Wonderful Whittier

Ok, to be completely honest, it IS wonderful, but it’s also a bit weird! If you are claustrophobic, you might want to skip heading to Whittier in your car since the only way to get there is though the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. This 2.5 mile long tunnel under Maynard Mountain is not only the longest highway tunnel in North America, but it also one of the only tunnels used for trains and cars, oh, and it’s one lane! Although the railroad portion of the tunnel was completed in 1943, it didn’t open to vehicles until June 7, 2000. (Click here for some interesting tunnel history.)

We were going to be taking a cruise to Surprise Glacier with Major Marine Tours at 12:15. I wanted to have time to explore Whittier a bit before the cruise, so we opted for the 8:30am tunnel crossing. We arrived at the staging site, paid our $13 toll and waited for the tunnel to open to traffic bound for Whittier. Once the tunnel was cleared, we began our drive through the mountain…

img_5535

It was an interesting experience, to say the least. We arrived in Whittier with plenty of time to explore. One of the things we wanted to see was the Buckner Building. Steve had read about it on Atlas Obscura. Once touted as “The City Under One Roof”, it is now a place of moldy walls and asbestos filled air, not quite hidden behind chain link and razor wire. The daredevil in me wanted to venture inside but the saner side of me opted to take a few shots from outside. It was a close call though when I found an opening in the fence! If Steve hadn’t been pointing at the No Trespass sign and shaking his head, I might have done it.

Whittier Glacier Cruise-7981

Whittier Glacier Cruise-7966

We still had plenty of time before the cruise, so we drove out Shotgun Cove Trail. We stopped at a few of the day use areas and were treated to some spectacular scenery…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-7991

Whittier Glacier Cruise-7999

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8018

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8034

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8040
Notice the boat? Gives a small sense of scale.

And my first sighting of a steller jay…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8006

At the end of the trail, we found  this…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8011

I had been seeing splashes of yellow along the road and was finally able to get close enough to get a picture. Turns out, it was yellow skunk cabbage…

img_5544

As we headed back toward the harbor, there was one more building I wanted to see. The Begich Towers are home to almost the entire population (all 200) of Whittier. (great story here)…

img_5549

Finally, it was time to check in for our cruise. We found a parking spot and walked along the harbor to the Major Marine office…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8041

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8043

As we left the dock, we had a great view of the Buckner Building…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8188

The onboard park ranger and the captain did a great job of explaining the variety of things were to see. Our first stop was at a kittiwake colony…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8051

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8063

I was content to take in the scenery and listen to the narrative as we navigated through Prince William Sound. The captain stayed a respectful distance form the sea otters, many with babies…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8096

When I saw movement and splashes of color, it wasn’t until I got out the binoculars that I was able to see the kayakers…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8070

The lingering clouds made a dramatic display in the mountains..

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8113

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8118

26 different glaciers can be seen from Prince William Sound and the ranger pointed them out as we passed…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8127

But our cruise was to a specific glacier – Surprise Glacier. As we entered Harriman Fjord, we got our first glimpse…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8131

The captain explained we would be staying 1/2 a mile from the face of the glacier since it is actively calving and a 1/2 mile was safety factor needed for the tremendous waves possible if a large shelf were to calve. The closer we got to the glacier face, the more ice we saw in the water…

img_5574

I knew ahead of time about the glacier ice margaritas we could enjoy, so I wasn’t surprised when I saw two members of the crew scooping up ice…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8136

It is hard to describe the eerie beauty of the glacier. Between the stunning blue ice and the rifle like cracking sounds, I can only describe it as breathtaking…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8143

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8142

It’s hard to get a picture of it calving because by the time you hear it, it has already happened, I got a very short video…

But, Steve managed to get a great shot of it calving…

IMG_4499

It was time to begin our journey back to Whittier, but there were still lots of things to see. We cruised though Esther Passage…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8163

And stopped at a working salmon hatchery…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8181

And of course, enjoyed our glacier ice margaritas…

img_5576

It was a thoroughly enjoyable cruise, made better by adding the all you can eat prime rib and salmon buffet! But, as you know, all good things must come to an end. So with our bellies full, our camera cards loaded with pictures and our eyes having absorbed so much amazing scenery, we once again took our place in line at the staging area to enter the tunnel one more time. This time, though, we had to wait for the train to clear the tunnel before we could enter…

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8197

Whittier Glacier Cruise-8201

An interesting article about 1899 Harriman Expedition can be found here.

Have you ever been to Whittier? What did you think of the tunnel?

6 thoughts on “Wonderful Whittier”

  1. Wow, awesome cruise enjoyed reading about it, that scenery is amazing ! For sure i would have felt uncomfortable in that tunnel . Loved the video ! I had hoped to photograph a Stellar Jay on my visit to Oregon so I was delighted to see you captured a shot ! Glacier margaritas over the top fun !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the Whittier tour. It’s one of the places we missed when we were in Alaska 5 years ago. We traveled from Homer to Williwaw campground and got set up and immediately drove to the Visitor’s Center at Portage Lake. We saw the tunnel but because it was so late we decided not to take the drive to Whittier.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That Buckner building reminds me of the towns near Chernobyl…. that is one forbidding place. I would be curious to see the inside too, but I would definitely stay far away. That is way too creepy for me.

    You guys are definitely doing Alaska right – planes, trains, and automobiles… or helicopters and boats… whatever. I love it. If you’re gonna travel that far, you may as well be fearless and go see it all! That is awesome!

    What is ALSO awesome is that margarita!!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s