It's Alaska, Jim, but not as we know it


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North America » United States » Alaska » Whittier
September 24th 2015
Published: September 25th 2015
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Our penultimate day in Alaska gifted us with yet more briliant sunshine, clear blue skies and nary a cloud to be seen. This last week has truly been the Alaska of the travel brochures, all clear days, glistening mountain tops, sparkling rivers (their unnatural blueness comes from a build up of glacial silt in the water) and any number of glaciers. It's a different world to the Alaska that greeted us the week before, with its constant low cloud and threat of snow. While the snow was fun for a while, it's amazing what a difference a bit of sunshine can make.

The plan today was to head back to Anchorage, taking in any sights that tempted us along the way. Before setting off, we went for a final walk around Seward's Small Boat Harbor. The Captain on our glacier cruise had told us that sea otters could often be spotted snacking on the mussels that clung to the pontoons and we were hoping to catch sight of one before we left. We walked for a while in the biting wind without seeing anything, until suddenly there was an otter right before us. We spotted six in total, although four were simply floating on their backs at the far end of the harbor. The two closest to us were noisily munching on mussels, using their bellies as plates and rolling occasionally to wash themselves free of the fragments of shell left behind. Daisy managed to film one, which has already made its way onto facebook, but will be added here once technology allows.

The drive back to Anchorage took its first detour to the town of Hope on the Turnagain Arm. Although largely closed, this was a fascinating little place. The next stop took an even longer detour, including a three mile tunnel through the moutains to the port town of Whittier, which proved to be the strangest place we have visited so far. There is a deep sea dock, a few gift and ice cream shops (all closed for the season, naturally) and a company running glacier tours. The one thing Whittier doesn't have is any houses, as the entire town is housed in a single highrise block of flats. The flats contain the school, police station and even shops. We didn't venture inside, but apparently there is even a playground somewhere behind its rather utilitarian facade. Odder still, if possible, is that the old highrise (built by the army in the 1940's but not lived in since the 1960's) is still looming over the town in a rather desolate state. The entire town was just rather odd. We felt that you could film the next episode of The Walking Dead there and no one would even notice. On a different, but equally as exciting note, we spotted a seal in the harbour. We had not seen any so far that was a really nice added bonus. once back in the side of the living, we drove back past the sunken town of Portage and although we had previously see the Dead Forest, this time we managed a glimpse of the few remaining buildings that weren't completely swallowed up by the ground during the 1964 earthquake, it was a little creepy, but not quite Whittier level.

We then decided to stop delaying the inevitable and finally headed back to Anchorage, checked in to our not-so-deluxe accommodation then headed out for some proper food at last at a local steak house. As the night was still relatively young we decided to watch the new Everest film at the local IMAX, it was pretty good albeit rather depressing, still worth a watch though.

Tomorrow we pack our bags and prepare to say goodbye, but not before some last minute exploring!

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