Alaska: First Port – Ketchikan: July 2017

Thank you, it is the weekend! I am headed to out of town and hope that everyone has a great weekend planned. Today we start on the stories from Alaska. This will be a series of posts; the first stop is Ketchikan, where they also film Alaskan Bush People. I hope that you enjoy the journey. 

This last summer I was fortunate enough to visit Alaska. This trip was due completely to my wonderful grandparents. For their wedding anniversary they wanted to take the whole family to Alaska because they had loved it so much when they visited. My Grandmother planned the trip for eighteen months and yes with any big trip there are a couple of hiccups here and there but in the end everything worked out. There are ten of us on this trip: my grandparents, my mom (Gayle), her boyfriend (Drew), my aunt and uncle (Lana and Steve), my two cousins (Ty and Allie), and my sister (Brooke) and me. All get on the Star Princess in Vancouver.  I don’t really remember much of that first day. What I do remember is Brooke and I did yoga and us girls watched Beauty and the Beast on the deck of the ship that evening. That was when we realized how late it got dark. We were sitting on the deck at ten-thirty pm and it was still bright. Alaska definitely threw off my circadian rhythm. When be boarded the ship initially in Vancouver it was almost hot and Brooke and I were freaking out that we had brought clothes that were too warm. When we got up that first morning, it was chilly out and we were so happy with the cold air.

Early the next morning we make our first port of Ketchikan and half of the group had decided to go halibut fishing and the other half had gone on a back woods jeep tour. The fishing group was off the boat about 6:30am. The rest of us had to meet our tour group about an hour later. We were bused to this beautiful mountain lake and our group was squished (kind of, we were closer to our neighbors than we normally would want to be) into these bright red canoes. As a slightly uncoordinated group we row to the far end, all the while we are taught the names of the surrounding mountains and about how lack of heavy snow fall over the past few years was hurting the root systems of the trees and thus the temperate rainforest of the Tongass as a whole.

As we canoed on the lake our guide showed us a neat trick. As one we struck the wooden edge of our canoe with the blades of our paddles. It sounded like a gunshot and then the sound reverberated across the lake and into the mountain valleys near us. It was a fantastic sound, so much so that we made it a couple of more times.

Upon reaching the other end of the lake we get out and walk up a short path to a  covered area and the guides had some local food for us to try along with hot chocolate and (what I would call) cowboy coffee. Something that I don’t think that I have stated up to this point is that it is fairly chilly outside, maybe not for someone from Alaska, but definitely cold for a Texan. I had the best clam chowder and the best coffee out there, rich and creamy and dark and bitter. There was also smoked salmon for us to sample and fresh fruit jams. I wasn’t even hungry and it was all good.  After what is essentially a snack, to make sure that us tourist fresh off the cruise ship didn’t get hangry, we went on a short walk. Our guide, who was part Native Alaskan, enlightened us to different elements in the forest: plant species, how the sheer force of the wind affects the growth of threes, a cave like area where a bear might hibernate (the one we saw was too shallow). This was the forest she loved and that emotion made us love it too, even if it was just for the moment that we were there.

After canoeing back across the lake we climbed into these four-wheel jeeps. My uncle and youngest cousin, Allie, were in one jeep together with two other people and I rode shotgun while my aunt drove and my cousin, Ty, rode in the back in a different jeep. Now all these jeeps contained CB radios which allowed the jeeps and guide to stay in contact with everyone. My cousin had never seen a CB radio and fell in love with. He kept making jokes over it. We drove over some rough roads on that ride but the views that they took us to were fantastic and breathtaking. When we were back on the main road, heading into the jeep drop off point we came to this turn and here over the radio from out guide…”be careful everyone. People have today off and there is more traffic than normal.” 

I would love it if that was the most traffic I’d ever encountered. Maybe five cars passed before we could turn. I’m not discounting that this might have been high traffic volume for the area but compared to home it was similar to early on a Saturday morning when the city is still waking up. Anyway, we get the jeeps parked and get on the bus back to the boat. Yes, we did touristy things but we got to see the land, experience the nature, and meet new people and that makes the difference in my book.

If you are curious we took this excursion through Alaska Travel Adventures.  Thank you all for reading today. Wenesday we cruise on to the state capital of Alaska, Juneau. 

Photo by Laci McGee

Photo by Laci McGee

**Feature Image and story photos by Laci McGee

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