Yukon Territory

King Mountain Recreation Site on the Glenn Highway to
Whittier, Alaska

29 August 2010 - Sunday

Raining. Wet. Foggy. Overcast. ICK.

It was just a short distance to Anchorage, and it was dry there! But, but ... the asphalt was three lanes wide and there were people ... everywhere!

Anchorage Freeway in Alaska
Heading into Anchorage on the 'freeway'

Anchorage is a city. Similar to any other Canadian or American city. We had last visited in 2000 with my Dad. During that visit saw the excellent aircraft museum and Earthquake Park, an area I saw in November 1964 not too many months after the Good Friday earthquake in 1964. That 4-minute earthquake was the most powerful ever recorded in North America and the second largest ever recorded in the world. The epicenter just 80 miles east of Anchorage in Prince William Sound. It devastated Valdez and caused severe damage to Seward, Chenega and Kodiak.

Today, we stayed on the highway right through Anchorage without stopping.

Turnagain Arm, Alaska
Turnagain Arm viewed from the highway leading to the Kenai Peninsula

There are numerous little waterside parks to pull into. Some large enough for RVs, but choose carefully. We stopped at several to take pictures and poke around. 

Sign by Turnagain Arm, Alaska
Sign with Turnagain Arm in the background. Turnagain Arm is at the end of Cook Inlet.

At another of the stops a sea lion kept poking his head up!

Water life in Turnagain Arm, Alaska
Sea lion watching the tourists from Turnagain Arm

While driving the stretch of highway along Turnagain Arm an oncoming truck had a very close call with us. He was passing a long line of cars led by a rental motorhome. Steve moved far over to the shoulder while hitting the brakes and I surely do not know how the idiot managed to squeeze by without hitting our truck.

Because the highway was stupid crazy, we decided to get off it as soon as possible. So turned on to the Portage Glacier Highway headed towards Whittier. Just four miles from the junction is the Williwaw Campground in the Chugach National Forest. All the sites are without services, but the scenery is stunning. [Google Map link]

Mountains and glaciers all around with plenty of hiking trails. The salmon were also running so the area was busy with people elbowing each other out of the way in an effort to see the dying fish. 

After selecting a site and unhooking the fifth wheel, we decided to drive to Whittier.

My last visit to Whittier was in 1986 and I looked forward to seeing it again. In 1986 there was no road access. Now there is -- through the 2.5 mile long Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. Initially only a rail tunnel, this tunnel is now longest highway tunnel in North America. It is also the first U.S. tunnel with jet turbine and portal fan ventilation. I didn't want to continue thinking about that 1964 earthquake ...

Just before the staging area to the tunnel, there is a pull-off [Google Map link]. If you want to see Portage Glacier across the lake, this is the place to stop. This is also the last turnaround if you prefer to not drive through the tunnel to Whittier.

Portage Glacier seen from the highway, Alaska
The "toe" of Portage Glacier is visible from the highway ... it is the sliver of ice centered on the image

At this same pull-off, there is a sign outlining the tolls for the tunnel.

Whittier Tunnel sign, Alaska
Sign with round-trip tolls for passage through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel near Whittier

We arrived at the tunnel staging area just in time to drive through without waiting.

Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel near Whittier, Alaska
Entrance to the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel,Bear Valley side - N60 47 20.6 W148 48 13.5

The 2.5 mile long tunnel is wide enough for a single lane of traffic so each end gets to drive through once an hour.

The GPS's topo maps aren't accurate for the highway location here. The Alaska Railroad is shown in the correct location. The highway, which is ON the railroad is shown about 150 yards to the south.

This 13,300 foot long tunnel is the longest highway tunnel in North America.

Entering the Whittier Tunnel, Alaska
The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is one-way with train tracks & curbs
AND there's NO LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

The train track through the tunnel shuffled the truck to & fro as we drove through. It takes approximately 6 minutes to drive the 2.5 mile length of the tunnel at 25 mph.

On the Whittier side of the tunnel we exited to sunshine! Brilliant blue skies!

Steve had never been to Whittier so we drove all the roads. Whittier isn't that big, but had grown significantly since 1986! I think the highway access has contributed to Whittier being a more popular destination.

We also checked out the municipal campground, the only campground in town. It was rough and very few of the sites were level. Of course, no services. If you want to check it out on Google Maps it is at N60 46 21.1 W148 41 26.1.

I was content to be camped at Williwaw. Saved a few bucks on the tunnel toll too!

Fisherman at Whittier, Alaska
Fishermen at Cove Creek with Prince William Sound in the distance - N60 46 40.8 W148 39 36.5

Back by the docks in Whittier we searched out some lunch at the many excellent eateries lining the waterfront. The view from our picnic table was superb! 

Harriman Glacier viewed from Whittier, Alaska
Harriman Glacier above Prince William Sound seen from Whittier

Whittier is a popular spot with fisherman and the harbour is a very busy spot.

Whittier Harbour, Alaska
Whittier Harbour

The Alaska State Ferry departed while we were eating lunch.

Whittier, Alaska
Alaska State Ferry on Prince William Sound departing Whittier

The vehicle fast ferry also arrived while we sat in the sunshine.

Prince William Sound, Alaska
FVF Chenega on Prince William Sound arriving at Whittier

After lunch headed back to the tunnel to return to the fifth wheel at Williwaw Campground on the other side of the tunnel. 

Glacier viewed from near tunnel entrance at Whittier, Alaska
Learnard Glacier viewed from the staging area on the Whittier side of the tunnel entrance

Again we arrived just before the tunnel opened for traffic moving westward. Hardly had enough time to take a few pictures. 

Entrance to tunnel on the Whittier side, Alaska
Entrance to the tunnel on the Whittier side - N60 46 38.1 W148 43 55.8

Back on the Bear Valley side we pulled into the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center by Portage Lake.

Portage Lake, Chugach National Forest, Alaska
Portage Lake from the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center - Shakespeare & Burns Glaciers in the distance

The glaciers were everywhere but Portage Glacier is not visible from the visitor center.

Glacier above Portage Lake, Alaska
I don't know the name of this glacier 

Portage Lake & Glacier, Chugach National Forest, Alaska
Bryon Glacier and Portage Lake

To see Portage Glacier, one must pay to take a tour boat. 

Portage Lake & glacier, Alaska
Tour boat on Portage Lake - Burns Glacier is visible

Back at the campground it was time for a dog walk. There are many hiking trails in the area. Because it was the salmon run, there were numerous fish visible in the creeks and many dead ones lying here and there. Some obviously had been enjoyed by predators ... likely bears. We kept our eyes WIDE open while hiking.

Half eaten salmon in Alaska
Partially consumed salmon near a creek

It was quiet night. The campground was quiet this weekend. There were signs up indicating the campground was fully booked for the next weekend, a long weekend.

I can understand why it is so popular. Lovely spot with good campsites.

Campsite at Williwaw Campground, Alaska
Campsite at Williwaw Campground in the Chugach National Forest

This campground has a paved ring road with wicked speed bumps! The sites are well-organized and tidy. Very nice spot to stay for $18/night. A very popular place too!

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