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Seward to Williwaw Campground, AK
Sunday, August 4, 2013
Heavy overcast, drizzle all day, high 59

We left Seward a day later than we'd planned, heading back out the Seward Highway and turning onto Portage Glacier Highway toward Whittier. We stopped at the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center at Portage Lake to look into taking the tour to the glacier and to inquire about the tunnel schedule to visit Whittier. We learned that we'd have just enough time to set up the camper in nearby Williwaw campground and make it in time for the 12:30 opening. So we did!

To drive to Whittier you have to pass through a 2½ mile long tunnel, the longest in North America. The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel was built so railroads could get supplies to and from this deep water port in time of war. Still a single lane tunnel, it has now been reworked to carry highway traffic in addition to rail traffic. Traffic bound toward Whittier is permitted at the half hour, outbound on the hour and rail in between. It's all carefully orchestrated, we hoped!

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Inside Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel to Whittier

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Train Approaches Tunnel Entrance from Whittier Side

Whittier lies at the opposite end of Prince William Sound from Valdez; about 85 miles away as the crow flies. It's a very small town with a population of less than 200. Most of it's residents live in a single large condominium named the Begich Building.

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Begich Building Condominium Houses Most Whittier Residents

Besides a thriving commercial fishing industry several large cruise liners now visit the port each week. They mostly disgorge passengers into waiting trains or busses and depart the next day with a new load of passengers who arrived by the same means. That means cruise boat people don't spend much money in the town; not much economic benefit.

There are also lots of pleasure boats; many more than can fit in the large, small-boat harbor. They do spend money in town. Those that can't find space in the marina are launched by large tractors hauling large trailers to move them from parking lots through downtown to the huge launching ramp on demand.

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Whittier Small Boat Harbor

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Large Trailered Pleasure Boats Need Large Launching Equipment

The town has several restaurants and cafes. We stopped at one, the Inn At Whittier, for lunch. The half-pound Kobe Beef burgers were great.

We drove nearly all the small roads in the town, visiting a number of lovely waterfalls born in the glaciers that hang over the city. One of the prettiest was off Shotgun Cove Rd where we met a couple of families who were picking wild berries. They are just ripening in this area and picking them is a state-wide passion.

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Lush Rain Forest Surrounds Small Waterfall in Whittier

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Picking Wild Berrys is Favorite Pastime During August

We finally made our way back through the tunnel to our campsite. The place is a wonder, really. We could see a glacier named Middle Glacier right from our campsite. As the rather mundane name implies, it sits between two other glaciers that we could see from the road into the campground. There are glaciers everywhere on the Kenai!

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Middle Glacier Hangs above Our Campsite

Local lore: When the last part of the fireweed blossom blooms winter near is just a couple of weeks away. Around this area they're already getting close!

Dinner was nacho-chip tacos using leftover chili, some chopped condiments and shredded cheese. It was accompanied by the remnants of Sandy's Kobe lunch.