Day 3: Monday, May 18, 2009: Ketchikan, Alaska

Alright, our first Alaskan city! Convenient, I suppose, as Ketchikan is touted as Alaska's first city. It is a small, narrow town, nestled between the sea and the mountains. It is home to about 8,000 people. The ship arrived at 7:00 AM and it was about 60 degrees and sunny. We chose to take the "Ketchikan Cultural Discovery" tour as that day's shore excursion.


Ketchikan, as seen from our balcony.

 

More Ketchikan.

 

A husky! Too cute! They don't actually have huskies as their sled dogs up here because they are so large and slow. In fact, they call them "Slow-berians" (as opposed to Siberians).

 

Two other tours that were available: "Ketchikan by Horse-Drawn Trolley" and "Ketchikan Duck Tour," where you board an amphibious vehicle that goes from land to water and back again.

 

The horsies.


Alright, on to Totem Bight State Park. In an effort to preserve the Native American culture in the area, the U.S. Forest Service began salvaging and reconstructing totems. All of these are replicas. This first totem is called "Eagle Grave Marker."

 

This totem is called "Thunderbird and Whale." It is a Haida mortuary pole.

 

This is stinkweed. It is said to smell like a skunk when torn. Luckily, no one was up to testing that out. Bears use it as a natural laxative when they return from their winter slumbers.

 

This is a nurse tree, where a tree falls over or dies somehow, and another tree grows from it and uses its nutrients to survive. The soil isn't very deep here, so the trees must make do as they can.

 

This is a later stage, where the original nurse tree is all but gone.


This next totem is called "Man Wearing Bear Hat" and is a Tlingit grave marker. It is said that when the body is painted red, they died a violent death. You can also see our tour guide / bus driver, Sam.

 

Inside the clan house. There was a fire pit in the middle and the platforms around it were covered with planks that could be lifted to reveal storage areas. The walls and floors were carved by hand and were surprisingly smooth. The beams depict Duk-toothl who showed his strength by tearing a sea lion in two.

 

The clan house would have had this one small entrance, mostly serving as protection. Here, Travis is truly low man on the totem pole. *cheese*

 

The full entrance totem.

 

The view from the park.


More of the lovely view. Our ship would pass through here later on our way to Juneau.

 

The "Master Carver Pole."

 

The "Land Otter Pole."

 

The "Sea Monster Pole" with the "Kadjuk Bird Pole" in the background.

 

The "Raven at the Head of Nass" pole.


The pole on the left tells the story of "Katís Bear Wife" and the one on the right is the "Kadjuk Bird Pole."

 

The is the top of the "Halibut Pole." The original was moved to the Totem Heritage Center. To read the stories of these poles, go to dnr.alaska.gov/parks/units/totembgh.htm.

 

Next to the state park, there was a gift store named Alaska Totem Trading. Dave wanted a picture of a moose, so we got one.

 

Me with the Moose. (Not to be confused with Johan Hedberg.)

 

Travis in the bear chair.


More moosiness.

 

Can't say I've never seen a mounted walrus anymore.

 

So, all these towns are small, but Ketchikan went out of their way here. A taxidermy, gift shop, and post office in one.

 

Next, we went to the Deer Mountain Hatchery, where they rear king and silver (coho) salmon and steelhead trout.

 

They also have a cool pair of eagles.


Another look at the eagles. They are both flightless, so there is no glass separating you and them.

 

Travis: not as wide as an eagle.

 

One last look at the eagles. They sometimes catch fish in the little stream that runs through their habitat.

 

The life cycle of a salmon at the facility. Once they reach the fingerling stage (far right), they are released into the wild.

 

A large tank of salmon. They release about 152,000 a year (I think is what they said).


Running from the shadows.

 

Ketchikan Creek. The put that gate up so they can collect about 50 salmon needed to make so many babies. After that, they remove the gate and let nature take its course.

 

They say that during the annual salmon run, you could just about walk across this creek on salmon.

 

Some of the original totem poles at the Totem Heritage Center. Over time, the paint fades and the poles rot from the inside out.

 

The "Thunderbird Face Mask" displayed at the Totem Heritage Center.


After our tour was complete, we walked around Ketchikan on our own and did some shopping before heading back to the ship. This is a large marble bear.

 

Marble humpback whales.

 

The Ketchikan welcome sign.

 

This vacation was filled with complete random moments. Here is a good one - we're walking along and suddenly, there's this dog wearing sunglasses looking out of a window.

 

Creek Street, Ketchikan's former red light district. I really liked the feel of this place. Very neat.


We purchased a few souvenirs and some photography here. One of the stores had a website: www.fishcreekalaska.com.

 

Some of the "ladies" from Dolly's House. Classy!

 

Leaving Ketchikan.

 

The "international" airport, so named because one flight from Canada was rerouted there once.

 

Beauty everwhere you look.


A floatplane coming in for a landing. We were told that 1 in 15 people here have a pilot license.

 

Another wild eagle sighting. He's on the logs in the water.

 

Zoomed in.

 

A cute little island. On our tour, they discussed two islands of this size that were for sale. One of them was twice the price of the other because it had an eagle nest on it.

 

Totem Bight State Park, from the ship.


Snow capped moutains.

 

More lovely scenery.

 
 

 
 

 
 

On our tour, we learned the difference in a cove and a bight. A cove is basically the opposite of a peninsula, where water is surrounded by land on three sides. A bight is a cove that loses its water when the tide goes out and turns into a mud pit. Hence, Totem Bight State Park.

Back on the ship, we spent the rest of the afternoon in the Spinnaker lounge, which was located at the front of the ship and had floor to ceiling windows for great nature viewing. In the Spinnaker that evening, they featured the China Stars Acrobat Company, kind of a Cirque de Soleil-ish performance. Afterwards, Magician Murray entertained the crowd.