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: 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.

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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

 

 

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.

Eklutna Hiking.

Hike 11/52. There is something awesome about being on a frozen lake. It can be slightly terrifying. I felt confident that we wouldn’t fall through the ice, but then you see a big crack running the length of the lake and your mind starts to think, “what if?”Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 12.02.05 PMWe headed out down the middle of the lake with the wind in our faces. It was sunny, but not very warm. Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 12.01.46 PM

The mountains don’t seem very far away when you are hiking here. It is only because they are enormous. You walk for hours and the things in the distance don’t seem to get much closer. Alaskan scale is different than other places I have visited.Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 12.02.17 PM.png

After a few miles, there is a cabin on the left side of the lake. There is a road that you can walk on to access to the cabin. We returned on the road.Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 12.02.30 PMIt has a bit of a higher vantage point. We saw cyclists, dog sleds, and skiers out on the lake.

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Winner Creek, Girdwood, AK.

Hike 8/52 was one that we had done before. Based at the fancy Alyeska Resort there is no shortage of places to stop and warm up before or after hiking in Girdwood.screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-7-31-14-pm

We set off on our short hike after brunch at The Bake Shop. We drove one car to the the end of the trail and started from the far end of the trail. Our plan was foiled when we found out that the hand tram was no longer operating for the winter. There was hardly any snow, so we sighed and muttered, but continued on.

We had to stop and build a snowman as it was still early in the season and we haven’t had a lot of snow, yet.

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The Winner Creek and the snowman.screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-7-33-53-pmDeciding how to cross when the tram is closed.screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-7-30-43-pmWe somehow still had a lot of fun and wore ourselves out.screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-7-31-01-pmWhen we got home, this happened. I would call it a success.

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Hiking Eagle and Symphony Lakes.

Hike 7/52 for the 52 hike challenge. This is a popular trail and quite an easy hike. Most of the mild uphill is in the beginning.screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-8-39-39-am

Eventually, you make it into the valley below. The creeks that drain out of the lakes are two different colors.screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-8-42-14-amI am still addicted to panoramic photos.screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-8-40-38-amThe further into the valley you walk, the more boulders begin to appear.screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-8-41-03-amEventually arriving at the lakes, you can see why the two creeks are different colors.screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-8-41-17-amOne lake (Eagle) is the turquoise color of the glacial silt. The other (Symphony) is snow melt and precipitation. They are separated by a narrow ridge. It is a beautiful hike near Anchorage.screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-8-41-33-amThe creek crossings were easier for some of us.screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-8-42-48-am