August 30, 2006

A secret town

Day 6

My final day in Alaska, I woke early and headed down the road. All total, I drove 1000 miles during my six days in the great state. I feel like I have a good idea of the wonders of the Kenai (pronounced “Key-Nye”) peninsula.

Today, I had plenty of time to spare, so I drove out to Whittier. This was a secret town built by our government during WWII. It is only accessible over land through one two mile long tunnel. The tunnel is one lane wide and has train tracks running down the middle of it. You have to wait your turn in a queue, until the appointed time for your direction and mode of transportation is up, because only one train, or one line of cars can go through in one direction. The tunnel opened to car traffic in 2000 (!!).

Once in the town, it is obvious that you have reached someplace remote. The primary industry is fishing and shipping, as the town sits at the entryway to Prince William Sound. All the inhabitants of the town live primarily in two apartment buildings. There is a little school house and a medical clinic, plus about six shops and restaurants. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in the same building with your whole town. Would it be like one big house? One big family?

The building above, when constructed in 1950, was the largest building in Alaska. Now abandoned, it sits on a bluff overlooking the town. It was beautifully desolate and utilitarian, especially amongst the mountains, gushing with life.

Then it was onwards to Anchorage, for a terrific meal and home brewed beer at The Bear Tooth Pub, and hours of waiting for my final ride out of town. I amused myself by watching the small planes, both sea and land, buzzing around the airport.

Day 6

August 29, 2006

It’s dangerous out there

Day 5

August 28, 2006

Moving ice

Day 4

Woke up with no otherwordly sightings or experiences to report. Slightly disappointed, but still happy with the cute, quaint hotel.

We drove to nearby Exit Glacier and “hiked” to glacier over look, being ever watchful for bear and moose. Sadly, we saw no large wildlife, but the glacier was in full sparkling wonderment, in the bright sunshine.

Afterwards, we headed back to Homer, in awe of our surroundings. By the end of the day today, I was tired of hearing myself exclaim “Pretty! Pretty! Pretty! Did you see over there? Look, look, look, PRETTY!” I’ve prettied myself out.

Sea life

Day 3

Back to rain and dramatic fog today for our drive around the peninsula to Seward. Seward, nestled between mountains and bay, caters to the cruise ships and provides a more touristy destination than Homer. We checked in to our haunted hotel and headed down to the Sea Life Center.

At the center I continued my learning about the octopus. Yesterday, at Halibut Cove, I had learned from a woman who paints with octopus ink, that the creatures actually come on to shore and burrow under rocks. Today, I learned that they are incredibly intelligent and crafty creatures. They can fit through any hole that is the same size as their beak, which means they can become incredibly tiny.

The star of the show at the Sea Life Center was the giant sea lion. When we first arrived it was begging for food by the keepers door, much like my cat, but when that failed it hopped back in the water to perform. First it spent some time at the bottom of its tank, eyeing up the people on the other side of the glass. Then it started doing underwater acrobatics, flipping and swooping, so graceful and fast.

August 26, 2006

Ideal life

Day 2

Wine and cheesecake in Halibut Cove.

We traveled to Halibut Cove by water, one of only two ways to reach the isolated village, perched between bay and mountain, inside a state park. The other way is by air. No roads lead to or from the town. The houses are built on stilts and connected by boardwalks.

Every afternoon they bring 38 guests over via ferry for four hours of tooling around the hamlet. There is one restaurant and two art galleries, where the local residents display their work. This is an artist community perfected.

The sun, sea and fresh air, along with all the gawking, really wiped me out. By the time we got back I had been lulled into a gorgeous scenery induced coma. What more could you ask for on vacation?

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