Tag Archives: ketchikan

Alaska: Ketchikan (Days 3-4) and Home

25 Jul

The third day that we were in Ketchikan happened to be the Fourth of July so while Al and Matthew got up early to go fishing, the rest of us slept in and then we made our way downtown for the parade which started at noon.

The stair streets continued to amaze me.



Travis had to take his turn as the pirate since he wasn’t with us the other day:

Since we had time to kill before the parade, we did some more shopping and posing.

Travis’ mom is awesome.

Al, Matthew, Kurt and Marlene met us in front of the fire station to watch the parade. It started with a helicopter flying with the American flag.

I was amazed at all of the groups in the parade. Since I grew up in a big city (80,000 people), I’m always surprised at any signs of “civilization” small towns have (though Ketchikan probably isn’t considered small at 14,000 people). Travis is helping to rid me of my big-city prejudices.

They raced rubber duckies in the water by Creek Street as a fundraiser, which was a fun idea (and a fun float!).

After the parade, we ate the sandwiches we brought along and then walked around Creek Street (since the guys had been fishing when we went before). We saw a trolley…

…and a fish ladder, which helps salmon run the river without going through the rapids.

Since we were downtown, we decided to check out the Discovery Center, which we had heard was pretty interesting. We found out that since it was a national holiday, admission was free. Can’t beat that!

We saw baby salmon:

Lots of stuff about the natives and the industries that built Alaska into what it is today:


Learned about the core samples we had found on our hike to Lower Silvis Lake:




And I think this is interesting – Alaska is so big that it would stretch across the Lower 48.

After all of our discoveries, we walked back to the apartment. For dinner, we went to a BBQ hosted by some of Kurt and Marlene’s friends. We brought burgers and drinks and they provided quite the spread. I filled up on all kinds of jello salad before my burger was even done because I decided I’d rather eat jello salad than a burger (though I did end up eating my entire burger too). Alaska reminds me in many ways of Minnesota – the greenery, the snow (in some parts), the bugs, the nice people, the jello salads. Everything except for the ocean and mountains. Minnesota doesn’t have those. Although the ocean has been mistaken for big lakes by several people (Minnesotans)…

Around 9, we headed back to the apartment to watch the fireworks, which wouldn’t be shot off until 11 pm. We had planned to walk down to the main street again but the fireworks started just as we were leaving and we discovered that we could see them fine about 200 feet from our front door. So we just stood in the street to watch them. It was a very good show for a small town. 😉 The loud ones would create an echo that bounced off all the mountains around us. Very cool. I love fireworks. And I love being able to walk only 200 feet before I’m home and can go to bed. No traffic fighting for us!

The next day was our last day in Ketchikan. And it was absolutely gorgeous. The sun was shining, the clouds were sparse and Deer Mountain was asking to be climbed. So climb it we did.

Since it’s a fairly strenuous hike (3,000 feet elevation gain in 2.5 miles), Al and Beth opted to do a different hike. So it was just the four of us younguns. For the first 2 miles, it felt like we were in a jungle.


So many stairs.

An idea of how fast it climbed:

This is called Devils Club. Why?

Because of these guys:

The first overlook had awesome views of the ocean.


As we continued on, we came across a place where a mudslide or avalanche must have happened.



Right before the second scenic overlook, we started encountering snow.


And more beautiful views. Now we were really getting up there.



Even though the rest of the way to the top was all snow, we decided to continue on (although if we had known what we know now, we probably would’ve turned around.)



It was so steep and slippery that we pretty much scrambled up on all fours.

With extremely short walking sticks.

The views were breathtaking.

I was trying my best to focus on putting one foot in front of the other, instead of freaking out about how high we were and how steep it was.

We got to a point, though, where it was so steep that we weren’t sure how we’d get back down. So Matthew, Drew and I stopped about 400 feet from the top, while Travis continued on and disappeared over the top of the ridge.

I distracted myself from the fear of Travis dying by taking pictures.

Yes, I know I look ridiculous but the bugs up there were HORRIBLE. It has been almost 3 weeks since this hike and I still have a bug bite on my arm. And I hate bugs. Hate. Hate. Hate.

Finally, Travis’ head poked back over the top.

Thank God he’s alive!

Then the fun part began – shoe skiing! When you get a running start on snow like this, you can just slide down on your shoes. It’s a little tricky and I fell more than once but it was a lot of fun. And a lot of cold.

When we got past the snow, Travis was able to actually wring water out of his socks, they were so wet. But we lived to tell our tale! (Later that night, we found out that people die on Deer Mountain every year because of unpredictable avalanches. Ha… glad I didn’t find that out the hard way.)

So the sun does still exist.

After our hike, the guys showered up while Al, Beth and I ran a few errands. Then we ate dinner (tortellini, garlic bread and salad) before heading over to Kurt and Marlene’s for a bonfire and s’mores. Around 10, we said our goodbyes, drove back to the apartment, finished packing as much as we could and went to bed.

Our flights back home on Friday went without incident. Travis and I got back to our house in Denver by 6 pm, just in time to pick our dogs up from doggie daycare. Home sweet home for all of us!

So was Alaska everything I thought it would be?

Yes!! It was an awesome vacation and I loved that we got to do a lot of hiking and sightseeing. Renting an RV was a great idea – it was so nice to not have to deal with lugging our stuff into hotels, not worrying about where to stay or having to sleep in less-than-ideal hotel rooms. Obviously, it was also a huge blessing to have awesome friends in Ketchikan who were willing to show us around, cook us amazing food and spoil us. But it would be a fun place to visit even if you didn’t have those connections. And since it hadn’t rained in Colorado for months, the rain every day didn’t bother us. I would definitely recommend visiting Alaska to anyone who likes the outdoors!







Alaska: Ketchikan (Days 2-3)

23 Jul

Our second day in Ketchikan, Travis, Matthew and Al went fishing with Kurt pretty much all day. So Beth, Drew and I had a lazy morning, then walked to the shops in downtown.

Drew refused to take a picture as a pirate. He retorted, “I don’t do that in public.”

I was so fascinated by the named streets that were really just staircases that I took a picture of this “intersection” two days in a row:

The cruise ships are HUGE.

And you could definitely tell who was a tourist (dressed up, wearing heels) and who was a local (wearing jeans and Ketchikan sneakers). We were kind of in-between because our plans had been to be at a cabin all week so we only brought jeans and sweatshirts along.

Creek Street was the old red light district. While I like historic things, brothels are not one of them, so we declined that tour. (The rest of Creek Street is now just local shops.)

By the time we were done shopping, we were ready for lunch so we headed back to the apartment. The fishermen stopped by for about 5 minutes and when I discovered they were going back out fishing, I got a little angry at Travis. But I got over it and our group of 3 decided to ride the city bus out to Totem Bight State Park, which went smoothly with not a single incident. But on the way back, our bus driver stopped at the gas station to fill the bus up. That was a first.

The volunteer working in the visitor center was just closing up for the day and was in a very good mood so she let us in to the building where they were ‘rehabilitating’ some old totems that were rotting.

It was a lot easier to look at them when they were laying down (otherwise, some of them are so tall you just about fall over following them to the top).

Then we continued on to look at the clan house on-site, which was interesting. The natives lived in houses like this in clans of 45-50 people during the winter. In the summer, they set up camps near wherever they were fishing.

We of course saw more totems, but they’re not as cool in pictures as they are in real life, so I’ll spare you. It was low tide at the time so we walked out on to the exposed seaweed and looked for hermit crabs.

While we waited for the bus, Drew played with something I haven’t seen in over a decade.

I asked him if he knew what that even was. He did. Smartypants.

We got back to the apartment around 6 and since we had no idea when the guys were coming back, we made dinner when we started feeling hungry. Beth and I (but mostly Beth) put together beautiful homemade pizzas. About 10 minutes later, they were burnt to a crisp. Apparently, the oven temperature was not accurate. We were able to salvage them though – just the cheese was burnt so we peeled that off, put on more cheese and put them back in the oven, checking them every minute. So we had pizza for dinner and it was still pretty tasty. The guys came back not long after that and after they ate, we all went to bed.

The next day, the guys weren’t going fishing until the afternoon so we all went on a hike up to Lower Silvis Lake. It was 5 miles round trip and gained about 800 feet so while the climb wasn’t crazy steep, it was constant. All up on the way out, all down on the way back.

The guys saw the tunnel around the big pipe and just had to walk through it. I refused because of the spider-danger. Nothing is worth encountering spiders.

Being the almost-teenager boy that he was, Drew had to try climbing everything.

Even if it meant he could barely get down.

(He survived.)

We got up to a dam and had to climb over the fence to check it out.

Water, water everywhere.

We also came across a big pile of granite core samples.

We contemplated bringing them home for a new kitchen countertop but decided against it.

Finally, we reached the lake.

The bugs were so bad there though that I literally kept pacing back and forth until we were ready to turn back. Travis decided to imitate Ace Ventura and walk the ledge.

Then the guys went out fishing.

The rest of us hung out with Marlene, talking and drinking. Being around Drew reminds me of how much I hated adult conversation when I was his age. Talking seemed like The Worst way to spend your time. Now, I honestly enjoy it. I guess that makes me an adult, huh?

We played some Phase 10 as well until the guys got back and had gutted their fish. Then we had dinner: salmon chowder. Yum. So delicious. I can’t wait until we get some of the salmon Travis caught from his parents because I will be making this! After dessert of mint brownies and ice cream again, we called it a day.

Only one post of Alaska left… don’t be so excited. 😉

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