Category Archives: Photo

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!

Alaska’s Kennecott Mine

The Kennecott Mine was once the richest copper mine in the world. It was depleted of profitable ore and finally abandoned in 1938. The Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, created in 1980, includes the remains of the mining operation, and a 14-storey mill building. The national park has hiking trails to one of the old mines on top of the mountain, and to Root Glacier. (Click any thumbnail for larger, lightbox view.)

A Ghost Town in South Dakota

Okaton, South Dakota was once a thriving community of rail workers and pioneer homesteaders. When the rail moved westward, so did the workers. The Great Depression made most of the remaining farmers move to the city looking for any kind of work.

Between the railroads closing that particular spur and the interstate highway I-90, the few remaining residents left only a shadow of a town and overgrown rail tracks.

(Click image for larger picture)