A Day in Ketchikan

As I start writing this, it’s 3:15am and the Coral Princess is in Stephens Passage, 44 nautical miles south of Juneau at the mouth of Tracy and Endicott Arms.

Sunday was so busy that I didn’t have anything to eat until after my second presentation, which ended at 3:30. By then I was starved, and pizza and beer on the Lido Deck tasted great! It also ruined my appetite for a real dinner, though, so I skipped the first formal night.

Below is the entrance to the Bayou Café & Steakhouse, one of the ship’s specialty restaurants that have a surcharge. They’re both getting very little use from what I’ve seen – while Cathy and I always go to at least one during a cruise because of the extra-special food and service, I won’t go by myself.

Tongass Narrows yesterday at 4:25am. While beautiful in this direction (south), to the north it was very dark. It didn’t look good for our day in Ketchikan, where I always expect rain but unlike 98% of other people seldom get it.

By the time I disembarked at 6:50 the sun was starting to break through! I had an appointment on the bridge at 11 so needed to get some touring done early.

We berthed at the new Dock 4, which according to a sign near the gangway is 1700 feet from downtown. This free shuttle bus is available for those who don’t want to walk, but it wasn’t getting many riders at all.

Ketchikan is doing some visitor related things extremely well and others very poorly. At the top of the “poorly” list are letting the town become inundated with Caribbean jewelry shops, and allowing too many and too aggressive tour hawkers. On the positive side are directional and heritage interpretation signage such as this one at the northern entrance to Creek Street.

I decided to walk up to Cape Fox Lodge on the Married Man’s Trail rather than ride the funicular.

Married Man's Trail, Ketchikan, Alaska
The beauty of a wet West Coast forest.

A rainy rainforest at Ketchikan, Alaska
I’d forgotten about one of the coast’s residents that make you want to watch where you step very carefully. It’d been many years since I’d seen a slug but there were a lot of them on this trail.

Slugs at Ketchikan, Alaska
This fine collection of totem poles in front of the lodge is called “The Council of Clans”. Wood doesn’t last long in Ketchikan’s very wet climate, and these fairly new poles are deteriorating rapidly.

Totem poles at Ketchikan, Alaska
The back of the bear totem. There’s apparently a little heart carved on this little bear bum but I didn’t see it.

Totem poles at Ketchikan, Alaska
From Cape Fox Lodge I went down to Park Avenue – this is the view as I walked towards the Totem Heritage Center. Along the way I was stopped by a couple who had been to 2 of my presentations and I chatted with them for a while about their trip.

At the Totem Heritage Center I bought a combination pass for $15, giving me entrance to both the totem center and the Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery and Eagle Center. The totem center houses poles retrieved in the 1970s from Tlingit villages Tongass Island and Village Island, and the Haida village Old Kasaan. It gets about 50,000 visitors per year according to curator Chris Hanson.

Totem Heritage Center, Ketchikan
Signage at the Totem Heritage Center is very good.

Totem Heritage Center, Ketchikan
These female eagles are both too badly injured to be returned to the wild…

…and offer the opportunity to get photos such like this. I somehow got into a discussion with the guide about whether or not using a camera’s flash should be allowed. While the center allows it, I don’t think it should be allowed – it has to at least add to the birds’ stress level. I think that it’s allowed simply because that’s the easy path. Ruby did ask the next person to come in to not use flash and I showed her how to turn it off.

I hadn’t even seen this poor little owl beside the entrance door – the guide took me back out to see her. There are times when being saved from dying isn’t a good thing.

The little hatchery is very quiet right now but during the season will raise more than 300,000 salmon, steelhead and rainbow trout.

Over the doorway to the right is a sign reading “Shortcut to Berths 3 and 4” – that route to your ship is no shorter than the public sidewalk, but as it takes you through the middle of a store it is a handy shortcut into your wallet 🙂

Some people wonder what the term “Obstructed Oceanview” cabin means. Here’s a photo of the windows of 2 of those cabins – while the window lets in light, the “view” is of machinery in one case and a lifeboat in the other. The cabins are cheap for a reason.

An Obstructed Oceanview cabin
One of the more dramatic house locations in Ketchikan.

I did a talk from the bridge as we sailed away from Ketchikan – this is heard by anyone on the ship who is on an open deck. It’s also heard by anyone nearby, and there are some restrictions on when you can do it, so I waited until we were out mid-channel. This is the console that my microphone plugs into, on the port wing of the bridge – how’s that for getting an office with a view? I’d been unsuccessful in getting any guidance whatsoever as to what Princess wants from me, and the captain thought that my presentation was too short. Not having things to talk about isn’t one of my problems, so now that we have that little issue clarified the Juneau sailaway talk tonight will be very different.

The main section of the bridge, with Captain Andrea Poggi to the left and the local pilot second from the right.

The view up Tongass Narrows as we sailed away, with the ferry to the airport mid-channel right ahead.

From here I went to the main theatre and gave a presentation about the Alaska Highway, which drew about 250 people. Several people want to meet with me during the cruise to discuss coming up by RV at some future date. I then spent 2 hours with a delightful couple from Great Britain, helping them plan their 2-week land vacation following the cruise – a week-long loop from Fairbanks through Dawson and Whitehorse will make up the fully-independent part of it (I should be making commissions on the tours and hotels that people are booking after talking to me!).

I made it to the Bordeaux dining room by 7:30 and lucked into another table that provided enjoyable conversations as well as excellent food (I had a filet and shrimp). The 7 of us spent over 2 hours together.

It’s now exactly 6am, and we’re pulling into Juneau harbor – 2 hours early. I’ll post this and head up to the Provence dining room for breakfast when it opens at 7.


A Day in Ketchikan — 4 Comments

  1. You should! Be making commission that is. You should have a talk with whatever RV rental company you prefer, as well as whatever hotel/campground/et cetera and see if they’d strike some sort of a deal with you for recommending them to people. Couldn’t hurt, even if the amount was rather small or just a discount for yourself in the end!

  2. We were just in Ketchikan last week. We love Creek Street… the view and not necessarily the shops. 🙂 However, I think the highlight of our cruise was the drive from Skagway to Emerald Lake on a bright sunny day. There were so many gorgeous views that we didn’t have time to stop at all the places we wanted to stop. I would have loved to stop at some of them and just sat there for an hour or two.

  3. BTW Murray thanks for all of your advice before we took our cruise. I wondered if you thought of me like a nagging spouse with all the questions I asked you. 🙂