Our caravan group boarded Alaska Railroad passenger cars for the day round trip from Anchorage to Whittier. One of the cool parts of this is the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, known locally as the Whittier Tunnel or the Portage Tunnel. At over 13,000 feet length, it is the longest combination tunnel in North America. It’s stout too — it withstood the tremendous 1964 earthquake without damage.
The dining car was comfy and roomy, just like our house on wheels. Except it weighs 50 or 60 thousand pounds more than our little Airstream trailer. We liked the windows and appointments in the train. Our passenger car had tremendous leg room and seats much more comfortable than coach class airlines seats.
We walked across the street from the Whittier train stop (zero train depot buildings, just the end of the track) and loaded onto this nice glacier cruise boat with a couple other small tour groups. The train was much roomier but it wasn’t a problem for us — we enjoyed sitting and chatting with friends on the haul out to interesting waters.
Looking back at Whittier as we pulled out into the Prince William Sound, all we saw was heavy low clouds hanging over Whittier and the harbor. Two things came to mind: (1) we’d heard Whittier averages over an inch of rainfall daily, so the low rain clouds make sense, and (2) the heavy cover supported the stories we’d heard of the U.S. armed forces establishing a secret military base here from the 1940s through 1960. No aerial surveillance would detect it.
This was our fourth and best dining cruise. They provided salmon and prime rib w/cranberry horseradish sauce, green salad and rolls. It was all really good and we could have eaten a lot more of it than we did.
The great posers and crowd pleasers, check out the steady gaze of these harbor seals. Jim just finished reading Edgar Sawtelle and one of the outstanding traits of the Sawtelle dogs was their gaze. Probably just like these seals, right?
The captain took us to watch several glaciers, and our pictures cannot do justice to how massive these are. We were able to stay long enough to hear the glacier groaning and cracking and calving just a little bit.
And of course, we have time to pose in front of the glacier. The weather was just about perfect for us. Winds and the water were calm, the sun came out, and air temperatures might have hit mid-50s.
The boat’s crew netted some fresh (but potentially very very old) ice and hauled it into the cabin for chopping. Not too much later the captain announced fresh glacial margaritas. We wondered if the drinks are so fresh if they are made with glacial ice of perhaps hundreds of years age?
This was one of the prettiest things we saw on our glacier cruise. We oohed and aahed over several waterfalls, and this one seemed the prettiest. We could print a few of these pictures, mount them, and hang them on on our walls. Make sure you get the nail in the right place the first time.
This boat is on their way out as we return. Of course we’re seeing everything through rose-colored glasses after having a great train ride and smooth sail with tasty food. Doesn’t this picture make it look like this is a fantastic place to work, at least in the summer?
We enjoyed walking this town of 180 people, after our cruise. Everything was very laid back. The Coast Guard station is automated (read: unstaffed), a little building houses the hardware/general store, there are gift shops and ice cream and fudge, of course. Several restaurants line the little shopping district.
Without stoplights and bars, this is what you have left, just hanging out at the CG station and listening to recorded weather reports and forecasts. Even this doesn’t take very long so this rowdy crowd moseyed down to the ice cream shop before walking around the harbor.
We had just enough time after our glacier cruise to tour the small boat harbor area and the shops. The train ride back to Anchorage was a good opportunity for a little napping before our almost ten p.m. return time. This was a full day and a great way to spend it.
Jim and Debbie
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