Written by MilwVon on 18 Jul, 2006
As we "cruised" the Prince William Sound it was difficult at times to know if we should be looking down at the water or up to the mountains and glaciers. While the marine wildlife was unlike anything we could imagine, truly the landscape that…Read More
As we "cruised" the Prince William Sound it was difficult at times to know if we should be looking down at the water or up to the mountains and glaciers. While the marine wildlife was unlike anything we could imagine, truly the landscape that surrounds Prince William Sound is awe inspiring.
This is the "home" of the 26 glacier tour, but trust me, you will have a better time doing a more private and personalized trip on the water. While we toured for 9 hours and approximately 180 miles, we passed many glaciers. It was interesting to see and learn about how the ice pack is created and becomes these ice masses. They carve the land and create new landscapes for generations to come!
The other remarkable sights were the tall waterfalls as the warm summer air melted the mountain snow caps. I wish we could have found a way to access them by car but we were told they are essentially in primative areas of dense forest that would not be easily hiked to. Shame too, although they didn't strike me as the type of waterfalls you see in Hawaii that fill warm pools for swimming and diving.
Throughout the Prince William Sound there are islands too. At this one there were a small group of seals sunning themselves right on the edge of the water. We did get close enough to capture a photo on one, which is included in this journal.
Once beyond the actual islands and shoreline, the water became rather choppy as it was unprotected from the winds of the high sea. It was nicer to be nearer to land because we also saw more in the way of wildlife. Our tour guide took us out to the edge of the ocean to see if we might be lucky enough to see orca (killer) whales. But alas, not on this trip.
If you are going to be in Anchorage or the south central region, I hope you will be able to make time to take a boat tour on the Prince William Sound.
We had a great day planned to enjoy the sights and sounds of Prince William Sound. The morning leaving Anchorage was actually rather nice, sun was up and it was comfortable. We of course dressed in layers, as everyone says "just because the…Read More
We had a great day planned to enjoy the sights and sounds of Prince William Sound. The morning leaving Anchorage was actually rather nice, sun was up and it was comfortable. We of course dressed in layers, as everyone says "just because the weather is nice now, doesn't mean it will be in an hour...or 50 miles from here." We are glad that we did!
By the time we reached the small boat harbor in Whittier, it was chilly, drizzling, and a bit windy. On the boat, however, we were somewhat protected from the elements as the boat had an enclosed cabin. The worst part about it was the porta-potty on the back deck with just a shower curtain for privacy. Talk about a cold back draft!
Once out on the water, it was remarkably calm. The only waves in the sound were from the wave of other boats coming and going. In some spots, the water was so calm, it looked as though you were standing still. It was truly smooth as glass. Had it been a sunny day, I'm sure you could have seen the clouds on the surface of the water.
Unfortunately, as we got out into more unprotected areas, the water became choppy, with waves of approximately 2 feet. As they white-capped, you could see, from time to time, a small fish jumping. It was pretty cool! If you are susceptible to motion or sea sickness, you should probably avoid taking a smaller boat and opt for one of the larger cruise ships that handle a couple hundred passengers.
We enjoyed our time out on water, especially to see all of the marine animals throughout our journey. It was remarkable that, other than staying clear of the boat, they really were not afraid of us. We saw seals, otters, humpback whales, dall's porpoises, and harbor seals. We had hoped to see orcas, but they were not to be found on this day. I had also hoped to see black bear on the shoreline, but they too were missing in action for the day!
As you cruise the Prince William Sound, it is difficult to not get lost in the vastness of the land around you. The height of the mountain peaks, the beauty of the high meadows, and, of course, the magnificence of the glaciers. When we entered the cove known as Icy Bay, the size of density of the icebergs was a bit overwhelming. Sure, there were smaller chunks of ice in the water, but there were many the size of our boat!!
Unless you are actually experiencing some of this first-hand, it is next to impossible to imagine it. While planning for this trip, we had read what we thought was all that had ever been written about Prince William Sound. Nothing quite prepared us for what we would experience during this long 9-hour trip. I think I could have spent the entire day just watching the landscape of the Chenega Glacier forever changing before our eyes. During the 30 minutes or so there, it calved at least three good "dumps" into the water. The rumbling, crackling, and splashing of ice was louder than I expected.
With the journal entry I've included a few of the photos from our day. I hope you enjoy them!
Written by samepenny on 14 Oct, 2000
Whittier used to be reachable only by train. But there's a Rube Goldburg sort of deal whereby on certain times of the day you can drive the new tunnel, the longest highway tunnel in North America, to Whittier. Two long tunnels. In…Read More
Whittier used to be reachable only by train. But there's a Rube Goldburg sort of deal whereby on certain times of the day you can drive the new tunnel, the longest highway tunnel in North America, to Whittier. Two long tunnels. In the longest one, cars are kept 100 feet apart with a speed limit of 25 mph. When you're in the longer tunnel, you can't see either end. Umph! There's a new parking area between the tunnels where you can now see Portage Glacier without having to get on a boat. I think I'll stick to the train.
Whittier is beautiful in winter. A harbor village on the other side of the mountains from Hwy 1. A cruise ship port in summer. Darn quiet in the winter. Lots of folks cross-country skiing. I prefer walking/hiking. Bear and moose sightings. Be wise! Services are limited. Stay out of the freight yards--walking there is a federal offense. Do not attempt to walk back through the tunnels! High risk of avalanches in the mountains. This isn't Palm Springs!
Update: The Adventure. Two of us set out on a bright winter day to see the other side of the mountain. Two middle-aged women. Dare I say? Both experienced winter hikers, but when we found outselves in over 14 feet of snow, we realized we had a serious think coming. We arrived in Whittier via the train, which is slow and uncomfortable during the snow season. Our view of the magnificent Prince William Sound was frosted on all sides by millions of pounds of cold, white snow and blue ice.
We began our walk by committing a federal crime as we walked along the tracks through the train yard. Our destination somewhere ahead, an old cafe/bowling alley. A bit of nattering between us. We were on the wrong side of a long, long train. My dear hiking buddy Anne led the way as we climbed up into and through the cab of a locomotive. A second crime, I'm sure. We left the train and pushed on through the deep snow to the cafe. Coffee and candy bars. Suddenly a new thought. We were about to miss the return train back out to the highway where we'd left our Subaru.
We moved as quickly as one can when in such deep snow and made it back to the train just as it was pulling out of the station. A missed train meant a 2-day wait in Whittier. We would have had to knock on doors until we found someone willing to take us in. Don't do what I did! We threw both experience and common sense to the winds. It was very hard going in all that snow. Was it dangerous? Yes! Was it stupid? Incredibly! Was it an Alaskan thing to do? Certainly!