Wow – I can’t believe that we’ve been in Ketchikan for a week already. We have really enjoyed being here and the weather has been fantastic (which may have something to do with it!) The town has a quaint pioneer atmosphere, the wooden houses cling to the steep hills with roads built on wooden treadles running between them. It has boomed from various industries including fishing, mining and lumber and is now firmly on the cruise itinerary with at least three huge ships calling here each day.
Creek Street which was the old Red Light district has been polished up for tourists with gift shops and jewellery stores, but the salmon still come up the creek to spawn (as the celebrated courtesan Dolly noted). After spawning they die so unfortunately the creek was full of dead or dying salmon and didn’t smell too sweet, but it’s a nice still a place to stroll after the last ship has left.
We spent ten days sailing from Petersburg to Ketchikan through the Inland Passage. The Wrangell Narrows had to be well planned with the tides as the channel is only a 100m wide in places. Luckily the fog had mostly lifted and we enjoyed the passage through, ticking off the buoys was like playing Bingo! We stopped for a night in Wrangell town and the next day we went down to the beach to search for petroglyphs. About 40 petroglyphs have been found at this site and they are thought to have been carved by the Tlingit people about 8000 years ago. They depict birds and fish and faces, it was really fascinating.
The highlight of the trip was a stop at Anan Bay Wildlife Observatory. Anan Creek has the largest run of pink salmon in Southeast Alaska and brown and black bears as well as bald eagles come down to the creek to fish. Below the viewing platform a hide has been set up close to the waterfall and we were fascinated to watch several black bears catch salmon. After staring intently into the water for a while they pounce in head first and try to grab the fish in the mouth. They are comical when they come up empty handed (or mouthed) and look around in the water to see what happened. A couple of bald eagles were perched opposite the platform but did nothing but preen the whole time we were there.
Before arriving in Ketchikan we spent a few days on Prince of Wales Island. The southern part of the island is being quite extensively logged which is a shame but, considering the vast tracts of forest we have sailed through with trees as far as the eye can see, the area being logged is exceedingly small. Thorne Bay was the first anchorage where we could hear chain saws when we woke up.
Our next stop in POW was the Haida settlement of Kasaan in Kasaan Bay. The old community house there has been rebuilt and the totems dating from 1880’s have been restored. It was a beautiful bike ride through the forest to the house site with various totems hidden amongst the trees. We met the carvers who were working on a new totem for the re-dedication ceremony in early September. It was great to see the traditional craft being interpreted and practised in the modern world.
Last Saturday Ketchikan hosted the Blueberry Festival which was great fun – like an English village fair. The day started (for us) with the Slug Race which was slightly cathartic for me as I absolutely detest the beasts! I attended the registration and weigh-in and it was sweet to watch the kids coming up with names for their slugs. The largest was a revolting 49g white slug named “Slimy Carter” but there was also one named “Grandma Diane”, poor grandma! Tables were then set up, the slugs were placed in a heap in the centre and it was a race to the edge. We didn’t wait around to see the finals so we’ll never know if Slimy Carter stole the show.
We strolled around stalls selling arts and crafts and mink pelts –a snap at $15-$35 depending on the size. Later in the afternoon it was time for a cool beer and the Beard and Moustache competition. The bar was packed but a space was cleared for the cat walk. The four blonde judges giggled and took notes as six beards and one moustache were paraded in front of the crowd. A few beers later the results were declared. A guy who had sprayed his beard bright blue won for artistic interpretation and our moustachioed friend we had met at the bar won the People’s Choice.
We are moving on again today. Misty Fjords will be our last stop in Alaska as we make our way southward to Prince Rupert in British Columbia, Canada.