Friday, June 27, 2008

Chenega--Fast Boat To Whittier

It's cloudy with rain today as we load the camper on the fast 235 foot catamaran boat from Cordova to Whittier. The Chenega operates year around in Southeast Alaska and Prince William Sound.

It's a beautiful boat, with nice seating areas, cafeteria and Native crafts.

We have a National Forest Service naturalist on board and she is very enthusiastic about her job, explaining how to identify the different birds, mammals, etc. we may be seeing on this trip.

We indeed pass through pods of sea otters, seals and whales but, as she explained, take few pictures as this boat moves too fast.

Our route takes us past prominently marked Bligh Reef, site of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

We pass a number of islands that were once used to raise fox for their furs.

We learn about the different kinds of boats used in a fishing fleet--

.--and are met by beautiful waterfalls and pleasure boats in the Passage Canal Fjord as we enter the harbor at Whittier.

Once a military base, the town of Whittier is really depressed, having been hit hard by the 1964 earthquake and the 1989 Exxon oil spill.

It has a bleak, desolate appearance with many of it's buildings being abandoned and of obsolete military construction. Most of the cities public offices and many of its inhabitants live in the restored building below.

But the huge complex below is abandoned, completely trashed, and an enormous eyesore.

The road out of Whittier passes through a 2 1/2 mile long, narrow, unique tunnel--

                        -shared by both autos and trains on the same tracks.

Autos alternate every half hour in each direction driving over the tracks, and wait on both ends when trains pass through.

                                          After a brief stop at Portage Glacier--

--we headed to the small historical community of Hope, site of a minor stampede in 1896 when gold was discovered in nearby Resurrection Creek.

Recreational gold panning and dredging is still allowed and is still a lot of work but is fun to do.

It's quiet tonight as camp is along a scenic mountain road in the Chugach National forest.

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