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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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

The Ceremony.

Hair and makeup done by friends. I was so in love.Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 9.47.29 PM.pngCeremony set up done by friends and myself in the morning. The weather was great, which was lucky as we had no backup plan.Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 9.49.15 PM.pngObi Wan kept a lookout for birds the whole time. He didn’t see the love birds right behind him. (Sorry, that is terrible.)Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 9.51.03 PM.pngThe getaway vehicle arrived after the kissing part.Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 9.52.14 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-08-27 at 9.51.57 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-08-27 at 9.51.39 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-08-27 at 9.46.46 PM.pngWe got lots of honks on the drive home.Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 9.57.04 PM.png

Fly Fishing for King Salmon.

After the madness of Memorial Day, we headed south to the Anchor River to see if we could catch a King Salmon on a fly. The patriotism of the bald eagles were in full swing.Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.11.16 PM.pngThe night before we fished, we got to spend some time by a campfire doing the usual things. It seemed like a good omen.Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.11.28 PM.png

The evening was lovely.

Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.11.44 PM.pngThe next day, we had a hook up! Hanapa’a.Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.11.54 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.12.37 PM.pngThe eagles were vigilantly watching to see what would happen.Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.12.09 PM.pngWe did it! We landed one.Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.12.15 PM.png

That gave us plenty of time to explore the beaches in the area. What a beautiful spot!Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 10.12.24 PM.png

Hooligan Fishing.

Hooligan (Thaleichthys pacificus), otherwise known as “eulachon” or “candlefish”, are a type of anadromous smelt that makes its way into a number of rivers in Alaska during the spring spawning run. They arrive in some river systems in the hundreds of thousands, and are an important forage species for eagles, gulls, bears and other species. The fish is found from the Pacific Northwest to Alaska, and the name “eulachon” is thought to derive from the Chinookan language. “Hooligan” is thought to be a derivative of the Chinookan name.Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 9.56.57 AM.png

Hooligan are of interest to subsistence fishermen, who net them out of rivers in the spring. The fish are eaten dried, smoked, canned or pan-fried. In years past, they earned the name “candlefish”, because when dried, the oil content of the fish was sufficient to allow it to burn like a candle. Hooligan were formerly harvested and rendered for their oil, which can comprise 15% of their body weight during the spawning run.Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 9.57.06 AM.png

Hooligan make their spawning run in May, with the males usually coming in first, followed by female fish a few days later. Males develop two fleshy ridges along their sides, and most hooligan die after spawning. They lay their eggs in sand or gravel, and the eggs hatch in roughly a month. The fry make their way to saltwater immediately, where they live for four to six years. They do not always return to the same stream where they were spawned, but they do return to the general area. They prefer slower rivers without a lot of current velocity, as they are fairly weak swimmers.Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 9.57.53 AM.png

Hooligan average between eight and ten inches in size.Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 9.58.21 AM.png

Hooligan are typically caught by dipnet, a long-handled net with a bag that has fine mesh in it. The fish school up in deeper pockets, and in these places hundreds of hooligan can be caught. At this writing, a dipnetting permit is not required, and anyone with a valid sport fishing license can catch hooligan. There is no bag limit on hooligan.

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