Archive | 6:41 am

Alaska: Ferry and Ketchikan (Day 1)

22 Jul

We got on the ferry around 6 pm on Friday, June 29. We wouldn’t be getting off until 6 am on Sunday, July 1. Yes, the ferry ride was 36 hours long.

We had reserved a 4-person berth, which was nice because it gave us a secure place to put all of our crap, and I was able to go to bed at 7:30 that night. Seriously. We ate our pizza up on the top deck under the Solarium and then I tried to hang out in the observation deck but was too sleepy. So I went to “take a nap” but didn’t get up before morning. Apparently, I was tired!

The Solarium

Our ship’s name

The map of the ship

At first, the ship seemed huge. But after being on there just a few hours, you pretty much knew where everything was (at least, what was accessible to the passengers).

To be completely honest, I got a little bored on the ferry. There’s only so much watching and waiting for wildlife, reading and crosswording, hanging out and napping I can do. We stopped at 4 different ports before getting to Ketchikan: Sitka, Kake, Petersburg and Wrangell. We stopped at Sitka in the middle of the night but got off for 20 minutes at Kake the next day, walked to the only store within walking distance and bought some ice cream.

The stops at Petersburg and Wrangell happened while we were awake but they were only for about 20 minutes and we didn’t think it was worth it to get off, only to get right back on.

Finally, we were coming in to Ketchikan. It’s very cool to watch how they get the ship tied to the dock in the right place. They winch it in. (The pics below are from 2 different ports, if you’re confused about why the dock is on one side in some and on the other side in others.)

We got off the ship, walked across the street for some blessed coffee and waited for our ride in the Alaska Marine Highway building. (I was reading blogs on my phone for the first time since getting to Alaska.)

Have I mentioned that Al and Beth (and Travis and his sister Carolyn) used to live in Ketchikan? Al and Beth moved there when they were first married, stayed for about 8 before moving back to MN and haven’t returned for about 25 years. I think they enjoyed seeing their old stomping grounds.

They still have some friends who live there – Kurt and Marlene. They were so nice and accommodating to us! They let us stay for free in an apartment they own that doesn’t have any renters currently. They borrowed us a car for free. And they invited us over to their house 3 nights out of the 5 we were there.

After Kurt picked us up, we went grocery shopping, napped and then drove around town to see some of the schools Travis went to and apartments they lived in. One of those apartments was actually just at the end of the street a couple hundred feet from the apartment we were staying in.

The streets in Ketchikan are crazy steep and narrow. The street our apartment was on was so narrow that you had to back out of it – no room to turn around! And the steepness reminded me of San Francisco. They have named streets that are just stairs, which I’ll talk more about in a different post. I remarked “Wow, I bet this is horrible in the winter” and was told that it doesn’t really snow in Ketchikan, and when it does, it melts pretty quickly because they get 160 inches of rain a year. Ketchikan is literally in a temperate rainforest (as opposed to a tropical rainforest).

Look at the moss on the back of this roof (the apartment at the bottom was the one they lived in):

Near our apartment was also a float plane harbor, which had planes flying in and out as early as 7 am everyday (grrr):

We tried to go tour the fish hatchery and native museum but you had to pay for them now (not 25 years ago!) so we ended up just walking around in the rain for a while.

Then we went to the Saxman Native Village to see the world’s largest collection of totems.

We learned what most of the symbols mean but I’m not going to tell you because 1) I’ve already forgotten and 2) they never made a ton of sense in the first place. I need an expert to interpret the poles for me.

After driving to the end of the southbound road (there are only about 20 miles of road in Ketchikan because it’s on an island), we went over to Kurt and Marlene’s house. Their two daughters and son-in-law were there too so we were a big group! We finally ate some wild salmon worth writing on the blog about! The locals know how to do it right. It was awesome. We also had carrots coated with pecan Nut-Thins and sour cream (I think… regardless, they were delicious, trust me) and baked potatoes. For dessert, we had mint brownies and ice cream and were informed at the end of the meal that everything had been gluten-free (their son-in-law has celiac). I was impressed – nothing tasted GF!

After we were thoroughly stuffed, we played some Phase 10 until about 10:45, and then went home to bed. There was fishing to be done the next day!

Coming up: Ketchikan Days 2 and 3