Another beautiful day to drive along the Cook Inlet; the tide was out so no chance to see the Beluga Whales, but the mud flats were interesting with many waterfalls and glaciers in the distance; had to slow down for the Dall Sheep near the roadside. Denise, my friend Carol’s sister from California, was excited. Leaving from Anchorage, our drive took about thirty minutes to get to the tunnel entrance, the only way to get to Whittier by car. Denise was a bit apprehensive driving through a two and half mile tunnel on railroad tracks. Me too; hadn’t done it for a long time. It was cool; we were in and out in five minutes but it seemed like fifteen. The tunnel had lights and nice restrooms at both ends. We arrived early so waited and watched the train have its turn. Another five minutes out of the tunnel and we were parked.
Whittier is totally Alaskan. I don’t think it’ll ever grow up. I love to watch the diversity of humanity enjoying their independence; doing what they like to do best near the most beautiful stretch of water in all America. Boats everywhere-such a sight. I’ve never seen so many boats, all kinds: little dinghies, huge beautiful private cruise-like boats, floating in the water or parked on lots near where we parked our car. A few more steps and we were on the ramp shaking hands with the smiling crew as we boarded our own beautiful boat, Major Marine Tour’s Emerald Sea.
Cruising on water makes me a bit edgy; so first thing-I check out the location of the restrooms. Four were available, two up and two down, and clean. We had a cozy table for three or four next to the window; all the tables had window views in the heated cabin. It was amazing how 120 of us sat comfortably and moved around the boat, upstairs on the decks and in the cabin. A convenient bar was nearby with drinks and free coffee, tea, or water.
As we got underway on the Captain and Crew introduced themselves. A friendly and pretty Forest Ranger talked to us about what we would be seeing on our five-hour journey in Prince William Sound. Soon the smell of prime rib and baked salmon caught our attention almost as much as the glaciers along the way. We lined up by table to watch a huge slab of rare, medium, or well-done beef sliced to fill half our plate. Impeccable… absolutely the most delicious, tender prime rib I’ve ever tasted; as was the salmon and fresh bread and rice. I would have paid the price just to sit at the dock and eat that meal. The big guys went back for seconds.
Following our banquet, the boat glided and gently bumped over and along the calm waters filled with glacier ice, out of the way of the harbor seals and otters, toward the majestic glaciers. A quarter of a mile from the Beloit Glacier, we watched and listened to the groaning and moaning of the towering blue ice. We stalled for a while to wait for a humpback whale to breach and watch a few kayaks paddling by before moving on to view and listen to the calving of Blackstone Glacier, and the awesome, towering waterfalls. This is Alaska, I told myself, my eyes following an eagle looping in the blue sky.
On our return through the bay, Julie, our ranger, explained about the Kittiwake bird rookery. We stopped to take some close-up pictures… ten-thousand birds nesting or lifting off and diving from the rocks. What a spectacle! The Captain and Crew were very accommodating and friendly, getting us near all the sights. When we stopped to retrieve a shrimp pot, they let me hold a shrimp and take its picture. Have you ever seen seven-inch long shrimp? Did you know all shrimp are born male and don’t become female for four years? We finished with luscious desserts of chocolate, carrot, or cheese cake and the singing of the Junior Rangers receiving badges.
Thanks again, Alaska Tour & Travel, for another great recommendation. The trip was memorable.
Connie R. from Anchorage, AK