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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Amanda’s Birthday.

The nicest part of road trips is being able to stop whenever you see something pretty. The problem in Alaska is that everything is gorgeous. It is hard to drive anywhere because you are stopping all of the time. It already takes a long time to get anywhere here. We headed to Homer for an overnight birthday trip.Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 10.36.30 AMWe stopped if we felt like it. If we saw a cliff and wanted to know what was on the other side, we went to check it out.Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 10.39.49 AMEventually, we made it all the way to Homer. We found our cabin and admired the view. Homer is beautiful with water everywhere and big mountains and glaciers visible from town.Homer spit is a big draw and we headed there immediately. Going into the Salty Dawg is mandatory.Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 10.40.14 AMWe found a great restaurant at the recommendation of our cabin owners. What a beautiful place. The decorations are one of a kind and the food was outstanding. We ate enough to keep us full for our adventures the next day.Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 10.40.51 AM Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 10.41.33 AMThe next day, we looked off the balcony and figured we should get to the glacier that we could see while eating breakfast.Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 10.42.13 AMThe biggest problem is that it is on the other side of Kachemak Bay. Luckily, there are a few boat owners around that were willing to drop us off near Halibut Cove so we could hike to the glacier.

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We jumped out like a relaxed D-day and watched the boat leave.

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That is when you start hoping they will come back when they promised. Or that you will make it to the extraction point. Or that you should have brought some bear deterrent. Although we did have cell phone service the whole time. There are many well maintained trails on the opposite side of the bay. The hike was beautiful.

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We were making good time and decided to detour to Humpy Creek. Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 11.06.51 AM

While there were no Humpies (pink salmon), there was a beautiful view and a rare way to cross the creek. Well, it is  rare for us before moving to Alaska. This is the second hike we have been on with a hand tram used to cross a river.Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 11.07.09 AM

Eventually, we hiked to the glacier. It turns out we hiked to the lake that is made by the glacier. We couldn’t actually get to the glacier from where we were if we wanted to get picked up today.

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Amanda did get to touch the glacier. In her own way.

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We made it to the extraction point and survived. Somehow. The boat returned. We weren’t eaten by wildlife. We even had a delicious dinner in the car on the way back home.Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 11.19.59 AM

Happy Birthday Amanda!