Most of our time in Ketchikan was spent catching up on errands and completing projects. We docked at Bar Harbor, which is about 1.5 miles north of the main downtown. Everything we needed was located within 3 miles of the boat on the main road (Tongass Road) that runs through the town. We had our electric bikes to get us around, but there was also a city bus that runs conveniently up and down Tongass Rd (free within a certain zone).
Right after customs visited the boat and cleared us, I geared up in warm running clothes a went for a job through cruise ship central (the downtown area). I was dodging tourists the entire way, but it was a great way to scan the town. Later we went back on bikes to visit the Tongass Trading Company in search of fishing tackle and foul weather gear. We found ourselves at Tongass Trading Company several times over the next 3 days as the weather really tested the effectiveness of our gear!
We met up with the group for dinner at Bar Harbor Restaurant (ironically, located at the cruise ship docks downtown rather than at Bar Harbor) for dinner. We enjoyed having someone else cook and do the dishes after several days on the boat. Dougal and I shared the special – grilled shrimp and prime rib – and it did not disappoint. Yum!
Rain rolled in on the 2nd day, but it was light enough for Cass and I to bike into town. We were searching for knitting materials. Eileen (fellow SlowBoat flotilla participant) promised to teach us to knit. The Hive at the Creek Street shops had everything we needed! After picking out our yarn (crazy multi-color pastels for Cass and a deep blue for me) and needles, we wandered around the shops at Creek Street.
Creek Street is a row of colorful shops and restaurants built on a dock along the creek. There are various signs along the way that describe pieces of the history. Salmon was central to the towns history, like many other parts of Alaska. In the late 1800s, the Tongass Packing Company was operated as a cannery and by 1920, Creek Street was the filled with bootlegging and brothels. This section of town has gone through quite a transformation!
Although extremely touristy, its fun to walk through the shops and check out the local-made products (salmon, wood carved figures, Alaskan art, soaps and lotions, etc) along Creek Street. Cassidy talked me into buying a 500 piece puzzle of the Ketchikan cityscape. (She was disenchanted with the puzzle after about 5 minutes….now its mine to finish!)
Cass and I made a final stop at the Tongass Historical Museum before heading back to the boat. The museum has a great collection of pictures and pieces that tell the story of the citys past. This poem displayed in the museum perfectly captures my experience on this journey.
We woke up on our 3rd day with grand plans to bike to Saxman Totem Park. We pulled on our foul weather gear, optimistic that we could brave the wind and rain. But, as you will read, the weather tested our resolve as the winds picked up and chilled our soaked gloves and faces.
Our first stop was Cape Fox Lodge for breakfast. The lodge is perched on the hill, overlooking the main basin and cruise ship docks. There is a cable car tram that climbs up the mountain from Creek Street, but unfortunately it was out of service. (We have since heard that it has been out of service for some time.) A quick call to the lodge and they sent a shuttle to pick us up. By this time, we had already felt the full force of the rain and wind. Even our waterproof gloves were soaked through. The food was nothing to write home about, but the view was worth the trip, even in these foggy conditions. We ended up lounging on the couches in the lobby, sipping our coffees after breakfast for an hour or so, enjoying the view.
After breakfast we attempted to make our way to Saxman Totem Park. About 10 minutes into the ride, we decided to turn back. With winds at about 35 mph and constant rain, we were miserable, wet and cold. We would have to make the trip another time.
The weather settled a bit the next morning so it was time for the SlowBoat flotilla to move on to the next stop – Kasaan. In the 1700s the Haida people migrated north, settling old Kasaan, and later moved a few miles to Kasaan. We would learn a ton more about the Haidas at this stop.
Laura, one of the SlowBoat leads, invited us over to meet her friend Stormy, one of the lead carvers in town. Stormy led the effort to restore the long house once built by Chief Sonihat. Restore is a bit of an understatement….Laura later showed me pictures of the project and it looked as though he would have to start from the ground up. He described the process….3 1/2 men labored over 4 years, piece by piece, the traditional way without the aid of modern tools. The long house site is impressive by itself, and even more so when you understand all that went into it.
Later we walked to Stormys house just up the path. He has been working on carving a traditional canoe. Its only his 3rd canoe, but it looks amazing. The process has 3 main steps – identifying the right tree, carving the tree, and steaming to shape the tree.
Story described the process of identifying the right tree. The tree must be straight, the right height, with no signs of cracking where water could leak in and rot the tree.
Once the right tree has be selected, its time for carving. He showed us a couple of small logs in various stages of carving to demonstrate the process. First, the ends are trimmed in a v shape. Then, he saws across the length of the log, creating a smooth surface. And finally, he scoops out the insides to hallow out the canoe. He showed us some of the tools that are used in the process and let us try them out.
Once he is satisfied with the carving, the canoe is ready to be steamed. He pulls the canoe down to the water, fills the canoe with stones and water, and boilers the water. The wood becomes pliable so he can widen the center of the canoe. We all enjoyed the hospitality offered by Stormy and it was time to say goodbye.
The next day we made the short, 28 nautical mile, trip to Meyers Chuck. This may be one of my favorite stops so far. There is a tiny cove with homes sprinkled around the edges. From the docks, you can see Clarence Strait through a small pass.
Despite the light rain, we went for a hike to the beach. There is a muddy path that leads along the coast, through the neighborhood. Everything is covered in a thick green. The shapes of the fallen tree branches and rocks covered in the furry moss look like animals. It looks like some sort of fantasy land.
Along the way, we stumbled upon a slide built into the mossy hill, monkey bars stretched between two trees, and a seesaw carved from a log. It was literally natures playground! Cassidy had a blast.
At the end of the path was a beautiful beach. We stayed awhile, climbing rocks and enjoying the view. And…..meditating??
We still have about 300 miles to go to Juneau so we will continue on in the morning. But we might have to make another quick visit to the playground before we leave!