Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

North to Alaska - Live!

by Kathy 8. July 2011 14:02

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Portage Valley


Even with the heavy clouds and drizzling rain, Portage Valley was spectacular. With snowy mountain peaks all around, and multiple glaciers showing off their blue-tinted ice, it deserved its reputation as a “must see” place.

We arrived in Portage Valley via a ferry from Cordova to Whittier.

As we left Cordova, a bright blue fishing boat was making its way back to the harbor:

About three hours later, we pulled into the port town of Whittier, which was surrounded by green mountains with cascading waterfalls:

Exiting the ferry, we were required to back up out of the hold, through the relatively narrow opening and then up the ramp—quite exciting!  Ben manuevered our RV like a champ!

Here is a photo taken as we were almost finished, with the car in front of us reversing at a fast and furious pace that reflected a lack of concern for any possibility that our much larger vehicle might slide back down the slippery metal ramp and squash it:

We had no reason to linger in Whittier, which looked like a vast stretch of parking lots and ticket offices for people who flocked here to board boats for scenic tours of Prince William Sound.

The town’s skyline was dominated by a high rise building called the Begich Towers, which was built by the U.S. Army in 1953 as a soldier barracks, and now contained a mix of condominiums and businesses.

Also prominent was a long cement structure called the Buckner Building, which had been abandoned in 1964 after being severely damaged in a 9.2 earthquake:

Whittier is connected to Portage Valley by a single-lane tunnel that is almost 2 ½ miles long.

The tunnel entrance:

Trains share the tunnel with cars and trucks. We were traveling east, and our side of traffic was allowed through once an hour. We waited patiently for a long line of vehicles to emerge from the tunnel from the other direction.  Then a passenger train popped out of the entrance.

Finally, it was our turn to drive the RV through the narrow, rock-chiseled walls.  It was quite an experience!

Emerging from the tunnel, we had a fabulous view of Portage Glacier, which has receded significantly over the last 100 years:

Another small tunnel deposited us into the main portion of Portage Valley, where Portage Glacier was no longer visible. Our campground was just a mile down the road—Williwaw Campground, run by the U.S. Department of Forestry and containing large sites surrounded by dense trees.

The tree branches were perfect for climbing—nature’s jungle gym.  Sebastian and Genevieve couldn’t resist:

Hanging above the campground was another eye-popping glacier, called “Middle Glacier”:

Our guidebook said that Portage Lake was only .8 miles from the campground—let me inject a big “ha!” here, and state that the writer must have measured from the part of the campground closest to the lake, which happened to be at least a mile from where our camping spot was located. In any event, we decided to walk to the lake on the paved/boardwalk trail called “Trail of Blue Ice,” which ran right by our campsite:

(The trail would have been perfect for riding bikes too, but my bicycle axle bearings had locked up while riding in Valdez; so our feet were the next best form of transportation.)

We knew we were in for a long walk, however, as 15 minutes after we started, we reached a sign that said the lake was another 1 ½ miles down the trail. Ahh, well. It was a pleasant walk, with plenty of great scenery:

Along the way, we passed by the deep turquoise Freestone Ponds:

Portage Lake was definitely worth the walk, with a floating iceberg and the distant Burns Glacier.

Here in another view, taken the next morning when the sun had finally chased away the clouds:

In front of the lake was the Begich Boggs Visitor Center, a modern building with wonderful exhibits covering the wildlife, inhabitants, glaciers, and history of Alaska.

Smokey Bear was sitting inside the front entrance:

It was obvious that much care and thought had been given to the design and content of each room in the visitor’s center. Many of the displays were interactive and engaged our imaginations. Here are Sebastian and Genevieve in a sea kayak exhibit:

We also watched the “Voices of Ice” movie, which was very well done.

On our walk back to the campground, we stopped by a salmon viewing platform that had been built over Williwaw Creek. However, the masses of silvery-red bodies had not yet arrived. Informational signs indicated that they usually come around August 1st.

That was okay, as our sensory receptors were pretty full already.

Back at our campsite, we sat and absorbed the quiet beauty all around us.

More photos of Portage Valley in the sun, the next day:


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Map of Our Journeys

(click the map to enlarge)
Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin