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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Canada Trip – Day 6.

Day 6 we headed west along Vancouver Island back to Telegraph Cove. Every day, we had to break down our camp. We put everything that we could into dry bags (they aren’t cheap or spacious) and drag the boats to the water. If it is low tide, that can be quite a ways. It is a tedious procedure and not something that we looked forward to every morning.

Prepping for the paddle.

Prepping for the paddle.

We made it back to civilization and washed our hands. In a sink. With warm water and soap. Half of the reason I like being outside is so that I can appreciate the fancy things in life. Things like sinks. We had to carry our own fresh water. We each brought 3.75 gallons of fresh water in our boat. That was enough to drink, cook food, let the dog drink, and brush our teeth, but that is about it. It was nice to be back in the “real” world. We drove to Campbell River. That is my favorite spot to fish for salmon. This whole trip, I was dragging a herring fly behind my boat. Well, maybe not the whole time. Only when it wasn’t too dangerous, or I wasn’t watching whales with my mouth open. I was looking for Coho salmon as I have never caught that species, yet.

Campbell River always has a healthy run of Pink Salmon. That seemed to be my consolation prize.

2nd place trophy.

2nd place trophy.

Dat kype tho'.

Dat kype tho’.

My good friend has an awesome house in an fantastic location with an incredible family. This is part of his oasis. That is all I can say about that.

Little slice of Canadian heaven.

Little slice of Canadian heaven.

We really enjoyed Campbell River. It has a lot of fly fishing history and still has a huge fishing community. Everything seems to be better when fish are involved.

 

Vacation-Day 5.

Our fifth day saw us cross back over Johnstone Strait. Once again, we had perfect conditions and not a care in the world about the currents or wind. We camped near Kaikash Creek and had a great afternoon feeling fresh water and watching the wildlife. That night, the moon rose dramatically and we brushed our teeth in awe.

We loved it.

We loved it.

This was probably the most built up campsite that we visited. It has a metal fire pit and just down the trail, a composting toilet! It was quite a bit of luxury.

Fires matched the sunset.

Fires matched the sunset.

Another moon rising over Johnstone Strait.

Another moon rising over Johnstone Strait.

We spent a lot of time identifying birds.

Beautiful wildlife.

Beautiful wildlife.

Luxury camping.

Luxury camping.