March 4 2016

Return to Valdez 1998

Monte Engelson

In my searches on the Internet I came across the entries concerning the Valdez Gold Rush,

The first item I found was that the place is now spelled "Valdez" and not "Valdes"

I will leave previous spellings as Valdes

I started communicating with the museum in Valdez. I was invited to come and retrace some of the footsteps of my Grandfather. This seemed like a great idea, being "retired and all". I also had to drive up to Burns Lake, British Columbia to pick up the last effects of my mother who passed away in December. So..."Burns Lake is already in the north. A few more miles won't make much difference". I made up my mind to travel by car, not boat or airplane. I would leave in the middle of April to arrive in the Valdez area at the same time of year as the original gold seekers.

I packed my truck, a 90 Ranger, with extra gas, food, computer, camcorder, cash and a visa card. Emailed Valdez. Gave my goodbyes to Vancouver Island and was off. Duncan, Nanaimo, Horseshoe Bay, Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton, Lillooet, Pavilion, Clinton, 100 Mile, Williams Lake, Quesnel and sleep. Quesnel, Prince George, Chetwynd, Hudson Hope, Fort Nelson, Liard HotSprings and sleep. Liard Hotsprings, Muncho Lake, Watson Lake, Teslin, White Horse, Haines Junction, Kluane Village and sleep. Kluane Village, Alaska border, Tok, Gakona, and finally Valdez. The overall impression of such a trip is that it is a long way and the further you go the further it is between stops. The trip started in early summer on the coast, continued through spring and ended in winter. Driving in to Valdez over the Thompson Pass was done through blinding blowing snow and sleet. On the way down the pass I was thinking of Grandpa coming from a Minnesota that was so flat you could watch your dog run away for 3 days. Awesome!

Valdez really hadn't tasted spring yet. Piles of old snow, not much green. the town was alive though. Shops all open, restaurants busy. The first hotel I tried didn't have a single parking spot. Found out that the town was filled with skiers waiting for a break in the weather. Helicopter skiing. Skiiers were from all over North America and Europe saying that skiing in the Valdez area was the best in the world.

The next morning I went to the museum. Was very impressed with the facility and staff.

They were actually excited to see me! They were anxious to know my grandfather's story and when they read the actual diary/journal/letters that accompanied me were even more so!

They even put on white gloves to handle the greasy papers and letters.

The first evening I had dinner in a busy tavern. The place was filled with skiers and film makers. At that time Valdez was advertised as the "Extreme Ski Capital of the World".

The next morning I drove out to the helicopters which was the only way the skiers could get up to the ski areas. Maybe I could get a ride and visit Grandpa's Valdez Glacier. No luck. The cloud level was too low for any flights. I repeated this for four days. Cloud level was always too low. It was now 100 years to the day that grandpa was on the mountain. Quite disappointed I would to leave the next day.

The museum staff gave me a book, "Experiences of the Gold Hunters of Alaska." and a framed certificate showing that I was a member of , "The Valdez Glacier Centennial Club."

Return to journal of HC Engelson