then changes to gravel as it sweeps along beside and across the Copper River.)

To the north were the tree-covered islands that our ferry had wound through to reach Cordova:

Below is a photo showing Mt. Tripod—the front peak crowned with communication towers.

I must admit, however, that when we started our hike, we were aiming for the highest peak—the pointy one in the back, called Mt. Eyak. However, it was much further than it looked. And when we arrived at Mt. Tripod, checked our low water supply, looked at the views all around us, and basked in the exhilaration of our accomplishment, we were perfectly happy. We were content to high-five each other and start back down the mountain.

Sometimes, life is like that.

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Map of Our Journeys

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Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin