MONDAY, JULY 2, 2012 – WRANGELL >> PETERSBURG
I woke at 6:00 am, thinking we had to leave at 6:30 for a 7:30 am departure. It turns out the ferry is departing at 8:30 am. Good thing. Because, I knocked on T.J.’s door at 6:30; he wasn’t awake yet. At 7:00 am, we went to the Stik Café and got cinnamon rolls. Scary shuttlebus guy took us back to the ferry dock. We saw a rainbow. We had to watch about eight RVs load onto the ferry, Taku. We finally departed about 9:00 am.
The ferry ride was really nice. We spent the entire trip on the solarium with teachers from New York, a couple from New Zealand, guys from Indiana, a music student, and others.
The scenery was fantastic. Mountain views with the American flag waving in the foreground. I saw a bay seal swim by. At times, the channel, called the Wrangell Narrows was very narrow. A homeowner on the shore let off fireworks, which stirred up several bald eagles.
The Scandia House shuttle was waiting at the dock in Petersburg, Alaska’s Little Norway (population 3,000), when we got there. After we and the New Zealand couple loaded our bags into the shuttle, we realized another group of passengers had called ahead of us for the courtesy shuttle. Oops! There wasn’t enough room in the shuttle for all of us. Since our bags were already loaded, the driver took us to the hotel first, and then went back and got the poor souls who had actually called for the shuttle.
Upon the advice of the shuttle-bus-driver-concierge-front-desk-clerk, we went across the street to Viking Travel to see about getting a boat to take us to LaConte Glacier.
The two agents in the office were busy. So, T.J. stayed inside waiting for one of them to become available, while I went out and called the number on a tent sign outside of our hotel. I couldn’t understand the old man who answered the phone (but I think I saw him standing on the street talking to me). He asked me to call him back – thinking it was a bad connection. I just think he didn’t speak clearly.
I walked back inside the travel agency. T.J. was sitting next to one of the agents. She was looking up trips to LeConte Glacier, but made it very clear we’d have to leave right away if there was any availability. She seemed extremely crabby. She told us the cost was $212 per person. The trip is 4 ½ to 5 hours long, and the guy does have availability. I thought it was weird the way she referred to “the guy”. I inquired about other options. To which she responded, “he’s the best and the only one likely to have availability”. I thought it was strange that “the best” was the only one with availability. In the end, T.J. and I decided not to spend $212 each. We walked back out to the street. I called the man from the tent sign again. He spoke a little more clearly this time. After a short conversation, I realized he was a bush pilot. I explained that we were hoping to see the glacier by boat. He recommended that I contact Viking Travel. Been there, done that.
We walked up the main street. T.J. commented about the “standard issue” rubber boots that all Alaskans wear. He thinks Alaskans get a pair when they renew their driver’s license. We saw a dozen or so young adults stumble out of a barracks-like building and walk across the street. We think they were heading to work at the fish cannery.
The cannery has been in operation since 1900, ten years before the city was officially incorporated. Tlingit tribes used the area to fish and hunt for thousands of years prior to that, but there is no evidence that they lived here.
We walked out of town to Hungry Point, the tip of Petersburg. The scenery was breathtaking. We continued along the coast of Frederick Sound stopping at lookout points. Frederick Sound is supposedly the best places in the world to see humpback whales – but there were no whales putting on a show for us. We proceeded on to Sandy Beach, hoping to catch a glimpse of the blue ice of LeConte Glacier. It was another long walk. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see the glacier.
We cut back to town through Hargen Drive, passing the airport, grocery store, post office, and beautiful fire department along the way.
Back in town, we grabbed a bite to eat at the outdoor café next to our hotel. T.J. had a salmon quesadilla, and I had a halibut sandwich. We watched a crow wait for people to throw their trash in the receptacle and then swoop down and pick out what he wanted for lunch.
We went back to the hotel to rest our sore feet and weary legs.
Later, we went into a few shops, ate popcorn, and had a drink at the Harbor Bar. We overheard Tina, the town drunk, tell a group of three visiting fisherman, “There’s a lot of stories about me in this town that aren’t true – most likely.”
We finished our drink at the Harbor Bar, and walked down the historic Sing Lee Alley, past the Sons of Norway Hall (celebrating its 100 year anniversary).
We entered Kito’s Kave Bar & Liquor Store. They served food there, too. T.J. ordered an Alaskan Amber, and I had a Captain Morgan and Diet Coke. We sat next to a couple of brothers. One comes to Alaska every year; the other lives in Washington and hasn’t here to Alaska in 27 years. They told us that their younger brother “rules” Petersburg. He’s the village president, chief of the police department, king of fireworks, and that he and his wife own Viking Travel. I resisted telling that what a bad taste we have for that travel agency. The brothers were getting the boat ready and taking it out fishing tomorrow. Then, they had to help their brother get the fireworks ready.
I also met a guy who’d been in town for a week. This was his eighth summer in Petersburg on a commercial fishing boat. The rest of the year he lives on Martha’s Vineyard with his wife, who’s an artist. He used to be a schoolteacher, but gave that up to just enjoy life and do sport fishing on the island. He’s on a new boat this year. Last year, the crew’s share (meaning each member of the crew’s share) was $100,000 at the end of the summer – not bad for three months of work. T.J. thought he looked too old to work on a boat. I think he was younger than me.