From the Edgerton Highway junction to Valdez is 82 beautiful miles through green forested hillsides along surging creeks with countless waterfalls emanating from ice patches and small glaciers atop the jagged Chugach.
If you’re terminally enchanted by this stretch of road and want to linger, two state recreation sites offer camping ($12): Squirrel Creek at Mile 79 and Little Tonsina at Mile 65. The Tonsina site is a bit noisy, located a half-mile from pipeline pump station number 12, which is run by jet aircraft turbines and sounds like a plane perpetually taking off.
Signboards across the highway from the pump station (Mile 65) describe pipeline history, oil spills, communications, the turbines, and the pump station. At Mile 56, the Tiekel River Lodge (907/822-3259) has food, gas, rooms, campsites, and a gift shop.
Near Mile 33 of the Edgerton Highway, you come around a bend, unsuspecting, and the Worthington Glacier looms into view, its three fingers creeping out of Girls Mountain like a grotesque hand in a horror movie. In another few miles is the turnoff to this state recreation site, on a short road that leads to the overlook parking lot.
There’s no established campground here, but a small visitors center is staffed by State Parks folks in the summer. Trails cover the short distance to the glacier, and a one-mile path climbs the lateral moraine for even more dramatic vistas.
A mere three miles down (or more accurately, up) the road from Worthington Glacier is Thompson Pass (2,771 feet). A long row of serrated peaks, like a cosmic crosscut saw with only a few dull or missing teeth, lines the high horizon.
Blueberry and Summit Lakes are accessible by a loop road about a mile on the Valdez side of the pass; the small campground at Blueberry is beautiful, but it’s exposed, especially if Thompson Pass is in the process of maintaining its record-setting precipitation levels.
Confirming that this is one of the snowiest spots on earth are 15-foot-tall right-angle orange poles that show snowplow drivers the edge of the road.
Thompson Pass Mountain Chalet (907/835-4817, www.thompsonpass.com, $140 d, $10 for each additional guest) is a rustic cabin at Mile 19 with space for four people, a private bath, a kitchenette, and a continental breakfast basket. The owners live in a nearby cabin and guide summertime hikes and wintertime backcountry ski adventures.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition