Quest to the Pacific Northwest - Ketchikan, Alaska
August 14th, 2015 - Day 16 & 17
Thursday we docked in the fishing town of Ketchikan, which is only accessible by water or plane - no roads in or out! We explored the town, saw some Totem Pole replicas, enjoyed fresh crab on the docks, and finished the day with a flight seeing tour of the Misty Fjords National Monument. Overall a really great day! Friday we enjoyed our last day on the ship, and since there was no Glacier cruising on the agenda, we had nothing to schedule around. A nice ending to the week long cruise.
We arrived in Ketchikan around 9 am Thursday and headed straight off the ship to explore the town. We were docked right in the center of town which was so convenient not needing a shuttle. Pete and Ellen slept in again, still trying to shake whatever bug they had, but Carl, Tom, and I (after getting a little confused on the pickup point) caught the local bus to Totem Night State Park, about 20 min north of town. This is a small state park on the water that features original and replica Totem poles along with a clan house from the First Nations. This area was settled >10,000 years ago by those who crossed the land bridge from Asia. Totem poles were works of art commissioned for births, deaths, tribe crests, or significant achievements. They feature local animals like wolf, bear, orca, bird, and otter and often told legends and creation stories. I thought the area was fascinating, but you can see from the attached picture that Tom was not as enthralled (he thought state park = trees and hiking).
We took the bus back to town (with Tom wishing we had rented a car for the day the whole time) and met Pete and Ellen on the docks for fish and crab. Tom and I had been waiting all trip to enjoy fresh crab on the waterfront and we were not disappointed! We had cod fish n chips along with king crab legs. Ellen and Carl tried the Dungeness crab, and liked it better than the king crab they had tried previously on the trip. We also had great blackened salmon tacos.
After lunch, Carl, Tom, and I walked along Creek Street which is a series of boardwalks over the creek that runs through town. We made it to the fish ladder, which is a concrete structure that allows spawning salmon to route around the large waterfall that they otherwise cannot traverse upstream. We saw several fish make it through but we also saw lots of dead fish in the water. This is the tail end of the silver Salmon run and the fish are absolutely exhausted and unable to breath since they are used to salt water, so many die en route to the lakes where they spawn. I think only 2 out of 1000 salmon make it to the spawning grounds.
We met at the pier under the liquid sunshine gauge (note, Ketchikan gets over 200 inches of rain per year; currently at 180" for 2015) to find our flight tour operator, Island Wings. The flight left from a nearby dock and we had the plane to ourselves. Although I have been in small planes many times, I had never done a water takeoff and landing. It was much smoother than I expected! We flew through the Misty Fjords and had beautiful views since it was an extremely rare sunny day.
After 45 min or so, we landed in a lake and got off on a floating dock to look around and stretch. Fjords are Glacier carved inlets from the ocean, so despite looking like lakes, they are all salt water and connect to the see. We also saw some fantastic alpine lakes high in the mountains, left by glaciers or made from accumulating rain water. They often form long, beautiful waterfalls that cascade down to the ocean. We were lucky enough to visit Ketchikan on one of the sunniest, most beautiful days of the year, therefore we did not see any mist in the Misty Fjords, but the views and experience were still breathtaking and well worth the cost of a flight seeing tour.
We headed back to the ship and made it just before all aboard (with Christina stressing about the time the whole last 20 minutes). Enjoyed some fresh made, Napoli style pizza in the pizzeria on board as we watched the sail away and then everyone retired to clean up and nap before dinner. That night Tom and I caught the magician performance and really liked it. Caught a great view of the ship as we were landing earlier that day.
Friday everyone slept in and then we met up on the lido deck to sun in the lounge chairs. It was pleasantly warm and you could sit out in swimwear as long as you were not wet from the pool. After lunch on the lido deck we returned to the sun deck and caught glimpses of orcas and birds. We finished out the day with a visit to the bar for happy hour (buy 1 get one free every afternoon), a round of trivia, and a beautiful sunset as we ate dinner.
Saturday we arrive in Vancouver early and part ways, with Ellen, Pete, and Carl flying back home directly. Tom and I will stay on in Vancouver and then make our way back to Seattle, via ferries, stopping in Victoria, BC on the way.