College Fjord to Whittier

College Fjord to Whittier      24 Nautical Miles                          8 Knots

As the Island Princess came about and started her return trip through College Fjord we kept our eyes peeled for animals.  So far we hadn’t seen the abundance of wildlife we’d expected but maybe the unusually late spring and cold weather was partly responsible. At least the scenery was spectacular.

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We did spot something. I’m not sure what. Just a dark head moving through the water leaving a wake… otter? seal? certainly not a whale or a porpoise. I’m really not sure. Now it’s easy to see how legends like the Loch Ness Monster come into being.

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As we headed back to the stateroom we stopped to linger near the enclosed pool, not to swim but to say good by to the little stowaways we’d been watching the whole cruise. There were some little sparrow/ finch type birds that had apparently joined the ship in warmer climes but they seemed to be doing ok for themselves in the enclosed part of the deck.

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But we had to get back to the room. Tonight we’d deal with luggage. It will be tagged and placed outside our stateroom door. We are going on to Denali and the luggage is limited. I sent some on to the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, things I didn’t expect to need but with the camera as my “carry on” I was still pushing the limit.

In the morning we’d be in Whittier where we’d board the dome train to Denali. That would take most of the day. The brochure says it’s 9 1/2 hours. For a number of reasons our train ride turned into 11 hours. The folks that took the bus arrived before we did! More on that later.

But I wanted to tell you a little about Whittier. We didn’t get to see much of it but we  did  get some basic information. All of our itineraries listed Whittier (Anchorage) so I wasn’t sure if Whittier was a neighborhood of Anchorage or if the names were for the same place or what.

Turns out Whittier is a little town in its own right. It sits at the head of Passage Canal, a deep fjord that connects with Prince William Sound. It’s location provides easy access to the interior of Alaska. The town was originally established in World War II to allow for the movement of troops and supplies but it had a  long history of being a supply route for the Chugach Indians, fur traders  and gold prospectors.

One thing that I found amazing is that most, if not all, of the 180 full-time residents live in the same building, the multi story Begich Tower originally built to house operations and personnel when the railroad was extended. The railroad tunnel has been converted to allow both rail and auto traffic so Anchorage is now only 90 minutes away.

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We got a glimpse of Begich Tower as we were escorted from the ship to the train. Once out of the cold we settled in for the next leg of the journey.

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