Our lodge in Copper Center sits at the edge of the largest National Park and Preserve managed by the Park Service in all of the USA- Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park. It is a truly vast wilderness all on its own. Unfortunately, we were not going to be seeing much of it, as our limited time here was going to be spent traveling to Valdez for a boat tour of Prince William Sound. I would venture that most folks know this area from the grounding of the Exxon Valdez tanker just off the harbor. This caused an oil spill of national significance and changed the way the transportation of oil was regulated. The new rules, referred to as OPA 90, was the largest regulatory project ever. It certainly consumed a lot of the Coast Guard's and my time developing and enforcing these standards.
We did make one quick stop on the way to Valdez to view Mount Billy Mitchell, named in honor of Lt William Mitchell, who is considered to be the father of the modern US Air force.
Valdez continues as the end point of the Alaskan pipeline, where all the oil from the fields arrives for pick up by the steady stream of tank ships coming and going. For such an important port, it remains a small and scenic town where fishing and tourism are also important to the economy.
But now we were on a pleasant outing to view the beauty of the glaciers in Columbia Bay and enjoy the abundance of wildlife along the way. We were again fortunate to have perfect weather for our outing. Since we managed to observe all of the expected wildlife that was likely to be seen on the tour, I wanted to make this first Valdez post just about these sightings. We were again told by the boat crew how lucky we were. The last few cruises had seen little to no wildlife and had a poor view of the scenery.
We saw the black bear running uphill at the very top of the mountain and this one of the few in focus shots I got of her at the long range straight uphill.