Pyrah's Pioneer Peak U-Pick Farm

Tucked away in the shadow of the beautiful Matanuska-Susitna Valley's most prominent mountain, Pioneer Peak Farm has been run by the Pyrah family for more than three decades. Being as we have never been to a U-Pick, this was a pretty exciting place for us.

Each row was identified with what was growing, how to harvest it and the rules about how to do it. For example, the minimum size on a cauliflower is 6".
We’re in the thick of rhubarb season, where the ubiquitous plant is showing up in pies, crisps and desserts all over Alaskan kitchens, restaurants, and Farmers Markets. What we've learn is that it is so easy to grow here, and so prolific, that just about everyone has their favorite recipe, be it something sweet or savory or even drinkable. How’s that for food diversity? Wild stuff.
The various greens were absolutely gorgeous.

Quiz time: Do you know what this flower grows on? The white potato plant! Isn't it fantastic?
The farmer didn't want us digging up the potatoes ourselves so she dragged this ancient harvester behind her tractor, revealing the delicious tubers for us to pick up from the soil.

Steve is outstanding in his field.
So this farming business was new to us. We had no idea that broccoli flowers in such a beautiful way.
This is not a good thing, for us who wanted to pick some. Ideally, broccoli must be harvested while the tiny buds are tightly closed. If the buds begin to swell or show yellow (the flower petals), the head must be cut from the stem right away, no matter how small it is, because the opening buds have a mealy texture. As you can see, much of this field was not harvested in time, but boy did it make for a colorful view.
"When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy,
there is always the garden."
— Minnie Aumonier

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From Valdez Back To Palmer

After spending a few days in the Switzerland of Alaska, we have returned to Palmer for a more thorough explore. These are the images at which we gazed for miles. Note the last one might be a little disturbing for my animal loving friends, but it's today's Only in Alaska.

This view of Dall Sheep was actually from our Valdez campsite. So very cool.
Is there a Bridal Veil Falls everywhere? This one happened to be in historic Keystone Canyon.

Doesn't a windshield frame an image perfectly?!
In 2003, gas in Anchorage was $1.63 a gallon. Just a point of reference.
How beautiful is this Mourning Cloak Butterfly?
Willow Lake with the Wrangell Mountains reflected in it (slightly) was spectacular.
Wrangell-St. Elias is a vast national park that rises from the ocean all the way up to 18,008 ft. Mount St. Elias. At 13.2 million acres, it’s the same size as Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Switzerland combined! This is a rugged, beautiful area filled with opportunities for adventure. Since we knew we couldn't explore it on this trip, we stopped in at its Visitors' Center for an informative video and a stroll around its grounds.

We found we were in Bear Country as we saw evidence that these Soapberries were delicious to our Ursus americanus.

Running parallel to the paths carved by the Matanuska Glacier, the Glenn Highway makes it possible to trace the glaciers that formed this area, and provides some of the most accessible glacier-viewing in the state, as well as amazing geological formations.

Have I mentioned how much I love glaciers?
This Only in Alaska image was our view for miles. While disturbing to some, it is a a way of life and a economic component to our 49th state.

"To the lover of wilderness,
Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world."
— John Muir

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Valdez and the Earthquake of '64

We happen to be camping in New Valdez. We had no idea there was an Old one, so today we sought out knowledge at the excellent Valdez Museum & Historical Archive.

Remember me mentioning the Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964 (the largest earthquake ever to hit North America)? The epicenter of this awesome quake was a mere 45 miles west of Valdez and 14 miles under the earth's crust. Initial shocks lasting over five minutes affected nearly all of the coastal communities.
These before and after aerial photographs do nothing to show the magnitude of the devastation. Note in the bottom photo, where there is no snow it is because that is how far the wave traveled.
Unfortunately, Old Valdez was built upon very unstable soil. The massive shock waves ripped streets apart, damaged homes and destroyed buildings in town. The two docks were completely destroyed. The earthquake triggered a huge submarine slide that caused millions of cubic yards of earth to slide into the Valdez Bay. Large seiche waves caused additional damage. Thirty-one Valdezeans (mostly children) lost their lives, due to the fact they were all on the dock greeting a supply ship (it was Good Friday and the ship had treats for the them). No one on shore perished.
We learned a great deal at the Remembering Old Valdez Exhibit by studying the museum’s Historic Old Town Valdez model, a 1:20 scale replica of Old Town as it appeared just prior to the 1964 Earthquake. The model includes over 400 buildings and 60 city blocks. Details include window boxes, period automobiles, pets, and signs. It is divided into 11 pods along the major dividing streets so visitors can ‘walk through town’, following the routes that families in Old Town followed for years. Great care was taken to assure historical accuracy. Buildings were constructed based on original photographs and slides. Former residents were consulted regularly to determine the exact locations of everything, from garden plots to buildings. This was beyond amazing.
We also learned about the wonderful quality of life the Valdezeans experienced before the quake. Still known as the Switzerland of Alaska, due to its stunning location in a fjord, surrounded by glaciers, its prior business embraced the moniker.
So why an Old & a New Valdez? The ground under Valdez was determined to be unstable and it was decided to move the location of Valdez to a new town site. The Army Corps of Engineers chose the delta of Mineral Creek after much research that found the ground was more stable.
It took from two to four years for the New Valdez to become home for Old Valdez residents. For those whose houses had been condemned, the Salvation Army came to the rescue with their Operation Mobile Igloo
Once everything was ready, over 60 homes and buildings were deemed safe to be moved, and that is exactly what they did.
The condemned buildings that remained behind were set ablaze and the newly formed Alaska State Fire Department worked on its skills. Now very few reminders, of the once thriving town, remain.

Some of the streets remain, with informational before photos and details highlighting what once had been here. This was the location of the Post Office.
It is one of the buildings that survived the quake and tsunami that followed and was moved. We found it interesting to wander the town and look for those stalwart structures that persevered.

Since that tragic day in 1964, Valdez has grown and flourished. For its efforts in rebuilding the new Valdez in an amazingly short time, Valdez was voted an All America City in 1965. We are truly happy we took this road-less-traveled by and it really has made all the difference in our Alaska memories.

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Glacier Glee... Yipee!

We are surrounded by these slowly moving masses or rivers of ice formed by the accumulation and compaction of snow on mountains.

Could this be today's Only in Alaska?

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