We arrived in Ketchikan today at 12:08 after a 39 hour ferry trip through the inside passage. Scenery was, again, indescribable and pictures don’t do it justice. Actually, I find running around taking pictures subtracts from the experience of just enjoying a trip like this, so I didn’t try to take many pictures of the scenery from the ship, though I may do so on the return voyage.
The Alaska Marine Ferry system is certainly not a cruise line, but the experience is quite
good. We have been fortunate to ride the ferry several times to different destinations and have always had a great time. Our first trip we were surprised at how much nicer it was than we expected. We had in mind wooden bench seating and bad cafeteria food, but that is not at all what we got. The ferries are older (the M/V Columbia which we took this trip was delivered to the system in 1974), but very comfortable and well maintained. We had a cabin for this longish trip and found it very comfortable and well worth the $170 dollar cost. Ours included four beds, private bathroom with shower and came with all linens, also a nice window out of which we saw this great moonrise over Juneau at 2:00 in the morning.
One of my favorite experiences on the ferry are meals which are taken in a room lined with
large windows for viewing the scenery while being served very good food by a wonderful staff that cannot be tipped because of their positions as State of Alaska employees, who by statute are not allowed to receive gratuities. The meals are very good and reasonably priced (Our grilled Alaska salmon was $18.50 a plate). For breakfast the first day, we arrived just as the dining room was closing so we split a continental breakfast fruit plate and bagel for $7.50.
The trip from Juneau to Sitka is the most interesting, and perhaps beautiful part of the entire trip with passage through a narrow canal that allows for very close up views of the surrounding mountains as the captain pilots the ship carefully past rocks and shallows. We had four hours in Sitka after the ferry tied up and so went to the car deck, retrieved our bicycles and rode the 7 miles into town for lunch and a tour of the city. We didn’t exactly see a lot of the city as we wanted to make sure we got back in time and the round trip took us two hours, but we did see enough to know that we really liked the place. One interesting site was this Russian Orthodox Church.
The trip gave us enough time to think through how we want to spend the rest of our vacation. We have decided to head back on the ferry to Haines rather than drive the Alaska Hwy. We will leave Ketchikan on the 9th, spend a day and a half in Juneau, then return to Haines and head back out the way we came. Our current plan is to spend a couple of days camping at Tolsona Wilderness campground in Glenallen before returning to Anchorage. Once in Anchorage we will take a few days to recover and hike and bike around the city, then we will take the Alaska Railway to Fairbanks. We have taken the train to Seward several times, but this will be the first in the opposite direction and we are really looking forward to it. We will probably spend a couple of days in Fairbanks then head back to Anchorage where I will take off at the end of the month to backpack the Resurrection Pass trail and Karen will spend time with friends. But first, Ketchikan! Tomorrow I will write about our arrival and first looks at the city.