Packrafting Portage.

Our awesome friends borrowed packrafts and invited us on an adventure. We loaded packrafts into our backpacks and drove to Whittier. It was our first time to Whittier and our first time through the Whittier Tunnel, I mean the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. From ADoT:

Travel between Prince William Sound and Turnagain Arm has always been a vital part of life in Alaska, although modes and routes have continued to change. Chugach Eskimos have hunted and gathered in this area for thousands of years. They trekked over Portage Pass and Portage Glacier to trade and fight with the Athabaskan Indians of Cook Inlet. Many miners and prospectors also used Portage Pass to reach the gold fields of Cook Inlet and the Kenai Peninsula in the late 19th century. Often dropped off at the head of Passage Canal, these adventurers used pack trains, sleds, and pulleys to drag equipment and supplies over Portage Pass in hopes of striking it rich in Cook Inlet or on the Kenai Peninsula. During this period, Portage Glacier still covered most of Portage Lake. Travelers climbed to Portage Pass and traversed the eastern edge of Portage Glacier to Bear Valley. From there they would walk the front of the glacier onto the base of Begich Peak and drop down to Portage Valley.

map showing approximate prospectors route

This route, however, was both difficult and dangerous. In 1914 the Alaska Railroad Corporation began to consider ways to construct a railroad spur to what is now the town of Whittier. While railroad manager Otto Ohlson championed this route because of its ability to provide a shortcut to a deep-water port (a trip to Seward added 52 more miles), this route didn’t become a reality until World War II. The main advantages of using Whittier as a rail port was that it was a shorter voyage, reduced exposure of ships to Japanese submarines, reduced the risk of Japanese bombing the port facilities because of the bad weather, and avoided the steep railroad grades required to traverse the Kenai Mountains.

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 8.11.35 AM.png

In 1941, the U.S. Army began construction of the railroad spur from Whittier to Portage. This line became Alaska’s main supply link for the war effort. Anton Anderson, an Army engineer, headed up the construction. The tunnel currently bears his name.

On April 23, 1943 workers completed the spur, which consisted of a 1-mile tunnel through Begich Peak and a 2.5-mile tunnel through Maynard Mountain, thus linking Whittier to the Alaska Railroad’s main line at Portage.

With a new rail connection to Whittier, the area began to change. In the mid-1940s, work crews and supply ships began to arrive, and population, including military and civilian personnel, swelled to over 1,000. Infrastructure—such as buildings (including the six story Buckner building and the Begich Tower), a power plant, and a petroleum tank farm—began to change the landscape.Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 8.11.53 AM.png

The 1950s brought change to Whittier once again. As the military pulled out, Whittier transformed into a federally run commercial port. This turn of events also provided the opportunity for the private ownership and development potential that exists today.

Arriving in Whittier meant beautiful views of the marina from the local coffee shop. The best way to keep people out of Whittier is to repeat the mantra, “It is always shittier in Whittier”.

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 8.12.08 AM.png

After a brief tour of the whole town, we began our hike.Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 8.12.25 AM.pngIt is a short and steep hike. Packs were loaded with boats, lunch, paddles, clothes, and snacks.

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 8.13.20 AM.pngScreen Shot 2017-10-09 at 8.12.51 AM.png

As we crested the summit our merry band of travelers enjoyed the views and the walk in the mountains.Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 8.13.39 AM.pngThe end of the trail was stunning.Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 8.13.59 AM.pngScreen Shot 2017-10-09 at 8.14.17 AM.pngScreen Shot 2017-10-09 at 8.14.42 AM.pngWe had a quick lesson on how to inflate the boat, wear a dry suit, and try to go in a forward direction. Then we were off.Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 8.15.11 AM.pngScreen Shot 2017-10-09 at 8.15.33 AM.png

We paddled across the lake until we found the outlet. Then we floated and paddled downstream to where the river meets Turnagain Arm. It was an incredible adventure that made me appreciate the outdoors and Alaska’s beauty even more.

Advertisements

Birds: 2 Rory: 0

Another beautiful hike. In fact 16/52 that I am trying to get to. It is nice that I need to gain elevation to get to these ptarmigan. It forces me to find difficult hikes.Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 8.23.05 AM.pngThis time I headed up Buffalo Mine Road. There are lots of ATV trails and it would have been nice to have one at some points. When I am sweating and tired I wish for an ATV. Then I remember how much healthier it is to be out there sweating and doing things under your own power.Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 8.28.40 AM.pngWe saw some squirrels and many birds that we were not targeting. The colors of the plants and trees are starting to change and it was a beautiful walk in the woods with the dogs and my bow in my hand.Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 8.28.54 AM.pngI also don’t spend much time in “the Valley” as it can have a bit of a bad reputation for being a rough area.

Birds: 1 Rory :0

Feeling semi confident with my bow, I am looking for places where I can hunt small game. Having two hunting dogs, it seems that I should take them and put them to good use. One area open to hunting that isn’t too far away is the Powerline trail. Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 4.42.16 PM.png

Near Indian Valley, hunting is allowed. I headed over there for my first time on the far end of the trail.

Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 4.42.24 PM.png

It was a beautiful hike and I was too low in elevation to get to any ptarmigan. I think. That is what I tell myself. We did not see any birds. At least I got some steps in. And is was hike 15/52.Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 4.42.04 PM.png

 

 

Can’t Stop on the Kenai.

This fall has been incredible for fishing the Kenai. Maybe it is always like this. It seems like I made the right choice moving up here. We have made friends with our incredible neighbors and some seem even more fanatical about fly fishing than I am.

Dolly Varden and Rainbow Trout have been caught and released by us more times than I can count. Here are a few pictures of the events.Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 12.31.48 PMScreen Shot 2017-10-03 at 12.32.24 PMScreen Shot 2017-10-03 at 12.31.29 PMScreen Shot 2017-10-03 at 12.33.23 PMScreen Shot 2017-10-03 at 12.32.49 PM

I Can See Russia From Here.

Well, the Russian River is a close day trip. This trail always seems to be under construction. It gets the heart racing as there are supposed to be lots of bears up here.Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 11.51.18 AM.png

This is where I start singing to myself. Loudly, poorly, and probably getting the words wrong. I sing more when I don’t bring the dogs. It is like a circus with two dogs with bear bells, me with bear spray, and still trying to fish. Sometimes it is nice to just hit it on my own. Terrifying, but nice.

The first fished I picked up was a Coho Salmon. Accidental. I was aiming for trout. It was a good problem to have. I need a bigger net.Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 11.51.32 AM.pngI did get into some trout. This one was fun.Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 11.51.48 AM.png

Nothing special about it, but I saw a little something stuck to it.Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 11.52.01 AM.png

Cool my first ADF&G tagged trout.Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 11.52.32 AM.png

Having worked briefly in the fisheries industry, this was exciting for me.

There are still lots of Sockeye Salmon in the river.

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 11.53.00 AM.png

They are occasionally caught as well. It is like dragging a tire upstream, but still fun on a 5 weight rod.

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 11.53.00 AM.png

There are plenty of decent trout to fool as well. Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 11.53.31 AM.png

I sang alone on the walk back to the car. Happy, tired, and in one piece.

Out to Caines Head.

We took the family out to Caines Head a couple of times. It is one of our favorite places to visit. We stopped to watch the salmon in the river. The dogs begged for food.Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 2.52.01 PM.pngThe hike through the mossy forest along the coast is amazing.Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 2.52.18 PM.png

Once you make it to the beach, you are greeted by views of glaciers across the bay.Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 2.52.47 PM.pngThe dogs love the beach. Some never stop running while searching for birds.Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 2.53.28 PM.pngThe wife always seem to catch fish and look good doing it.Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 2.53.55 PM.png

My favorite way to spend time with family involves fishing.Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 2.54.16 PM.png

Photos from the amazing Alison Snyder.

The Reception.

After the park, we returned to our house to host a party. We did it all in our backyard.Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 6.58.16 AM.pngOur party favors were dog treats. Our cakes are from Jerome Street Bakery.

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 6.58.58 AM.pngWe cannot recommend them enough. From their website:

“We specialize in fresh, seasonal, and organic sweets inspired by the abundance of beauty in Alaska- the dark snowy winters, the mountains, the wildness, and our lovely piece of earth we call home on Jerome Street (and the wildlife we share it with).

We are known for our gratitude cakes. All our sweets are a fusion of a love of baking and a love of the community.  100% of proceeds are donated to chosen monthly non-profit.

Every product is made with love and intention, therefore no one cake will ever look the same.  Each order is unique and personal to the individual or event, and is based on seasonal availability.”

Our “guestbook” was a canvas painted like our backyard. We asked guests to paint themselves in.Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 7.01.15 AM.pngScreen Shot 2017-08-28 at 7.01.25 AM.pngScreen Shot 2017-08-28 at 6.59.18 AM.png

Desserts were s’mores which included gluten free handmade graham crackers courtesy of the founder of Ben’s Muffins.Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 6.59.36 AM.pngLive music was provided by The Hot Club of Nunaka.Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 7.00.43 AM.pngThe parents looking proud.Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 7.01.45 AM.png