Alaska Circle Drive #2 (Portage Lake + Whittier)


This afternoon, we decided to take another Circle Drive. We were in for a real treat as we headed out on the Seward Highway southeast of Anchorage. As we wound along this highway through Chugach State Park and beside Turnagain Arm (a body of water), we started to see some absolutely breathtaking mountain and glacier views.

We decided to head toward the Portage Glacier area which is roughly 55 miles of Anchorage. This was not our original intention, since any Circle Drive is made up as we go along. However, we took a look at the Milepost book and thought, “Why not?”

Apparently, this is Alaska’s most visited tourist attraction. We got to the area of the glacier and understood why. We drove up to the Begich-Boggs Visitor Center, within relatively close view of the glacier and saw a lake with a small iceberg-esque formation in the water that was blue in color. During the winter this area is chock full of ice bergs everywhere. Simply amazing!

In order to see the glacier, you need to buy a ticket for a cruise through the lake. We thought we would rather wait until Saturday’s journey on the cruise ship in Seward (plus it was not running…too late in the day–9:15pm).

It was very cold there as well, so Candy got out some sweat shirts to help us stay warm as she took some photographs (below) and made a video (on our FB page). Chase Dog did what he does best…he went swimming. The water was very cold but, like normal, he did not mind.

The area was just breathtaking…tons of snow-covered mountains surround you. Portage Glacier and Burns Glacier can be seen from this area. In addition, there are several “hanging glaciers” nearby (glaciers that come part way down a mountainside).

After seeing this, we thought we would go ahead and make the drive to Whittier for a possible look at more glaciers. Whittier is a small town of about 400 residents located on the western edge of Prince William Sound. Whittier was established by the US military during World War II as a military supply port (the brochure we got before going into the tunnel said it was a “secret port”). One of the unique features of Whittier is that it is separated from Alaska’s road system by a 2.5 mile long tunnel that is shared by alternating one-way auto and railroad traffic.

The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is the second longest railroad-highway tunnel in North America behind the I-93 Tunnel in Boston. The cost to go round trip through this tunnel is $12 per car/truck. They have a time table that opens the tunnel every half-hour for travel each direction. The guy at the toll booth said if we missed the 11 pm opening we would be “POW’s” (Prisoners of Whittier)…something told us he has used this saying before!

We got into Whittier and found it to be a small, dreary town with tons of mountain scenery and water falls from the snow melt. Apparently the entire town’s population lives in one condo building built by the US Army after World War II. We could not see any glaciers due to more cloud cover there (one constant in Alaska is cloud cover!). We decided to head back on the 10 pm opening of the tunnel after being there 30 minutes and buying two canned sodas at an open Chinese restaurant (the nice lady in the restaurant said that they had soda but they were rather expensive…$1.50 each…that was funny to hear considering how much everything else costs here :).

We headed back to the RV after this…what a great way to end the day! Enjoy the photos and don’t forget to comment…we’d love to know what you think of our tunnel video.

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