Alaska 2019 – Part 4 Ketchikan to last At Sea Day

We’ve covered a lot of grounded thd so far. Parts 1, 2, and 3 have taken us from Los Angeles, to Vancouver, to Juneau, and Glacier Bay. We’ve rounded the horn and are heading home with one last stop in Ketchikan before the bags have to be packed.

Thursday 27th – Ketchikan, bound for Vancouver

Glacier Bay to Ketchikan

Our trip over night from Glacier Bay was uneventful, and we woke up heading northeast towards Ketchikan. You can see by the map that the ship covered a lot of ground over night. the route we took was actually outside the islands with a turn northeast as we rounded the south end of Prince of Wales Island.

Since we were still at sea this morning there was a SAS session focused on Ketchikan, and what we might see. The SAS description is contained in the box below.

The schedule gave us a few hours free time in town, followed by a trip to the Alaskan Rain Forest Preserve and Raptor Center leaving at 2:30 pm (on the far right of the Ketchikan area image below)..

We arrived at the docks shortly before 11am. From the Promenade deck, Ketchikan looked to be a bustling city compared to either Juneau or Skagway.

Ketchikan, known alternately as Alaska’s First City, the salmon capital of the world, or less complimentary, The Rain Capital of Alaska, will be our last port of call. Only a few miles from the Canadian border, Ketchikan historically, and today, is one of Alaska’s more fascinating communities.

During our time in Ketchikan we will visit the Alaska Rain Forest Sanctuary & Raptor center.  We will spend some time walking on trails through the rain forest to learn more about the ecology of the region.  Our trail leads out to an elevated board walk over an estuary that is typically full of wildlife.  After our walk we will visit the Alaska Raptor Center to learn more about the birds of prey that are such an important part of the ecosystem in Alaska.  There are 14 complete totem poles on display with a resident carver that you will be able to see working on his latest totem pole.  

The usual complement of other cruise ships lined the docks. There was even a ship anchored out in the harbor that was using their lifeboats as shore boats to ferry passengers to shore.

Ketchikan Area showing Alaskan Rainforest Sanctuary on the for right

The Ketchikan harbor was a bustling place. Lots of boats moving around. There were even float planes taking off nearby.

Since we only had a short time on shore unchaperoned, we chose to disembark soon after they dropped the gangway. I managed to get everybody to stand for a photograph before we actually left the docks.

Ketchikan is similar to other two cities we visited, in that the town relies on income from tourists brought to them by the cruise ships. Most of the shops near the docks were focused on selling us stuff. Some interesting, some not. We actually were not much help to that local economy I’m afraid.

Downtown Ketchikan including Creek Street and the Totem Heritage Center

But the town is interesting, and bustling. We were not exactly wandering aimlessly. Our preliminary goal was Creek Street. Creek Street was originally home to the town’s Red Light district. Now the shops have mostly been restored and repurposed to sell souvenirs and art to the visitors.

Creek Street

As such the bridge into the area, and the walkways were extremely crowded. But the area was architecturally interesting with brightly painted old buildings and winding pathways.

At that point Gretchen split off from the group to give her sore hip a break, and the rest of us embarked on the short hike along the Married Man’s Trail towards the Totem Heritage Center.

The Totem Heritage Center is a museum operated by the City of Ketchikan in the U.S. state of Alaska.

The Heritage Center houses one of the world’s largest collections of unrestored 19th century totem poles. The poles were recovered from uninhabited Tlingit settlements on Village Island and Tongass Island, south of Ketchikan, as well as from the Haida village of Old Kasaan.[2] The Center was founded in 1976 to preserve these totems and act as a cultural center. Sixteen of the museum’s thirty-three totem poles are on permanent display, although the rest of the collection is available for research purposes.

from Totem Heritage Center, Wikipedia
Brown Bear on top of Tlingit Totem Pole

We all found the the Center interesting. There were many totem poles and other examples of heritage crafts displayed. In one of the back rooms was literally a stack of old totem poles lying down in a glass (I assume climate controlled) display case.

Gretchen had made her way back to Whale Park in the middle of town to wait for us. She reported that while she was waiting for us that she was able to hear the various tour guides that made stops there. She just told me that she listened to one talk for awhile about the education of Native American children that she found interesting.

We eventually all regrouped and made our way to the ship, ate a late lunch, and went back to the docks to catch our bus to the Alaskan Rain Forest and Raptor Center.

The center is a privately run education and bird rescue operation and accepts donations and and charges for tours to raise the money required to support those activities. It took us about 25 minutes by bus to reach the center. We were met by our friendly tour guides that took us on a 1/2 mile hike through the rain forest.

Gretchen and the Bald Eagle

However, it wasn’t rainy today, in fact is was actually sunny and hot, shorts and t-shirts weather. We next arrived along a river bank where there were many bald eagles flying around. I didn’t get any good pictures there, but I did get this picture of Gretchen standing next to a rescued bald eagle that we visited after the hike. We also were able to visit the resident totem pole carver on site and ask him about his work. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t get any pictures there.

That night we got back a little late for our 5:30 seating and pretty much went straight to the dining room for dinner. I think everybody had decided to eat somewhere else that night, perhaps in town as our planned departure from the dock was at 7:00 pm. But it was actually one of our best, most fun times, in the dining room.

Since it was so quiet, we had all of the staff members that had waited on us all week to ourselves. For the record the two waiters were Josep and Bagus, and the person that served us wine and drink was Emmy. The service we had all week was exceptional, friendly, and fun. They never even looked at us funny when we ordered double dessert.

This evening really gave us a chance to interact with them on a more personal level. We got to talk about their jobs and how they got to be there. Since it was almost our last night on board, it was a good way to get to know these hard-working people better.

That night it was like Alaska wanted to give us a grand sendoff (tomorrow was really devoted to getting repacked and ready to leave the ship). The storm clouds started gathering and the view off the aft deck was nothing less than spectacular. Every time I turned around the scene changed. It got darker, the wind started to blow, the lightning flashed, and the thunder grumbled. The sun setting behind the clouds and mountains changed the sky colors were always some variation of gold, yellow, orange, red, and dark blue. I will never forget it.

I know the colors are unbelievable, but this is close to what it looked like

The whole family had gathered and we had a bucket with cold beer bottles delivered to the table. We drank beer and watched the show. I had to keep popping up to try and capture the scene. A fitting send-off from the northwest.

Friday 28th – at Sea, heading towards Vancouver

Not much to say this day. We spent most of it with the normal routine of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There was an SAS session that ran from 3 pm to 5 pm. But most of the day was taken up with making sure we were packed and ready to leave the next morning.

The scenery changed to northwest normal

The adventure continues. Part 5 is the last post covering our time hanging in Vancouver before heading home.

Not quite ready for the emerald slippers, but getting close.

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