All posts by Ivan

Whittier-Portage and the Ghost Forest

From Valdez, Alaska, we put our 23-foot Sprinter on the Alaska Ferry, and sailed across the Prince William Sound, saving us hours of driving.

View from the campground in Whittier Alaska.

Whittier, a port of call for some Alaska-bound cruises is accessible only by water and through a single lane tunnel that is shared with the railroad. Seriously, after the train passes, the cars in one direction are sent through, and then the cars in the other direction. It demands a little patience.

The city has some campground spots right on the Sound which offer a beautiful vista. We spent a couple delightful nights there, sunset was still almost 11:00pm.

The mandatory hike in this area is to the top of the Portage Pass that was once used by the Chugach Nation as a trade route. It’s not a terribly long hike to the top, but the 800-foot climb is rather steep. Fortunately, about half way someone had carved into a rock “Keep on going – you got this!”

The Portage Glacier.

The backward view of Whittier and the Prince William Sound is dynamic. We could also see the train waiting for it’s turn to enter the one lane tunnel. At the top of the pass, we were treated to vistas of the Portage Glacier, it’s lake and two other glaciers.

The next day we waited our turn to drive through the Whittier-Portage tunnel. On the other side, we stopped at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and learned how they successfully re-introduced the nearly-extinct wood bison to Alaska plains.

Ghost Forest on the Turnagain Bay.

One very curious Alaska sight is a ghost forest. The Good Friday Earthquake of 1964, the largest that ever occurred in the United States, changed the elevation of the bays and caused a tsunami. The salt water intrusion killed the trees along the shore. It also preserved them by pickling them with salt. As a consequence, the dead trees don’t rot, and this ghost forest has looked the same for more than 50 years.

Click below for photo gallery!

Surreal Alaska

Deena commented that my edited photos look “somewhat” surreal. True. The photos below were taken early in our Alaska tenure, and the surreal landscape is what my photographer’s eye saw.

We drove into snowy peaks above the clouds of mist that seemed to be our constant companion in Alaska. On one hand, the light rain was annoying;  on the other, the mist created an atmosphere of mystery and uniqueness that we haven’t felt anywhere  else in the world.

The Richardson Highway to Valdez (yes, the one of oil-spill fame) took us over Thompson Pass. This Florida boy just had to get out and photograph his foot in the snow – in the middle of summer! We don’t know other places that have picturesque waterfalls on the side of the road. It’s a good thing they added pull-outs to the road because I wasn’t the only one taking pictures!

Our hike up the ridge over Worthington Glacier, with a challenging vertical rise on a path barely wide enough for a single foot, led us to an amazing view of the glacier. And a reverse view of the beautiful valley where we had parked. (If you look closely you can see the roof of the ranger station.)

With such rugged passes and fog, we can only begin to imagine the life of the hardy pioneers who ventured into Alaska for fame and fortune.