Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ferry from Juneau to Sitka, Petersburg, Ketchikan, POW, and Prince Rupert, BC

Other than the oftentimes "weird hours" that the ferries leave and arrive, they are a comfortable way to travel. But they are not cruise ships! I do suggest getting a cabin for overnight runs. We only got one once but it was well worth it to get some real sleep. Sleeping in a chair is for the young! Our next ride, to Sitka, on the fast-ferry, Fairweather was the smoothest and fastest! The only drawback was it only had a minimal snack bar and no hot food service.
We tightly  maneuvered through an archipelago of small islands. The timing had to be exact because of the huge fluctuations in tides. We were in some very shallow channels! We arrived in Sitka which was the island I most wanted to visit, and it did not disapoint! It was the first Russian capitol of AK and still has a huge Russian cultural influence. It's a beautiful island but rains constantly! We stayed off grid for 4 days at a USFS c.g. We saw many historical buildings, museums and especially enjoyed the Russian Orthodox Cathedral. We found a microbrewery and even 4 surfers when the waves kicked up! Sitka is a small island but I could have easily stayed much longer. I hope to return. It did have the worst road in AK, under construction,  of course. From Sitka we sailed to Petersburg which is a laid back, heavily Norwegian fishing port. Fishing boats of all types and several active
canneries are the main industry. It is a very natural island with very few things for tourists to see or do. The c.g. we stayed at was an excellent choice where we had water and electric and a reasonably priced laundry and showers. We took several off road drives and on one saw a sow black bear with her triplet cubs! While we enjoyed our visit, Petersburg is not a must see for SE. We did find AK wild scallops there and brought them home in the freezer. The best we have ever had! From Petersburg our next ferry brought us to Ketchikan.  I was last there in 2002 and goodness has it grown!  Ketchikan is a very popular cruise port and most days has between 4-7 huge ships docked there or tendered out! So this small town adds up to 25,000 extra visitors for the day! Huge tour buses are everywhere as are many shops downtown. We stayed our first and last night at camp Wal Mart and the other days at an AK State park. (No hook ups) They only have 3 campgrounds there and it was us and one other camper in a beautiful rainforest! We left Carolee and Dan for 3 days and took the Inter Island ferry (think tiny) to Prince of Wales island.  It is remote, beautiful,  unspoiled,  untouched, very few people or tourists.  We stayed at 2 different Forest Service c.g.'s. Prince of Wales has a huge logging road system and several good highways. Unfortunately,  the highway to the north end of the 3rd largest island in America was completely closed, being rebuilt. We spent one full day of frustrating detours so cut our visit short by a couple of days. We did so enjoy the fish ladders, forests, glacial vistas and especially the Haida people we met. They are the smallest native tribe in AK. Like on the other islands, they are very proud of their totems and heritage. We were able to visit with several of the elders at the Carving Shack where they carve and restore totems and make paddles and box drums. All were beautiful and so interesting!  We also got to meet and visit with Cody, a young Haida native. What an interesting young man who was happy to share his island life, work and culture with us. POW is a place we hope to return to. After our visit, we returned to Ketchikan and wound down our 4 month journey with the Days.  They boarded the ferry to Bellingham, WA and we took our last one to Prince Rupert, BC where from there we drove to WA and points east. To say it was a trip of a lifetime is true. We experienced so many wonderful people, places, wonders of nature, beauty and just pure peacefulness.  Alaska is truly our last frontier.  GO! Don't put it off! It is like no other place on earth! As my sweet Mother said, it was her "heaven on earth."
Thank you for coming along with us on this journey. I am happy to answer any questions you might have on traveling to Alaska.
I do plan on continuing my blog, as our adventure continues!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Ferry Hopping Cont'd next hop, Juneau

Our trip to Juneau from Haines was under 3 hours. The main reason we went to Juneau was because it is the jumping off port for other ferries further south. Juneau is a city and is go fast, traffic, crowds and NO parking places! The campground we stayed at was one of the worst in my life and way too expensive. It was electric only,  in a park full of permanently parked (forever) RVs. A mud hole too! The only saving grace was a clean, free shower. (Showers cost in Alaska!) I found a great place for breakfast on Yelp and it was outstanding! Off we go in the rain to the famous Mendenhall Glacier. I last saw it in 2002 and it recedes 100 plus feet per year. Sad. In 02 we could walk up to it! Now there is a huge Visitors Center full of bus loads of cruise passengers. You view it through big picture windows or walk a long steep path down and still view it quite a way a ways. It is beautiful though! From there we went downtown where 5 ships were in port. We got lucky and found a parking place within walking distance. Carolee and Dan wanted us to see this famous, old bar. The Red Dog Saloon. It was quite crowded and not as cool as they remembered.  Think tourist trap. I wanted to go to the glacial silt soap shop I had read so much about and did. Bought 2 bars. They make your skin as smooth as silk!  Bob and Molly Pinner had been to Juneau earlier and told us to eat at Tracy's Crab Shack. So by now we are hungry, very wet, didn't care, and marched down the busy streets and found it! You stand outside in the rain to order and eat under a tarp! We were able to snag the one inside table! I had FRESH Alaska Golden King crab. It is a summer crab, not caught in abundance like the Red King caught in January. It was absolutely the best crab I have ever eaten! I can't describe the flavor! We also shared crab bisque and crab cakes which were both excellent. After more shopping we headed back to our dump, oh, I mean park, and turned in early. We had to be in line by 4:45 a.m. for our ferry to Sitka, the first Russian capitol of Alaska.