My experiences in Ellamar, Alaska were absolutely amazing.
Alaska is a beautiful place. There is no way to describe the breathtaking sights I saw or the awesome incidents that took place while there. No way to describe the glee and transformation of a free soul on the edge of the untamed wild. While Anchorage was somewhat dirty, Fairbanks quaint and Valdez stunningly picturesque, it was Ellamar that made me fall in love with the Alaska.
I left the interior of Alaska at Fairbanks by car. The drive from Fairbanks to Valdez, along the Richardson Highway, runs 368 miles (562 km). The out of this world scenery helped pass the driving time.
From geologic wonders of snow-capped mountains to spectacular glaciers to breathtaking waterfalls, coupled with sometimes-foggy, snowiest place in Alaska mountain passes to canyons to rivers to wildlife to fresh spring water jug-filling stops; the 360 degrees of wonder that surrounded, every moment of the drive, never got old.
Valdez, the end of the Trans Alaskan Pipeline, had an impressive skyline that rivaled the Swiss Alps. It was roughly a 2-hour boat trip from the Port of Valdez, through the Valdez Arm (Valdez-Dutch Harbor) along the Alaska Marine Highway (the country’s most unique Scenic Byway) in Prince William Sound to the Tatitlek Narrows to Virgin Bay. Ellamar is across the way from Bligh and Busby Islands in Valdez-Cordova County, approximately 20 mi (32 km) southwest of Valdez. Alaska native coastal villages, Chenega and Tatitlek, are nearby.
Ellamar, in Prince William Sound, resides in the Chugach National Forest and is the world’s farthest north temperate rainforest. Archeological evidence shows that the Chugach people have survived and prospered for thousands of years. The Alutiiq people of Tatitlarmiut, of northeastern Prince William Sound, lived in the area of Ellamar, once called Palutaq. Less than 15 people call Ellamar home fulltime.
Everything: equipment, supplies, wood, vehicles; had to be hauled-in by boat. Or seaplane. There are no roads leading to the village. There is no other way to reach civilization. It is remote. Perhaps that is why I enjoyed it so much. It is the essence of Alaska.
The natural grandeur around Virgin Bay was enormous, with unpopulated spaces, it was easy to get away from it all. Wild lands, wild life, wild fish and wild life!!! I was off the grid.
Despite being isolated from the modern trappings of life, the comforts of home were available. The cabin I stayed at (part of “Ellamar Base”) had running water from a large rainwater storage tank. Lots of rain comes to the splendid sub-polar rainforest. The water is used for dishes (yes it’s heated!), showers, toilet, etc. There was electricity from a generator. There was also an outhouse available where one could sit and expel wastes while looking out on beautiful Virgin Bay.
There was transportation, The Lil Red Hoopty, otherwise known as the Ellamar Taxi, that made it a delight to travel the primitive roads or down to the beach.
The cabin had a full kitchen, that I used many times, especially to create delicious breakfasts like my signature homemade biscuits and country gravy. There is nothing like sitting on the deck overlooking the bay in the early morning whilst consuming bacon, eggs, toast and coffee!
Ellamar is unspoiled by the modern world. What was once, over 100 years ago, a bustling mining area, had reverted back to magnificent countryside. Mother Earth always wins. It was so quiet. My senses were enhanced. Those stout trees waved and swayed as if they were dancing to a silent, predetermined earthly symphony. I was not the conductor of this ethereal peace, but an onlooker to this vast account and my heart soared on elation and on infinite possibilities. There were no other sounds. No city. Not the sound of traffic. No police sirens. No car alarms or horns. No trains. No barking dogs. No buzzing electrical poles. No arguing neighbors or lawn mowers. No static or white noise. It was complete, deafening silence. My soul was completely at peace. I meditated, as I often do, for clarity, for calm, for peace and for mind.
Not even the ghosts of the past were stirring. Evidence of early-1900s wood construction and equipment was scattered throughout the area: the collapsed dance hall, the old boat house and mining boilers etc. All one has to do is dig a little in the ground to find an old bottle or broken pieces of fancy china covered by 100 years worth of growth, dead plant matter and erosion. There is a rock shelf in the middle of Virgin Bay, as well as the old mine shaft, now filled with water and debris, called the “Glory Hole,” which is over 600 feet deep.
As a foodie, I must comment on the foodstuffs experienced in this wonderland. As one would expect, there was a lot of good fishing in Prince William Sound! I used a net to scoop-up glacial ice for beverage and fish cooling.
There were delightful feasts of fresh clams, oysters, shrimp and fish – the sea took care of me all deep fried, gilled and good. Alaska’s summer waters teem with 5 kinds of wild Pacific salmon, halibut, hefty rainbow trout, delicious halibut, rockfish and delicate arctic grayling. And there was moose. The scrumptious moose! And black bear! Corned bear! Delicious! I tried corned bear! I held the skull of the bear I ate. So delicious and delightful.
I saw porpoises, sea lions and puffins in the wild! The forests provided a steady food supply for bald and golden eagles.
I was surrounded by the most beautiful natural wonders. As I sat in a stunted tree atop a hill overlooking a green meadow, with aspen and spruce trees all around, I wished I could share the wonderful sights with everyone everywhere. Pictures do not do it justice at all. Words sure do not do it justice.