For a place that can get up to 160 inches of rain (that’s 13 feet!), Ketchikan enticed us with sunny skies and mild temperatures—making for a beautiful port visit. It’s different than I thought. I expected towering white capped mountains but this south Alaskan town has smaller rolling mountains covered by the Tongass National Forest. It can only be accessed by boat, ferry, or plane.
We met up with Jon’s cousin’s wife’s sister for our personal tour of this cute little town. She took us to one of her favorite walking places—Ward Lake Picnic Site—where we took a short walk to Ward Creek in the hopes of seeing a bear grabbing a late breakfast of salmon. Unfortunately all was quiet at the salmon buffet. I would have enjoyed the mile hike around the lake, but I wasn’t sure how long some of the other stops would take.
So we pressed on. We then went to Totem Bight State Historical Park—where Jon’s cousin’s wife worked summers as a teenager. The fourteen totems on display in the park have nothing to do with worship but rather record the history and identity of the Tlingit and Haida people who once lived in southeast Alaska.
We then went to Settlers Cove State Recreation Site where apparently the locals swim during the summer. XXX (what’s the average water temp?) Nope too cold for me. It had some nice views of the bay and interesting greenish yellow kelp growing on the rocks. Also XXX, clam looking creatures attached to the rocks. We followed a path up into the woods where a waterfall cascaded between the trees. Salmon jumping upstream XXX (how is this referred to? Salmon jumping up stream to spawn? Spawning salmon?)
We asked about a favorite local place to eat and we headed to Knudson Cove Marina and had some amazing halibut fish and chips at the Barn Door Eatery.
Not wanting to take advantage of hospitality and take up our host’s whole Sunday, we were dropped off and—with a few recommendations of shops to visit—walked downtown Ketchikan. Creek Street seemed to be a place to go.
On Creek Street, salmon come to spawn in Ketchikan Creek and eagles and seagulls often frequent the area to feast on the dying fish. I’ve always heard about salmon fighting the currents to swim up street and spawn. However, I didn’t know that once they do, they start to die—literally starving to death in the process. They become zombie fish. And when they die, there are then dead salmon all over. On the creek bottom. Along the sides of the creek. Which makes the whole experience of watching the spawning salmon a bit more gruesome. But the dying ground becomes a buffet for scavengers in the circle of life.
Not sure who remembers (or even knew about) the “bridge to nowhere.” Apparently Ketchikan was the source of controversy in the 2008 presidential campaign. The Gravina Island Bridge was an estimated $398 million bridge intended to connect Ketchikan to Gravina Island and the Ketchikan International Airport. The bridge needed to be tall enough to allow ship traffic, including cruise ships that frequent the town in the summer. The project was eventually cancelled and travelers continued to use a ferry that runs back and forth between the two islands.
When a young sailor, I passed through the Juneau airport on my way to my first duty station at Cubi Point Naval Air Station in the Philippines. All I remember is that it was dark in the middle of the day (I transferred in February) and that there was a huge polar bear in the terminal.
We found a similar one in Ketchikan and had to get a photo.