Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ketchikan - Part 2

Don't you love the bald head? (No... Tom did NOT lose his hair this trip!)

We took a Duck tour with our friends Gerry and Sherry, who we have met several times along the way during the summer. While a bit on the hoaky side, it did give us great waterside views of town including the resident harbor seals.




















Ketchikan is built on a steep hill, with not much workable land between the water and steep granite walls. A section of town, called Newtowne, is built on land stilts, crawling up the steep cliffs, with stairways and boardwalks connecting the houses. In fact, the stairways and boardwalks are officially named city streets, and are maintained by the city just as any other street is maintained (including snow removal). 


The cruise ships seem to take over the town on some days, with as many as 5 in port at once.  They physically dwarf the city and the harbor is very busy with float planes, charter fishing boats, and other water based tours coming and going.


Early morning in town:

Ketchikan gets smelly this time of year because salmon are moving up stream to spawn, then they die.  There are piles of dead and rotting fish all around the stream banks.  High tide washes some out, but many get caught up on the rocks.  The locals say they get used to it.

We explored several beaches. In low tide, sea kelp, driftwood, barnacles (that grow on EVERYTHING) and muscles are revealed.


Billions of Barnacles:

 Harvesting clams on the beach is not safe as they can have high levels of paralytic shellfish poison which can be fatal.   

Trees grow out of and around the rocks. The grains of each are so similar, it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference .. is it tree or rock??

The large driftwood is old. We were told that to maintain safe navigational channels, large driftwood is now removed before it can freely float up onto shore.


Small driftwood makes for great campfires. We collected whenever we could.

There are fun shapes in the wood. Wish we could drag some home (that would be Kris talking).

Stinky has found a new way to amuse himself. Dead set of earplugs attached to an overhead cabinet knob, has become a favorite toy. He can amuse himself for a very long time with this.


 Next Post:  Rest of Ketchikan - Forests and Totems
















Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ketchikan (8.14.15 - 8.21.15) - Part 1

We had a great time in Ketchikan, and fantastic weather in the typically rainy town. Internet was impossible, and it has taken a while to process pictures and write text. In the meantime, we took the last of the four ferry legs to Prince Rupert, bidding a tearful fond farewell to our wonderful summer in Alaska. From there we headed south (more on that later) through British Columbia to the 'lower 48'. Now that we are in the land of decent phone service and internet, the Ketchikan post can be launched – in several segments.

Ketchikan, Alaska's southernmost city (the fourth largest in the state), sports a population of about 9000, with the largest concentration of Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people in Alaska. The town is on an island – we arrived by ferry.

The ferry Ride leaving Wrangel (early morning low tide).  WE needed to be at the terminal at 4:45 am. 

Our drive DOWN the STEEP ramp into the bowels of the ferry.  Good thing the brakes worked - otherwise we'd have been in the drink!  

The deck chairs are mostly taken up by overnighters still on board. 

The closest we get to cruise ship 'shot'. 


 Tour planes taking off and landing right beside us as we arrive in Ketchikan. 

Ketchikan's first western settlers built a salmon saltery. It became an important trading community.

Today's Ketchikan post will be about the Creek Street area. This is a part of town that looks quintessential Ketchikan. It is very popular among the cruise ship passengers as it is within walking distance of the downtown ports. Creek Street is filled with a colorful history.

Alaska was a 'dry' (no alcohol allowed) territory from it's purchase in 1867 until 1918, when alcohol became legal – just 2 years before the beginning of prohibition. Alaskans were experienced in home brewing and moonshine. The houses on Creek street were built on stilts over the tidal waters of Ketchikan Creek, where bootleggers could deliver products by slipping their skiffs quietly under the buildings at high tide, delivering goods through a trap door in the floor.




The Creek Street neighborhood became a place where miners, fisherman and others could come for alcohol and entertainment.

Dolly's house (the green house on the right) was owned by Thelma Dolly Copeland who fled her troubled home in Idaho at the age of 13. Two weeks after arriving in Ketchikan, at the age of 18, she purchased this home. She sold illegal alcohol, cooked for and entertained guests in her home until her death in 1975.

Dolly's kitchen, where she prepared home cooked meals for her guests.

The entertainment on Creek Street was banished in 1954.

Next post:  More Ketchikan

Monday, August 17, 2015

Bears (8.13.15)


Kris's bear watching tour was much easier on body and soul than her first. A 1.5 hour speedboat ride took her to the Anan bear observatory, managed by the USDA US Department of Agriculture. It supports one of the largest pink salmon runs in SE Alaska and where there are salmon, there are bears. Everyone who goes to Anan is required to have a USDA permit. They issue 60 per day.

The small boat (18 passenger) ride was great.  This kid (captain) LOVES his boat.


We were issued instructions about what to take on the trail up to the observatory, and how to behave on the trail. Our gun toting guide lead the way and we followed in close formation (for safety).



Right beside our trail, the bears dig (like a dog) to find roots and tubers.

Yup … bears on the premises

The observatory is located in a narrow canyon with moss covered walls. The bears scramble over rocks and fallen trees

Let the viewing begin. It is such a treat to watch these beautiful animals in a super natural setting. The are constantly on the move and almost seem to have personalities as they interact with each other.

I'm so cute

Close but no cigar.

It's a head scratcher

Success !

Viewing from a river level blind, looking through the mist of the rushing river. This pair of bears seemed to be working together. The one in the water would catch the fish, eat the brain and the roe (apparently the best parts, then give the rest to the other bear. They repeated this process for an hour.

This girl was a particularly proficient hunter (you can tell by her girth) and she has never had cubs.



Retreating to a cave to eat the catch.

There were eagles all around, but we saw none approaching the discarded salmon carcasses.

Late in the afternoon, in a distant beach, we saw a family of eagles playing .

  Time to go back to Wrangell

Fun day with bears

Next Post:  Ketchican