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Catch Me in Ketchikan

semi-overcast 60 °F

Arriving in Ketchikan was like stumbling upon an oasis in the midst of a scorched, sandy desert. Surrounded by nothing but ocean for over 36 hours, it was a glorious sight to pull into the beautiful Tongass Narrows where snowcapped hillsides beckoned us in. In many ways, Ketchikan’s beauty is very similar to that of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, and I have to admit that at first I felt I very close to home. That feeling quickly dissipated as I stepped off the gangway bright and early to a crisp, cool breeze carrying the scent of damp Sitka Spruce. Within minutes a bald eagle swooped down from his perch and soared gracefully over the ocean waves. The perfection of this moment could not compare to any other. Although the cruise promotes rest and relaxation, it wasn’t until arriving in Ketchikan that I truly felt a sense of calm.


Ketchikan plays host to a handful of excursions and historical sights, but wandering aimlessly amongst the creaky houses built high on pilings above the water stole our time as we took in all the splendor and beauty that Alaska offers.



A highlight of our walking experience was exploring Creek Street, Ketchikan’s once bustling red light district until prostitution was made illegal in 1954. Today this boardwalk is abuzz with cruise ship tourists, but we somehow managed to make it early enough and beat the crowds. As we made our way toward the end of Creek Street we came across a busty woman complete with feathers and fishnets. She invited us into the famed brothel of Dolly Arthur, Ketchikan’s most successful madam and legend for distributing bootleg whiskey. This museum of sorts highlighted the glory days of Dolly’s once booming business and was a sight not to miss.


We then traveled a bit outside of the city center to visit Saxman Native Village on a guided tour where we endured two hours of off-beat comedy by a transplanted Scotsman. Although I appreciate guided tours for broadening my perspective and engaging my mind, I can’t help but feel somewhat trapped by the touring experience as I am stuck in a designated group for a designated amount of time. In this particular case, the tour was actually quite enjoyable, but several times we wanted to step out of the group to explore on our own. While touring the totem poles at Saxman we learned about the difficulty and time involved in creating these amazing works of art. Back home, totem poles are a standard feature in many public areas as Native American culture is an important component of the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately until now I never had a great appreciation for their significance. It’s important to recognize that a totem pole acts not just as decoration but tells the story of a family, tribe, or significant legend.


It was difficult to leave Ketchikan as we absolutely fell in love with the beauty and charm of the area. Just like being on a tour, cruising only gives you a designated amount of time in each area and my husband and I wished we had the freedom of independent travel. Then again, Ketchikan like many other Alaskan towns is only accessible by sea or air, so cruising allows for maximum coverage in a given time period. Either way, we are very excited to head to Juneau and see what more Alaska has to offer!

Posted by Jennylynn 08:30 Archived in USA Tagged cruises

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