Settler’s Point and on to Sitka

Tonight is our last night in Ketchikan. After much vacillation around our next move, we settled down and bought tickets back to Sitka, where we will spend three days, before heading back to Juneau, then Haines and home. One of our original plans (yes there was more than one) was to do just this, but after reading the Milepost we thought the ferry only ran to and from Sitka every seven days. Though that didn’t seem right we knew we didn’t want to spend that much time there so we decided to pass. The truth is the ferry runs to Sitka daily, which makes more sense. Suggestion: Don’t trust the Milepost for issues involving the Alaska Marine Highway System.

Our last day was spent getting things packed and ready for tomorrow. We went back out to Ward Lake to have a place where we could spread our junk out in peace. We stopped by the sporting goods store and bought an air horn (I’ve been told they work on bears. Hopefully we won’t have to test that theory). We also, spent time with Kelsey. She made us a spaghetti dinner. Last night she made bacon wrapped halibut. Yes, she treated her parent’s right. She also bought us Ketchikan, Alaska pullover sweatshirts as a going away gift. Not wanting to blend in with the cruise passengers, I wouldn’t have stood in line to buy one, but I am very happy that she did!

Our last major excursion around Ketchikan was yesterday when we went out to Settler’s Point and walked the short Upper Lunch Creek Falls Trail through the rain forest. Settlers point is at the end of the road heading north out of town and has several trails leading into the forest. The one we took was the shortest. It was fun to see the large trees and intense greenery which we do not get in Anchorage. The trail is groomed and has a narrow boardwalk over parts that would otherwise be wet and muddy, and I am sure it saves the undergrowth from being trampled as well. In several spots you could walk down to the beach, which we did. Very scenic. We watched kayaks slip by, which would be a great way to see the area. We will have to get some kayaking in the next time we are in town.

I’m not sure when I will be around an internet connection again. I suppose the Sitka library will have access and I will be able to go that route again. If not I will keep writing and post with pictures when I am able.

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Herring Cove and Totem Bite

Today was Kelsey’s 25th birthday. We enjoyed spending the day with her and remembering the events surrounding her birth a quarter of a century ago. Karen, Karie and I went to the fireworks display at Fort Ord in Monterey, CA in an attempt to coax her into the world with a few well timed explosions and it worked. It would have been ludicrous to think at the time that we would be visiting her 25 years later at her apartment on an island in the Alexander Archipelago. We bought most of her gifts in Haines on our way through, but spent some time downtown today finishing up. After the balloon and ice cream cake festivities died down we went out to get pictures of wildlife at a local hotspot.

Herring Cove is a unique experience. King Salmon swim up the creek from the sea here which attracts fishermen of all species. The human variety can be photographed anywhere, but far more rare are the opportunities to see Eagles and Black Bear. This gathering of wildlife even attracts locals who you might think would be used to it. But it would be hard to get bored seeing dozens of the regal birds intermingled with families of bear on the hunt for spawning salmon. The fish themselves are amazing to watch as their large bodies vie for prime creek bed to lay the foundation of the next generation. I learned that there are no Brown Bears on the island which I found surprising. I had noticed that the locals were less concerned about bear encounters than other places around Alaska. Though you wouldn’t want to be too casual around black bears either, most people are more cautious around the larger brown variety.

We visited Totem Bite State Park up the road from downtown Ketchikan. It is a beautiful location along prime beach front. It is important to arrive at low tide if you want to walk along it, because at high tide the water covers the beach. Totem Bite has a great display of Native Totem Poles and an example of a clan house. We got to the park late in the day, so had it to ourselves. We walked and read the displays and enjoyed the totems. We got nice sunset pictures which are a rare commodity in the usually cloudy and wet Ketchikan. The sun was out most of the day as were the many tourists and locals soaking up the free vitamin D.

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Ketchikan Day 1

After arriving in Ketchikan on the 4th we debarked the Ferry and found Kelsey. The 4thof July parade had just begun so the downtown area was blocked off.

Boardwalk behind Creek Street

As Kelsey lives downtown it made getting to her place a little complicated. Kelsey’s apartment is in a section of town that is on a board walk. Her street “Upland Way” is a wooden stairway leading up a hill, just behind Creek Street. Since it is considered a city street, the city maintains it as one, though obviously it is foot traffic only. Ketchikan Creek runs next to her place with a fish ladder for spawning salmon leading over the spillway. The tourist “Duck Tour,”(the amphibious tour buses that have become popular in so many tourist On the Boardwalktowns throughout the country) drives by her neighborhood to show cruisers the unique setting.

After unpacking we walked over the boardwalk to Creek Street, which showcases what was original old Ketchikan. The buildings are all leased or owned by hawkers plying wares to cruise ship patrons, and the experience is a little carnivalesque when the floating cities come to town, but the setting is so unique to Ketchikan and quaint that I

Creek Street

really like it. Kelsey tells me that all of these buildings close up in winter when the ships leave, along with most other downtown businesses which are run by companies from out of state that are tied to the cruise industry. It is not clear to me why cruise passengers need 7 or 8 jewelry stores at every port, but evidently there is a need because they are ubiquitous.

We took a quick trip to the Rainforest Sanctuary to look for bears and Eagles. Saw both,  but plan to come back for more viewing

Rainforest Sanctuary

photo ops. Also, got to run by Kelsey’s salon, Sernedipity. We then drove out to Ward Lake Recreation Area and walked the

Ward Lake

1.3 miles around the popular local park, part of the Tongass National Forest. A real treat for us Anchoragites, not being used to Rainforest ambiance. I have used the words beautiful and spectacular, way too much already in writing about this trip, so I will try to develop other adjectives, but really, those two words get right to the point. The locals were enjoying a local band as part of 4thof July festivities. We did not see any bears at Wards

Local Slug

Lake, but did come across severally of these dark denizens of the rain forest. Perhaps just as crafty as the black bear,  but much easier to evade.

Ketchikan had a nice fireworks display that started at 11:00 and ran for about a half hour which we enjoyed from Kelsey’s kitchen window. Tomorrow, more touring and celebration of Kelsey’s 25th  birthday. I would pick on her for being a quarter century old, but that would be self incriminating.

 

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Ferry Trip to Ketchikan

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

Moonrise Over Juneau

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

Meal with a View

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.

Grilled Salmon Dinner

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.

Sitka 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.

Bicycling from the Sitka Ferry

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Haines, AK

I am blogging today from beautiful downtown Haines, AK. From the public library in fact. The only place in town with free wi-fi. Not a bad view either.

Haines Public Library

We drove up from Tok yesterday.  I love the drive to Haines. The route skirts along Kluane National Park, with views that cannot accurately be described, at least not by me. Truly spectacular. I know I said we would spend last night in Whitehorse, but (blush) I had my geography a tad wrong. You go through Whitehorse when heading for Skagway. Haines Junction (the cutoff to Haines) is several hundred Kilometers (notice I speak Canadian) before you get to Whitehorse.

The trip to Haines was a longer than I would have wanted to make in one day (see last post), but it didn’t make since to stop sooner. On the road to Haines we saw two sets of mama grizzly and cubs, and in Haines one very large papa bear meandering through a wooded lot. So far quite the

Totem at Chilkoot Lake Recreation Area

trip for ursine encounters. Multiple bear sightings does give one pause when one is staying in a tent, especially a tent that has hither-to-for attracted the attention of said species. The campground we stayed in last night had about 25 teens from a youth group, 6 long RV’s and many other campers also in tents. The wreak of hamburger and peanut butter emanating from us must certainly curl the nose hairs of any self-respecting bear.

Well tonight it is on to Ketchikan via the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry. We leave at 9:30 p.m. and arrive in Ketchikan on the 4th at 5:00. Just in time for fireworks. I am not sure they have internet on the ferry, I do not believe they do, so I will write again sometime after we arrive. The question at hand: Where will we go when we have finished over-staying our welcome with Kelsey? Many possibilities and the more we think about the fact that we have an entire month to kill the more possibilities jump to mind. Right now we are reconsidering doing the Yellowhead and Alaska Highways, the long slow way, back to Anchorage. We shall see. Stay Tuned!

"EcoTrakker 1" Ready to Head for Parts Unknown

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