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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Dipnetting.

As real Alaska residents we are allowed to put a net into the water and scoop out fish. We previously did this for Hooligan. Now it was time to do it for salmon.

ADF&G: This popular fishery takes place from late June through July in the marine waters of Cook Inlet just off the mouth of the Kenai River. Since 2003, Alaskans harvest between 130,000 and 540,000 sockeye salmon annually in this fishery.

The Kenai River is a large glacial system draining the central Kenai Peninsula. The river begins at Kenai Lake near the community of Cooper Landing and flows approximately 82 miles down to its mouth in Upper Cook Inlet, near the community of Kenai. The City of Kenai is approximately 160 highway miles south of Anchorage.

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We loaded onto the boat on this rainy day and stuck our nets in the water.Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 9.20.23 AM.pngWe held the nets in the water until feeling a thrashing fish. Then you quickly lift the net out of the water and into the boat. Your crew pounces on the fish (or multiple fish if you are lucky) and swiftly kills and bleeds them.

Occasionally, you get a monster!Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 9.20.45 AM.png

When you get home, the real work begins.Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 9.21.17 AM.png

The (borrowed) smoker was hard at work.Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 9.21.26 AM.png

The (new) freezer is full now!

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

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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