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

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