Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Whittier: Gateway to Someplace

I try to keep an open mind when it comes to visiting recommended venues on behalf of AKontheGO. Alaska is, after all, unique in that what looks good to us might not look so good to those from Outside. So when we were invited to attend the Whittier Small Fry Salmon Derby last weekend, I put my personal perspective in my pocket and tried to look at things from a Lower 48 viewpoint.

It was raining on Saturday. Not just raining, but pouring in torrents that drenched us as we prepared ourselves for a day of "fishing". We had along with us Nephew and Girlfriend, who are very hardy and were certainly up for an afternoon of plugging along a shoreline in search of fish.

Whittier is 60 miles from Anchorage, along the Western edge of Prince William Sound, and was the site of the original port for weapons and other materials of importance prior to WWII, in case Alaska, then a territory, was captured or otherwise attacked and we needed a port of entry/exit.

One must get to Whittier through the Rabbit Hole, I mean Tunnel. A 2.5 mile-long wormhole in solid rock that spits one out at the end, blinded by the sudden light. Autos share the space with the train, and must each wait their respective turn. Which makes me remember the days of the Washington State Ferry system: wait, drive, wait, drive.

We arrived in town to see a Princess Line ship waiting to engage travelers on their wet seven-day cruise through the foggy fjords of Glacier Bay and the Inside Passage, poor souls. Passengers were slogging through town with umbrellas and raincoats, unsure of what to do while they waited for sailing time. Most of the town is closed up for winter; Labor Day is past and these folks are outta here.

Long story short: no fish run, we hiked briefly along a creek to see some brave souls who were fishing, drove around town looking at the Begich Towers, where almost all of the 150 full-time residents live, had some coffee, then left.

I can see potential in Whittier; Bear loved to see the boats, trains, trucks, and barges around the town, and they do have a lovely set of trails to hike in better weather. It remains to be seen what Whittier does with their tourist planning.

For our part, we're glad we don't live there...

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