Whittier – A nice surprise at the end of the tunnel
After setting up at the really nice Williwaw Campground in Portage that we learned about from our friends Joe and Judy, we decided to drive our car to Whittier, which can only be reached via The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. The tunnel is the longest combo vehicle-railroad tunnel in North America. It is open to vehicle traffic to travel directly over the railroad track once per hour from each direction, subject to interruptions by train passages. The tunnel is 2.5 miles long and takes about 7 minutes to get through. The cost was $12.00 round-trip for the car, but a large RV would cost over $125.
Whittier is a very cool small fishing town that you might want to check. It is the gateway to Prince William Sound. The drive through the tunnel is a fun experience, and once you arrive and get parked there are several things you can do and see.
We walked and hiked almost all day, since it was nice out and we wanted some exercise. There is a great view of yet another glacier from the Shotgun Cove Hiking Trail, which is on the west end of town. You have to go through a pedestrian tunnel, which passes under all of the train tracks, to get downtown and on to this hiking trail. We stopped at a cove and saw some salmon trying to run upstream to spawn, as well as dead Salmon.
This is an easy walk on a new road that takes you past the abandoned Buckner Building, which was built in the 1950’s and was once the largest building in Alaska.
We had lunch at the Swiftwater Seafood Cafe at the harbor, and can’t recommend it enough! The food is very fresh, and the beer is served cold in frosty glasses. After walking several miles it got a “gold star” from us. It’s a tiny place, but you get just the right feeling about the atmosphere and service there.
After lunch, we walked all the way back to the tunnel to hike the Portage Glacier Pass Trail. The hike is a moderate one – a steady ascent for a mile, finishing at a promontory (elevation 750ft) that offers views of Portage Glacier and Passage Canal to the east. It took us about 45 minutes to hike up the trail, after the 30 minute walk from town. We were rewarded with a fantastic view of the Portage Glacier and surrounding mountains. This hike was a “WOW!”
When the sun is out, it brings a whole new perspective of the surroundings. It was a beautiful day at Whittier and everyone we saw were all enjoying the break in good weather.