Sunday, July 3, 2011

On to Sitka...24 hour ferry, June 26-30, 2011

Got to the ferry early, checked in and parked in our lanes. That gave us time to do some more walking and driving around the town. Made our last stop at Fat Stan’s and had our farewell dinner. We left Ketchikan on June 26th at 11:45 PM. We were again traveling on the M/V Taku.  We were beginning our longest ferry ride..24 hours to Sitka. We would make three stops on the way..Wrangell, Petersburg and Kake. Some of the people we met on the first ferry were on this one too. We were all traveling together. Jim and I got on just fine with no worries and Jim managed to get us a cabin so we could get some sleep. We were prepared to sleep on the deck if necessary but the cabin was nice. Full private bath too. We only slept until Wrangell..6 hours. We got up to see the sights on the way to Petersburg. Very narrow passage with mountains all around. Saw some whales too! Tried to get some pics. We did find some time for breakfast...french toast with bacon. Very good and price was OK. Everything is more expensive. Made all the stops…Kake was the smallest. Lots of people got off the ferry and just started walking. I found that to be weird. Just before the ferry was to depart here come all those people walking back. I guess they just wanted to see a little of the area and stretch their legs. We finally made it to Sitka in the dark. Our campground is near the ferry terminal but we managed to pass up the entrance. Jim pulled over while I drove back to find the campground entrance. It all ended up fine. A couple of friends we met were camping there too. We all set up in the dark. Time for bed!!
Got up the next day and it is raining. We set off anyway headed to town for a walking tour on our own. Found a map and started with Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center and Sitka National Historical Park. Looked at all the exhibits inside but decided to wait on the outside as it was still raining. We drove nearby to the Sheldon Jackson Museum. If you ever go to Sitka you must see this. Small museum but brimming with exhibits. Cabinets and walls were full as well as drawers with more. We saw lots about the Tlinget people and how they lived in this area. Next we walked to the Russian Bishop's House...built in 1842 for Alaska's first Russian Orthodox Bishop. Downstairs had lots of explanation about Russian-Alaska history and upstairs was still set up with furniture etc. from the Bishop's time. Some of the furniture was made by the first Bishop. We were guided by a ranger through the upstairs.
We walked around a little bit then drove through downtown and parked down at Totem Square. We found a nice restaurant for lunch. I had delicious halibut tacos and Jim had a seafood salad. We decided to walk after lunch and first came upon the Pioneer's Home. Beautiful large building with statue and lush gardens. We went inside and found out it was the Pioneer's Home...a rest home for veterans. We thought we should go on and find somewhere else to see. We went to downtown Sitka and tried to see St. Michael's Cathedral but it was locked. We went through some shops then decided to go back to the camp and plan our next day. On the way we stopped at a grocery store in town. I checked out the avocados…almost $5 each!!!! No guacamole for us.
The next day we got started early it was a little cloudy but no significant rain and some blue skies. We wanted to drive up to a viewpoint high above Sitka. Harbor Mountain Road was nearby and paved for the first mile. Then it became gravel but still OK. After about 5 miles it became very narrow and twisty and steep in some places. We even came to a big (and I mean BIG) puddle in the middle of the road. Jim managed to drive around it so we continued on. We made it to the trailhead but the trail up was 6 miles and we didn’t want to walk that much. We drove back down a little ways to another trail and hiked over planking to the viewpoint. It would have been breathtaking if there were no clouds but we still managed to see forever when the clouds rolled by. It was well worth the drive and hike. Going back down was easier…we had already seen the road and knew what to expect. We met several cars coming up. So happy we got there early. When we got back on the main highway we headed all the way to the end of the main road to see the Fortress of the Bear. Nice drive all the way...beautiful scenery. We stopped at Whale Park to look for whales. We didn't see any but it was worth the stop. I imagine it is fantastic to look out and see whales feeding during the migration. I guess we'll need to come back then.
We continued our drive and finally made it to the end. We passed up the entrance...not very good road signage we seen so far. Anyway, we went in and bought a ticket. This place raises orphaned bears..mostly grizzlies. When they can they ship them to other wildlife habitats. Right now they have five grizzlies...three siblings in one area and two siblings in another. I took lots of pics and movies. There area also eagles flying all around. They like to get the scraps of fish away from the bears. It was a pretty amazing feeding frenzy. The man who talked to us told us lots about bears and how they take care of the cubs they get. Lots of work involved.
We left there and went back to town to walk through the Sitka National Historical Park, visited St.Michael's Cathedral, climbed Castle Hill and visited the Alaskan Raptor Center. We've enjoyed it all and met lots of very nice people. Even though the weather has been rainy in Sitka we've managed to see lots and learn about the history of Russian America and how Alaska was purchased by America. There is so much history that is never heard unless you travel to the area.

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