SATURDAY 6/30/2012 – KETCHIKAN, AK
In the morning, we ate French toast and sausage at Pioneer Café, a 1950’s diner.
The shops were bustling!
We made our way to the Ketchikan visitor center. The lady at the main desk gave us some information about the Rainbud Trail. She recommended Totem Bight State Historical Park – that’s where she takes her family and friends when they come to visit. When we said we were thinking about a catamaran through the Misty Fjords, she pointed to a man in the next room who could help us with that.
We stepped foot in the next room and the vultures descended upon us. Every tourist activity salesman was trying to get our attention. I felt like I was being attacked by beggars in a third world country. T.J. wanted out immediately, but I listened to the pitches of two or three people – none of whom had a catamaran trip to the Misty Fjords. One man finally told us that if we really had our heart set on that, we could go to a building at the end of the dock. Feeling accosted, I walked out of the visitor center mumbling “Holy Crap”. We walked to the building at the end of the dock, entered the office, and found out that the only catamaran trip that day left at 7:30 am. It was almost 9:00.
We decided to take the recommendations of the calm, sane woman we first spoke with at the visitor center main desk. We proceeded to the bus stop in front of the library. While waiting for the bus, we took photos of totem poles and the new fire station.
The bus took us about ten miles north out of town to Totem Bight Park. We wandered through the park looking at totem poles and the clan house.
We learned that The clan house is a model of one that would have been built in the early 1800s in a native village. Inside is one large room with a central fireplace surrounded by a planked platform. Clan houses served as living quarters for several families; one the size of this model could have housed 30 – 50 people. Each family was allotted its own space but shared the common fireplace. Housewares, treasured items, and blankets were stored under the removable floorboards; food items were hung from the beams and rafters.
While photographing a boat, T.J. noticed whales jumping out of the water! Lots of them! It was awesome! The show went on for about ten minutes. We could have paid a lot of money for a whale watching tour and never saw the spectacular display we saw that day – and so close. I didn’t get any good photos, but T.J. got several with his new camera.
I found out that About 6,000 humpback whales visit Southeast Alaska during the summer months. While some stay year round, most migrate more than 3,000 miles from tropical waters, like Hawaii, to the cooler waters of Southeast Alaska in as few as 30 days. Humpback whales often gather into small feeding concentrations. Groups of whales cooperate in a feeding activity where they circle a ball of krill (shrimp-like organisms) from underneath, then surge up to the surface, engulfing huge mouthfuls of krill. An adult humpback whale can consume a ton of food each day.
After whale watching for a while, we walked next door to Potlach Park – a replica of a native village, with more totem poles, decorated tribal houses, and antique cars.
We saw a young man working on carving a totem pole. All work had been done by him and his grandpa.
We went back to Totem Bight Park and looked for cool rocks while we waited for the bus.
The bus dropped us off at Berth 4. We climbed up Schoenber Road. I felt like I walked half way up the mountain. Before we hit the Rainbud trailhead, we saw a half dozen or more bald eagles floating overhead. T.J. got some more great pictures with his new camera.
Steep wooden stairs led to the trail where we were greeted by hand placed stepping boulders. Up, up, up we went! The scenery in the Tongass Rainforest was beautiful. We saw a number of small waterfalls. We thought the trail was 2/3 of a mile. It turned out to be 1.3 miles. When we reached the end, there was construction, but we dodged the live wires and hiked across the rocky ground. Down, down, down we went.
We ate lunch at Godfather’s Pizza and caught the bus ($1) back downtown.
We got off at the Totem Heritage Center, where we viewed the collection of totem poles and other carvings and artifacts that were salvaged from deserted Tlingit communities in the 1970s. The totem poles were carved by Native artists in the mid to late 1800s.
Ketchikan has the largest collection of totem poles in the world. Totem poles were carved to honor important individuals, commemorate significant events, and to proclaim the lineage and social standing of their owners. They are references to the people, events, stories, and legends portrayed in the oral histories of native people. Although they have cultural importance, they are not religious objects, and they have never been worshipped.
We headed back to our hotel walking past the salmon hatchery. We stopped to watch a couple of innings of a little league baseball game. We dropped coins in a wishing well – the homeowner who placed a tube along a bridge into his yard is evidently wishing to get some fishing equipment!
We took Married Man’s Trail the backway to Creek Street and saw a giant waterfall which we hadn’t noticed before.
We rode the funicular up to Cape Fox Lodge.
We passed Dolly’s House – Dolly Arthur was Ketchikan’s most famous madam in the early 1900’s. We were surprised that all of the brightly painted shops on the wooden boardwalk and along Creek Street were closed.
After we got back to our room, T.J. went out for an hour or so to chat on the phone with his girlfriend. When he came back, he said the town was dead. Everything was closed up – shops, restaurants – everything. We soon learned that was because all of the cruise ships had left port.
We did find one restaurant, Fish Pirates Saloon, that was still open. We grabbed a bite to eat. I had clam chowder and coconut prawns.
Afterwards, we went to see the movie, “Rock of Ages”. I guess this is what the locals do when there are only two tourists in town.
We heard a lot of noise on our walk back to the New York Hotel. We found out later, it was the Midnight Run.