This is Portage Lake and the Portage Glacier area. There is a nice visitor’s center here, and we watched a movie about the area which included the native people’s of the area (area defined as a few hundred mile area around the Prince William Sound), the glacier and how, like all glaciers, changes with time…this one has hit a shrinking stage but has gone through this before, and also about the Exxon Valdez incident and its effect on the animals and the native peoples.
They had their flags at half staff in honor of those who died in the terrorist attack back in our home state of Florida…nice touch. Between the flag poles in he water you can see a ship…the Princess Lines (yes, same as the Cruise Lines) offers a trip around lake and to the glacier, there are Park Rangers who are on the tour, kind of a joint venture. We did not do this…
This shot gives you an idea of just how thick the glacier can be. When you add into the equation that the mountain crevices are deep, and they are full of snow and ice too, well the thickness is beyond imagination. The weight of the ice and snow will make portions of it break away from the rest, and tumble down the mountain. Some glaciers have this breaking point right near the water’s edge, causing Icebergs. The lake still had a few pieces of ice floating around even on this day in June.
Of course, we couldn’t resist the urge (at least I couldn’t) to drive over to Whittier, which means you have to drive through the longest highway tunnel in North America, Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, a 2 1/2 mile, single lane tunnel, shared with the railroad. If you look closely, you can see the train tracks merging with the road. There is a $13 fee to make the round trip…you pay going into Whittier, and it is free coming back. It is controlled by red and green lights, and I am not sure how they handle trains…I guess they have a red light or green light too.
We had STRICT Rules from the toll man…you can only stop in the tunnel for an emergency…and stopping to take pictures or to use the bathroom are NOT emergencies. So we took this picture while driving out my window (Marcia’s arm hurts when she reaches out like that). As for the bathroom, we held it for the entire 2 1/2 miles! Really, are you serious? You can’t stop to use the bathroom??? Had I been thinking more sharply I would have made the comment to him, “Oh, I did not realize there are bathrooms in there…I will stop on the other end and walk back inside to use them.”
The highlight of Whittier, besides the view of the mountains and the bay, is the Inn at Whittier. Whittier was a “Secret Military Port” during World War 2. Until the train tunnel was modified to allow car traffic in 2000, the only way to get to Whittier was by walking, by train, by seaplane or by boat.
Look at that entrance! The hotel opened in 2004, hit some hard financial times, but the new owners seem to be making a go with it. Since car traffic can now get to Whittier, things are looking better for the small community…but I am sure many are like us…they drive in and turn around and drive out within 20 minutes or so.
This condo, built by the army back in the early 1950s, now houses most of the towns population. It sure has a nice waterfall back behind it. There is a larger building built by the army which is no longer in use, and is an eyesore to the community.
Whittier can sure use an influx of dollars. They rely on the fishing, the tourist fishing, and the rail industry, along with the few restaurants, hotels, and such. Frankly, I don’t know how locals get gas…the nearest gas station is about 40 miles away. We saw a small grocery store, and many residents were just walking. There are a few pedestrian tunnels under the railroad tracks, which I am sure are a relief during the long 250 inches worth of snowy winters.