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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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.

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

Return for the Kings.

Having successfully caught a King Salmon on the fly, I wanted to show me friends why it is so exciting. We headed back down to Anchor River and fished until nearly midnight. Hardly needed headlamps.Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 8.47.56 AM.png Unsuccessful on day one, it did not matter with a “sunset” like this. Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 8.47.06 AM.png

The next day, the river was closed to fishing so we got to explore Homer and the Homer Spit. Homer is in the news lately because of the fight on immigration that it is battling.Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 8.48.14 AM.pngScreen Shot 2017-07-26 at 8.48.24 AM.png

The next day, the river was back open and we hit it early. We spent a few cold, almost dark, hours practicing our casts, and hooking and losing a couple of fish. Then it turned on. We found the right spot and the right time and we crushed it. The freezer is starting to fill.Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 8.48.35 AM.png

Hiking Bird Ridge.

Hike 12/52. Bird Ridge ain’t no joke. Especially in the winter. It is only 2.5 miles each way, but 3400 feet of elevation gain. Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 6.34.06 PM.png
4 dogs and 3 people made it damn near to the top.Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 6.34.34 PM.png

We went up, up, and up some more. Like a snowy stair stepper.Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 6.35.54 PM.png

The views seemed to just get better and better. Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 6.37.03 PM.png

We made it as close to the top as was safe and returned to the car.Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 6.37.12 PM.png

Walking was a little tricky for the following few days.