We have enjoyed Sitka now for 5 days. The plan was to be here for 3 then head to Juneau for 2, but we liked it so much and the campsite was so good we decided to linger for an additional 3 days. The weather has run the gamut from partly sunny, to foggy, to wet and windy. We set up our campsite with enough tarps over the tent that we stay dry no matter what the conditions. With that and the shelter we are having a great camping experience.
Camping with Karen is not your typical outdoor adventure. She does not leave her nesting tendencies at home and so I have a tent that is always clean inside, a picnic table with a red checkered tablecloth, potholders, citronella candles, and an area cleaned regularly with Clorox and paper towels. As a result our gear stays in near new condition. Left to me, it would have looked well used after one outing, actually things might not get cleaned well even after I return from a trip, and I would look upon the grunginess as a badge of honor. A little civility in ones camping experience is quite nice, actually.
Our second day here we went to the Sitka National Historic Park, with the Totem Pole Trail. We have gone there a couple times since to bird. It ends at a point where the 1804 battle between the Alaska Natives and Russians took place. There were Caspian Terns reported there. We missed those but it is a beautiful place to bird and we have really enjoyed it. We are getting birding done sporadically depending on the weather. Today we went out along the shore, opposite Sitka, near the airport and watched gulls. We also went out to an antique car show that was being held at the airport.
There are some wonderful places for photo opportunities along the coast, but I will wait for a sunny day, should one present itself, as the current low clouds obscure the dramatic mountainscapes. We have enjoyed eating out while here. Word to the wise: Avoid the expensive and exceedingly underwhelming gustatory experience offered by the Westmark hotel. It is very expensive and prepared by recent high school graduates, we think. Service was strange as well…I won’t go into specifics to protect the guilty. On the opposite side of the dining spectrum was Van Winkle and Sons which had both great service and great food. I had a grilled halibut dinner, very thick, well cooked piece of fish with delicious vegetables. Karen had the special, which was salmon patties. All fish is locally caught, which not only makes it fresh but supports local fisherman. Another real treat is the Backdoor Coffee Shop which is on the backside of the bookstore. This establishment makes a mean Americano, but is known locally for their lunch special which changes daily and is available until it runs out. That doesn’t take long. Today’s special was homemade mushroom quiche and was delicious. We really liked the ambiance which is quaint and artistic. Bring cash though, as they don’t take cards or checks. Another place we have enjoyed is the Baronof Pub which serves family friendly meals in a sports bar environment with great views!
So, we are at that point again where we are considering what to do next. We have decided to bypass Juneau (though we will be there for a 12 hour ferry layover). We visited there two years ago and so wouldn’t stay long, and after our great campsite here, don’t feel like a step down to see sites already seen. We are considering driving up to Dawson City and then taking the Taylor Highway back toward home. We have a couple of days to decide. The other possibility is to head straight back home from Haines and contemplate local Anchorage adventures, or take the train to Fairbanks. We shall see.