We have had the pleasure of visiting here many times over the years. We have to admit that we have taken many of the 34 tours that HAL offer here. They range from 1 ¼ hours to 6 hours and cost from $30 to $1900……the latter being a private plane ride. Since today's weather was just about perfect, it was a great one for hiking through the city and hillsides. Boy, did we get lucky. Captain Fred had told us that most of the ports had been mostly rainy and overcast all season, so we expected rain today. We have been here during nice days, and also downpours. So it is pure luck if the sun is out. That was today.
The Amsterdam sailed into the center of downtown, and docked by 8am. Shortly afterward, the Norwegian Sun and the Celebrity Millenium docked, one in front, and one in back. We had a nice breakfast, although fairly light, then did some internet work until 10am. Most all of the tours had gone off of the ship by then, so getting off was easy.
All we needed were lightweight jackets and umbrellas to insure that it would not rain at all. It worked. No rain. One of the nicest places to check out is the Creek Street walk. Picking up a local walking map, we followed the path to the major sites. These maps are great, because you can put names and history to the photos we take along the hike.
Creek Street begins after crossing a small bridge over the river. It was the rough and tumble district with a colorful past. Back in the early 1900's, there were about 30 bawdy houses built on stilts over Ketchikan Creek. It became a thriving red light district, even sneaking forbidden alcohol through trap doors from the river during Prohibition. Eventually, all of the houses became galleries, shops, boutiques, and museums. There are a few pubs and bars along the creek side as well.
What makes this even more famous are the salmon that come up this creek to spawn. In fact, we would learn much more from a local expert a bit later on.
Climbing up the wooden stairs and muddy pathway, we followed the road and creek to the old hatchery. The hillsides were covered with what we think to be salmonberry bushes, Sitka spruce, and hemlock trees. Flowers of a types were in full bloom, especially the rhododendrons. We know for a fact that the dense bushes along the creek can hide black bears when the salmon come up to spawn. Back in 2014, we came here in late September, during one of the last runs. The creek and banks were littered with dead and dying salmon, having completed their cycle of spawning, then dying. The odor of decaying fish bring the bears, so you had to be on watch all of the time. We were sorry not to see the run of fish going up the creek, but we sure did not miss that awful smell.
We made it to the hatchery, but found it was still closed. It has been for a few years now, but it appeared that work was being done behind the closed doors. There is a nice park located there, City Park, with small ponds that date back to the early 1900's. They used to be holding ponds for the first hatchery built here. In the center, there is a unique fountain that was built in 1930, recently restored by volunteers in 1989.
Across the foot bridge, is the Totem Heritage Center, where we saw examples of totem pole art. There is much to see on the outside, without going in the building for a fee and a self-guided tour. As well as descriptions of artistic totem poles, there are signs identifying Sitka spruce and hemlock trees, which happen to be poisonous if memory serves us correct.
It was getting close to lunchtime, so we back-tracked towards town. On the way back, we ran into buddies Leta and Bill, and stopped to chat for a bit. They were following the same map we had, but were searching for local shopping places such as grocery or pharmacy stores. There were none in this area.
Trekking onward, we must have looked lost. A local Inuit asked if we needed directions. We noticed that this fellow was on his way to go fishing somewhere up the creek, so we inquired about the salmon run. Assuming we were either too early or too late to see the fish, he told us that the king salmon were just starting to come up the creek. These are the big guys, weighing in around 35 to 40 pounds. There was hope yet that we would see some swimming up to spawn.
Going back down the wooden stairway on Creek Street, we did stop along the way to watch for wildlife. You had to be patient, and be looking in the right spot. That's when we saw them……at least four monster-sized kings, swimming rapidly in the deepest part of the creek. It was only a few seconds at most, but we did see them as they headed towards the rapids and fish ladder. According to the native fellow, he was allowed to snag them, forbidden by others, but legal for him, we believe. Besides a few small fish and some floating jellyfish, we never saw another salmon.
Time for lunch. We did locate pizza, but it was more fast-food style. So we ended up going to Dwyer's Crab & Fish Company, located on the third level on Front Street, right across from the cruise ships. We ordered Alaska White Ale beers and split a cheeseburger, as well as a cheesecake. Sure was good to relax and enjoy listening to entertainer Sitka Tex singing to the tunes of Johnny Cash and Elvis among others. With three cruise ships in port, about every seat in the restaurant was filled.
Picking up a few coupon booklets, we visited some of the major shops for bargains. There are some really excellent buys in Alaska…….but food is not one of them. It is expensive. But the clothing can be good. Things like all-weather jackets, sweatshirts, gloves, and woolen hats are a good deal. Many typical souvenir items are cheap, drawing shoppers into all of the stores. Giving out large reusable shopping bags for free is also a good incentive. By the way, we did get one (only one) medium-size Alaska shopping bag on the ship on day two. One of us did find a good buy with a long short-sleeve night t-shirt with a chocolate "moose" on the front.
We walked up as far as the Norwegian Sun, then headed back past the First Lutheran Church built in 1925 and Casey Moran Harbor, where the world's largest fleet of halibut boats are moored. We passed by the Tunnel (1954), which is in Ripley's Believe It or Not as being the only tunnel in the world you can drive through, drive around, and also over.
Closer to the Amsterdam, we took photos of the Rock, a sculpture of Ketchikan's first people and pioneers. Across the street is Ketchikan's famous sign, a welcome arch, originally installed to welcome passengers visiting on steamships.
It was getting very close to the all aboard time, which was 4:30pm, so we headed back home. The sail out of Ketchikan was going to be wonderful, with the sun out, and the breeze cool, but not cold. The ropes were dropped, and we were on our way, waving goodbye to some folks on the aft veranda rooms on the Millenium.
Keeping a sharp lookout for wildlife, we did see some bald eagles, either perched in the conifers, or flying. Since the salmon are not running quite yet, there are not a lot of eagles hunting at the moment. In another week, that will change. Photographing them was a challenge, due to the distance away from the ship.
Because there were no whale-watching tours out of Ketchikan, we assume there are few in this area. But we did spot some small porpoise while out on deck 6 forward. They are also so fast, if you blink, you miss them. Later, during dinnertime, we were sailing in more open waters, and some whales did appear. People were jumping up from their seats in the dining room, and clapping happily after seeing whales breaching and diving in our wake.
Speaking of dinner, it has been very good. On the world cruise, we were not entirely impressed with the prime rib. So when we saw it on tonight's menu, we were not sure if we would order it. However, if we did not try it, we might never know if it was better. Turned out, it was good. One of our tablemates has indulged in ordering several appetizers and entrees every evening. She has become our taste-tester, so to speak.
A new lady joined our table by the name of Joan. Originally assigned to this table, she has been missing for two days. Now we have a table of eight, and that wraps it up for future hosts on gala nights. Unless some of us are going to the Pinnacle Grill, and make room for two more to take our place. One thing we have noticed is that with the new and larger plate ware, this is little room to spare between place settings. Even worse, when someone orders an entrée on the rectangular dishes. Guess we have to adapt, because it is obvious that the new dishes are going nowhere.
The show this evening was a fellow by the name of Liam Ryder, a vocalist and pianist playing rock and roll and jazz. Little chance we would have of seeing it, because we seem to be maintaining dinnertime from 8pm to well after 10:30pm. Would you believe, the sunset is still on the horizon at the end of our dinner?
Tomorrow we will be sailing into Tracy Arm if conditions allow it. Looking forward to the day at sea.
Bill & Mary Ann