Friday, September 26, 2014

Day 6 Ketchikan

Welcome to Alaska's first city and salmon capital of the world

Ketchikan derives it's name from the Tlingit "kitschy-hin" Loosely translated it means "thundering wings of an eagle" Natives thought that the settlement's outline resembled an eagle in full flight.
Ketchikan began with the establishment of a salmon cannery in 1880. During the gold rush it enjoyed a brief boom supplying goods to prospectors headed to the Yukon gold fields. For most of the 1900's the town thrived as a fishing and timber center. Today, tourism has joined fishing as the economic mainstay. Located on Revillagigedo Island, Ketchikan is packed between 3000 ft. tall Deer Mt. and the Tongass Narrows channel. The town is home to about 15,000 people in the summer and 8,000 in the winter and boasts a picturesque harbor filled with fishing boats. Houses are tucked into steep foothills and are accessible by wooden stairways which have the status of being named streets and are therefore maintained by the city. Several downtown streets are suspended across trestles and pilings. Huge salmon runs pass through a downtown street. Dubbed "the capital of liquid sunshine" Ketchikan is drenched by an average of 160 inches of rain each year.

Our ship docked at the beautiful downtown Ketchikan pier at 10a.m. and i disembarked at 12:30p.m. to find my excursion amongst the crowds and buses on the pier. It was a cool overcast day without sunshine but it didn't rain on my parade so i was lucky once again.
A young man from Bellingham,Wa was my trolley driver and tour guide. Steven pointed out things and places of interest along with some history and Indian folklore and legends. He pointed out the local IGA store where a bear was found early one morning in the produce dept. I actually remembered seeing it on the news at the time it happened a few years ago. Steven may have added to the story that the bear was eating bananas and an employee had taken him by the scruff of the neck and shoo-ed him away and the bear has never been seen shopping again. Speaking of ones never arrive in Alaska as they take so long to get there they are ripe on arrival. People gorge for a few days and then it's banana bread baking time. Steven said everyone makes banana bread and freeze it to last until the next shipment arrives.
Near this downed totem was a path in a mossy wood that looked dark and scary and i was waiting for a bear to come sauntering out any minute.
We arrived at the Saxman Native Totem Park about 2 1/2 miles south of town to view some 30 totem poles, some dating back to 1900. Ketchikan has more totem poles than anywhere else in the world. Across the street was a center where you could watch carvers at work and see traditional dance performances as well if it was on your tour.Unfortunately my ticket didn't include this option.
 The lodge at the park is a center for the Tlingit, Tsimshian and Haida tribes.
 Steven explained the significance of the various birds and animals carved into the totem poles as well as the concoction of ingredients originally used to paint the red, teal and black colors.
 A bird with wings fully stretched out is an eagle and birds with bent wings are ravens.

 Souvenier/gift shop conveniently located across the street.

 Lots of shops, saloons and restaurants on the road beside the pier.
We passed over a bridge with salmon spawning in the creek below but the trolley couldn't stop because it was on the busy Creek Street right in the downtown.Maybe it was just as well because it must have smelled pretty bad in the area.

The only hot rod i saw in Alaska; a '50 or 51' Chevy i think. The downtown streets and shops will be empty all winter but sales and lots of activity will start up again when the cruise season starts again next spring. I spoke to two summer workers there who would return to their homes in the U.S. as soon as the last ship sails away. One will fly home to San Diego while the other would ride the ferry for 3 days to Bellingham. They'll be back as they say Alaska is in them now and they must return. I kind of know the feeling after going just twice. Well, I guess it happened after the first time too.
 We stopped at a row of colorful houses. This was a red light district of brothels and speakeasies during the gold rush era and we heard about the racy past of Dolly's House and the well known madam Dolly Arthur who worked in the house until she was in her late 50's. Once billed as "the place where men and salmon came upstream to spawn" it is now a small museum containing old photos and antiques.

 Display for another pool side bbq buffet

Good night, sleep tight. We will be homeward bound tomorrow.

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