Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Soon after leaving our camp spot north of Cooper's Landing, we crossed a small stream in the woods that was full of spawing fish.There was a good view off the bridge.
And even time for a short, fishy video!

Then it was off to Seward, which is the start location of the famous Iditarod dog sled race all 933 miles to Nome, Alaska on the north west coast.

Grabbed a coffee at the Sea Bean in Seward, then headed back north. We skipped out on visiting the Exit Glacier near town, as we wanted to make it to Whittier in good time.We got caught in a lot of construction delays on the way, so instead of heading to Whittier late, we checked out the Portage Glacier Visitor Center - where they wanted $3. to look at some of the displays (#&^). Never seen that before.
The road to Whittier - which is a coastal port - is very unique. The only way to get there is by sea, by rail, or by driving there - through a railroad tunnel. That's right, you have to drive about 5km through a tunnel each way, while actually driving on the rails - and pay a toll.
Since we were late for that day, we found a camp spot in the National Forest along the river and had a campfire - hoping we were not to be visited by one of those salmon-eating grizzly bears.
In the morning, we got in line for the run through the railroad tunnel.
Here the road goes on top of the rails - which still carry regular rail service.
I assume they hold all the trains while we were going through?
It's a long ways.
Whittier, at the far end of the tunnel is, how do you say, somewhat,,,, eclectic?
It is very beautiful - if you get a day when the fog is not on the deck. And cruise ships come to call - and they have a famous '26 glacier tour'.
But on the day we were there, the weather was poor, so it might have been a 2 glacier tour, so we declined and drove around to see the sights. It is still an active fishing port, and while we were visiting the laundromat, a fishing crewman was there trying in vain to dry sleeping bags the crew used on the boats.
There was also a small museum.
And lots and lots of derelict boats, vehicles, heavy equipment, and buildings.
The tunnel was built in 1943 and has the following distinctions: (courtesy State of Alaska website)
  • Longest highway tunnel in North America (13,300' or 2.5 miles).
  • Longest combined rail and highway use tunnel in North America.
  • First U.S. tunnel with jet turbine and portal fan ventilation.
  • First computerized regulation of both rail and highway traffic.
  • First tunnel designed for -40° F. and 150 mph winds.
  • Portal buildings designed to withstand avalanches
The building below was built in 1948, and housed 1000 apartments.
The Buckner Building, completed in 1953, had 1,000 apartments and was once the largest building in Alaska. It was called the "city under one roof," with a hospital, bowling alley, theater, gym, swimming pool and shops for Army personnel.
It is now very abandoned.

Whittier Manor, built a little later has been renovated into condos and now houses most of the local population, along with another converted building.But it appears that a number of abandoned buses and shacks still have occasional occupation.

Headed back to the tunnel for the trip out.

Watch for trains!

1 comment:

  1. I guess 'a light at the end of the tunnel' takes on special meaning here!!