The Way to Whittier

December 4, 2012 6:36 am

On our first morning in Alaska, we rose before the sun did, but that’s not much of a feat here. In December the sun is a lazy fellow, showing up around 10 am and skimming the mountains until about 4, giving the whole day a dusky-dawny feel.

We made the most of the light and stopped to take lots of pictures along the road from Anchorage to Whittier, a 70-mile stretch through some of the most spectacular landscape either of us has ever seen. The road hugs the coast most of the way, delving into an inlet where glaciers and mountains rise high above the icy water. There’s often a mist hanging low above the sea.

We stopped at this frozen waterfall where people seemed to be taking pictures for their Christmas cards.

So we decided to make our own.

These are the nice people who took our picture.

When the fog rolls in, it crystallizes on the trees, turning them a glittering white. If you look out over the landscape, you can actually see them sparkle.

In the middle of this winter wonderland we found Diamond Jim’s. Erin bought panties and hard core. Reed bought a t-shirt.

The only way to get to Whittier by land is to drive through a one-lane railroad tunnel in the middle of a mountain.

When the temperature dips below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the window for Whittier-bound traffic is only five minutes every hour. So we waited. and waited..

Below is the entrance to the tunnel.

The two most visible buildings in Whittier, the Buckner building and Begich Towers, were built by the U.S. Army just after World War II. (At the time they were the largest and second largest building in Alaska.) Begich Towers, built for military families, is now a condominium, and houses nearly all of Whittier’s citizens. The Buckner building was for single men, and is now abandoned.

The people here are, thus far, very kind. It’s a small town of about 200, and hopefully we’ll meet many of them, since we’re staying in the building where most people live. We still have to check out the police station, post office, clinic, barber, and grocery store that are housed in this building, but first it’s off to the harbor to score some ice cleats, and then to the reindeer pen to make friends.


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