Day 22 – Alyeska to Hope Highway

When we got up this morning, Carl started the hike to the top about 9 am.  The bike lift didn’t start until 10 AM and after an hour I couldn’t wait for the lifts, so I got dressed and headed up the hill.  It was STEEP and I rode for a while, pushed the bike for a while, and at several points, hiked with the bike on my shoulder. I made a wrong turn and ended up on a goat path where I had to carry my bike, I made it to the top in about 1 hour and 45 minutes, which is not bad. Carl was already up at the top (1 hour and 5 minutes) and he was making friends. Jim and April from Washington State come up to Alaska every year and at one point Jim was building a eco-friendly hotel and tour company, but couldn’t get approval from the environmental guy up here. We talked for a good while as I re-carbed up with a good IPA and then I padded up for the trail ride down.  To be honest, the trail down sucked.  The trails were not really set for downhill, much as would be expected from a downhill bike park, and the trails were not even close to being groomed.  At his point, I am really pleased I hiked up the hill and didn’t spend the $45 for a lift ticket.  The trails were short, too steep and had ZERO fun aspects that I experienced in Park City.

At this point on a goat path 2/3 of the way up Alyeska

At the bottom I packed up the truck and waited for Carl to get down. The guy we spoke to the day before said if you hike up you can ride down the tram for free. Turns out, that was not the case, so Carl had to hike all the way down. We finished packing and headed down the road.

We turned at the Whittier/Portal Glacier exit and took in the views of this amazing valley. We stopped at the Portal Glacier visitor’s center and stuck our feet into the FREEZING glacial lake. Apparently about one hundred years ago the glacier was actually at the site of the visitor’s center.

Portal Glacier and lake

Now you take a boat tour to the end of the lake and hike to the glacier. We decided to check out Whittier, which is on the other side of a several mile long tunnel shared with trains. It cost $13 for the toll, and we got in line. The tunnel was pretty cool, but nothing compared to the views of Whittier and its bay. Waterfalls everywhere and the snow close down on the mountain. Truly breathtaking.

Whittier Marina

We drove around the old army town and took in the few sites before stopping at Varly’s Swiftwater Seafood Cafe. The fish and chips were incredible, and the ravens are amazingly acrobatic as you toss them scraps. We decided to stop into the Whittier Harbor Master hotel for a quick drink since one fellow tourist said they have an IPA brewed and sold only to Whittier. It was OK for an IPA, but we got to meet some locals and learn a bit more about living in the town. Its busy and nice in the summer and cold, windy, and rainy in the winter.

Some interesting decorations

We continued on and back to the tunnel to head on toward Hope and Seward. We found a great campsite through iOverlander (app) and met some Army soldiers who camped there as well. The river was raging below the campsite and the glaciers were close up on the mountainside. The soldiers had taken their jeep down to the river and we assisted them with spotting as they worked it back up the steep and narrow trail. I turned in around 11 again and slept well.

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