Hello and welcome to my column. To pirate lyrics from Robert Plant: “I come from the land of ice and snow…” I think that is how it goes.
The reason behind this column is that it is painfully evident to everyone who knows you that you are lazy. Don't let this get to you, in Alaska that's generally the case.
I am here to get you out off the couch. Spring has sprung, the trees are green, the mosquitoes are out in full force and the road is calling you my friend. As a life-long Alaskan, I have been pretty much everywhere there is to go in this state and seen everything there is to see. This summer, I'm doing it all again.
The first reason to hit the road is to see the eerily situated burg called Whittier. Originally organized as a military camp during World War II, the town situated on the leeward side of the Kenai Peninsula offers great views of the Prince William Sound.
A book was recently published about the town titled, “The Strangest Town in Alaska,” and the people you will meet there will stay in your memories forever (good or bad.) Driving through the new Whittier tunnel past Portage Glacier is alone worth the trip. The $70-million dollar tunnel is the longest dual-usage tunnel in the world, and at $15 dollars per car, is at least a topic to bring up at cocktail parties.
When you get there, if tourists have not swarmed the boat harbor, you have a choice of some pretty fine restaurants. Barley's Swiftwater offers daily fresh seafood, Lisa's Ice Cream has hot dogs for those on a budget, Barb's Buffalo Burgers is pretty self- explanatory and Frankie's Outpost offers Alaskan and American cuisine.
But for my money the best place to dine in Whittier is The Orca. A small brown cabin on the waterfront by the small boat harbor, this cafÈ/ breakfast shoppe will make you specialty coffee and a wide variety of baked goods, not to mention the soups. Quiet and disarming, the Orca is a microcosm of Whittier itself, something you don't expect to find, but when you do, that rewards your efforts.
If you should decide to stay overnight, courageous warrior, the prime digs in Whittier can be found at June's Bed & Breakfast located in the Begich Tower. Ken and June Miller run the B&B and also will be willing to take you on a tour of the channel through their Bread and Butter Charters. You can also stay at the Anchor Inn, the only hotel in town. Attached to the Anchor is it's own restaurant and bar, with the only decent pool table on the sound for my money.
And if you can't get a hold of Ken and June, try calling Mike Bender of Lazy Otter Charters. A friend of my family, Mike is a good guide, but his brother Jake is a better scuba diver.
Now, how to relax? Walking the street in Whittier takes only 15 minutes, so plan on a lot of down time. Behind Begich tower you can hike up the to the south side of Portage Glacier or stroll through the outlying woods and possibly get mauled by a bear or stray dog. There are also gift shops, cruise shops and an Alaska Railroad Museum next to the train depot. But I suggest you get a copy of this paper and saddle up to the bar at the Anchor or at the dive that is known as the Sportsman. The locals, some friendly, most not, are there all day every day and will be able to tell you anything you can think of about the town.
This being a college paper, I cannot use this space for personal gain, but if you want to scuba dive Whittier is the place for you. Smitty's Cove, west of town, is a popular dive site for local divers. Dives offers views of sea life unique to Alaska. I am there twice a month on weekends.
And although I don't consider myself a local Whittier does hold a special place in my heart.