Driving Down Alaska’s Cook Inlet to Whittier

Saturday, August 7, 2004 – 

When we woke up, we had brunch at the Sunrise Grill & Pancake House off Highway 1, also known as Interstate A-3. After driving south, we approached Turnagain Arm, an eastern arm branching off the Cook Inlet. It is one of two branches of the Cook Inlet, with the other being Knik Arm. Due to large tide ranges, it also attracted surfers. We saw some surfers in wetsuits out riding a 6-foot bore tide at high tide at a speed of about 6 miles an hour. We drove down and around much of the 45-mile long arm.

Upon arriving at the end of Turnagain arm, we decided to take the Portage-Glacier Highway. We stopped at Portage Glacier, just south of Portage Lake. This glacier has been rapidly retreating nearly 5 kilometers to its present location in the last century. Photographic records along with road markers show the glacier’s different locations since 1914. Today it has left Portage Lake behind in its place.

Whittier 158

The Whittier Tunnel … looks like you’re driving into a lodge

Afterwards, we headed east on the highway to a parking lot. There we waited on a train to exit a tunnel before our line of cars would drive in. The tunnel is about 2.5 miles long and is the second-longest highway tunnel in North America. When we reached the other side, we could see Prince William Sound and the small port town of Whittier.

We saw several fishing boats with their catches leaving the sea. I talked to a couple of fishermen who had some of the biggest halibut I have ever seen. I saw a big hole in one of the fish. I asked him what that was and his buddy to a knife and point to a bullet hole. He said his buddy decided to shoot the fish because it wouldn’t die, and it went straight into the bottom of the boat. We could see a hole in the bottom of the boat.

The Alaska Railroad leaving Whittier

The Alaska Railroad leaving Whittier

Leaving Whittier through the tunnel, then we headed back slightly towards Anchorage before take the Girdwood exit off Turnagain Arm. We arrived at the famous Alyeska Resort, know for its steep terrain and deep snow during the winter. After checking in, we took the aerial tram 2,300 feet up 3,939-foot Mount Alyeska – which is part of the Chugach mountain range. The Alyeska Resort is the largest ski area in Alaska.

View from the top of Alyeska Resort

View from the top of Alyeska Resort

After admiring the views, we had dinner at the top in the Seven Glaciers restaurant – a four-diamond, award-winning luxury restaurant. We had the most succulent halibut for dinner. Meanwhile we enjoyed panoramic glacier and water views below while we watched the sunset.

We enjoyed the large lobby and fireplace before going to bed that night. It was a highly enjoyable first entire day in Alaska.

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