tunnelA Close Encounter with a Tunnel

After our adventure up Nabesna Road, we decided to visit the Kenai Peninsula until Sarah had her next day off. We decided we should probably wash the road grime off the truck and trailer before heading out. Because of the late start, we only made it to a pullout about an hour’s drive past Anchorage.

One of the fifty fun firsts on my list (and a dream of Pedro’s) included seeing a glacier calve. Of course, glaciers don’t calve on demand, so we knew that we might not get our wish. I pulled out the Milepost to look for nearby opportunities and realized that we had parked a mere eleven miles from Whittier, a major port.

After doing a quick search for glacier cruises on Groupon.com, I found discount tickets that included a salmon dinner (another item on Pedro’s list of things to do in Alaska). We hoped the low-hanging clouds would disperse before our cruise.

During breakfast, we located a trail that overlooked some glaciers, and decided to go for a hike before the cruise. In order to reach Whittier, we had to drive through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, the second longest in North America. Traveling 11 miles took a while, because eastbound traffic, westbound traffic, and trains all share the usage of the one-lane tunnel.

Built as part of the war effort in the early 1940s, the tunnel connects the deepest year-round port in Alaska with the rest of the state.

Fascinating Facts

I find the tunnel fascinating for several reasons. Tunnel planning and construction began in 1941—before lasers, computers, and complicated CAD design programs. Using math and surveying, the tunnel engineer, Anton Anderson devised a plan for starting the tunnel on each side of Maynard Mountain.

Workers drilled and blasted their way towards each other for months. They burrowed through 2.5 miles of solid granite. When the ‘holing through’ occurred (when both sides met), they discovered that they were only six inches off in their calculations. Almost perfect execution, using methods we consider antiquated.

In addition to this engineering feat, the Army completed the tunnel and railroad project ahead of schedule and under budget. Another miraculous occurrence in light of how our government spends money today.

I found a third intriguing fact about the tunnel when we drove through it. It has two jet engines inside! In 1998, the state of Alaska started a project to repurpose the tunnel, widening it enough for cars and trucks to travel through. They also created safe houses every 1600 feet where tunnel travelers can escape in the event of a disaster. The jet engines keep fresh air circulating into the tunnel.

Drivers must proceed carefully through the tunnel. The train tracks lie just below the surface of the road and the concrete slabs that make up the surface are often wet. It took us five minutes and 11 seconds to drive through the tunnel (I know because I videotaped it).

Lessons From a Tunnel

We burst out of the darkness on the other side to a paradise of gleaming glaciers, sparkling water, green hillsides and low-hanging clouds. We left the claustrophobic tunnel and found the trailhead for the Portage Glacier hike. By this time, a gentle mist had started to fall. As we hiked, I couldn’t help but think about the tunnel and the achievement of its construction.

Our trail gave us excellent views of Maynard Mountain. It seemed impossible that over seventy years ago, men with basic tools burrowed through the base of the mountain. Even more amazing that instead of leaving a 50-plus-year-old tunnel to keep serving its primary purpose—a train tunnel—the government gave it a makeover.

That gives me hope. I might seem like a 50-year-old-lady stuck in a rut, but when I invite God into my life, things happen. He will chisel away and reshape me; he will repurpose me and equip me for expanded tasks.

Never underestimate the transformations God can work in your life.

Beauty Tip #18: Take time to ponder and pray. Ask God what changes he has in mind for you and don’t resist the makeover.

Q4U: Have you ever doubted that God could repurpose you and expand your ministry for him?


  1. That’s amazing that they were able to construct the tunnel so accurately without modern equipment, and ahead of schedule and under budget!
    I love the lesson you drew from this experience too, and I’m grateful that, even when we feel stuck in a rut, God has new plans for us.
    Lesley recently posted…I Am Not AloneMy Profile

  2. I’ve had seasons where it felt like God shelved me, when I wondered if perhaps my purpose had been fulfilled. But I’ve learned that He is never done with us. We never arrive. God is constantly molding and shaping us into His likeness and in my case, I think it’s going to take a long time to get there! 😉 Thank you for sharing more of your adventures!!
    Tiffany Parry recently posted…A Sure Sign of HealingMy Profile

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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