Today started very early….out on our balcony as the ship came into port.
Ketchikan is quite a picturesque port to sail in to. We were scheduled to arrive at 6:30 but learned from the Naturalist yesterday that it would actually be 5:30. We were on our balcony by 5:29 🙂 (Last night, we entered Alaskan waters and Alaskan Time Zone moving our clocks BACK an hour. Purposely keeping our bodies on C.S.T. made this change and all our early mornings easy….) The lights of the sleepy little town against the backdrop of the mountains was worth getting up early to see!
After a scenic breakfast (window table at the back of Horizon Court) we gathered our things and got off the ship – as soon as they opened up the gangway!
Ketchikan gets on average 340 day of rain/year. Our forecast today according to the Princess Patters was sunny with light clouds, high of 66. Yes…we were there on one of the 25 ‘dry days’. 🙂
Ketchikan has TWO Claims to Fame: Salmon Capital of the World…and World’s Largest Collection of Totem Poles. There’s also the Tongass Trading Company with it’s FABULOUS jackets, raincoats, & hoodies at incredible prices…
Our plans today would encompass ALL of these. We would take the city bus to Totem Bight State Park to see the totem poles, then come back to town to walk Creek Street and see the salmon. (hopefully leaving just enough time for a quick run into Tongass Trading Co. to make our purchases)
Finding the ‘right’ place to catch the ‘right’ bus to go north of town proved to be somewhat challenging… We were actually sent to the wrong place twice…but we DID finally get to the right intersection. 🙂 When the bus driver let us off, he told us when to be back to catch the returning bus (buses on this loop only run every hour so catching that returning bus would be QUITE IMPORTANT with our short port time!!!)
There were 3 options for seeing totem poles that day; we chose Totem Bight because of their authentic restored poles…and their scenic location on the Inside Passage. At the entrance, we received a brochure with a map and descriptions/story behind each pole. Then…there’s the Clan House – Now…everything I’d read previously said that only those on official tours were allowed into the Clan House. However, the woman at the gate told us that if there was a tour inside there, to just go in. If anyone said anything to us, to reply “The lady at the gate said it was ok if we enter…” When we got to the Clan House, there was a tour group there. We went in quietly and no one said anything to us.
I liked being on our own, though. We went at our own pace, read the brochure for information, and only joined a group when we wanted to. (Within half an hour there were 5-6 tour groups there) It DID seem that a lot of the guides were telling little stories or antidotes…which was usually when we’d leave the group. 🙂
We kept an eye on the time and were back at the bus stop 10 min. before the bus was due to arrive (we couldn’t take any chances on missing the bus).
Back in Ketchikan, the driver dropped us off near Creek Street and we headed to “Married Man’s Trail”…
Creek Street is on the National Register of Historic Places….and it is teeming with salmon from late summer through Sept. (different varieties). We not only saw the salmon…but had a ‘chance’ of seeing other wildlife that might come to see the salmon as well – bears, eagles, etc… We walked up the stairstep trail – “Married Man’s Trail” all the way to the top – where the salmon ladder was. This trail was a back-path through the trees…used by married men in the days of the Gold Rush to visit “ladies of the evening”…Yeah, the history of the gold rush towns could be a little ‘sorted’. Walking the trail now is just a picturesque way to see the town and salmon… (In case you don’t really want to share all the ‘other’ details about the trail with the children… 🙂 )
This DID involve a lot of stairs (fyi for those with mobility issues) …
But we saw the salmon…..
and the ladder…
unfortunately, no bears or eagles….
At the final portion…quite steep and swift, we actually found ourselves watching their struggle and ‘rooting’ for them…cheering them on. 🙂 🙂 They’re such determined and resilient little guys!!!
Before getting back on the ship, we made a quick stop at one of the Tongass Trading Company stores. There are actually FIVE of these – each a little different, catering to different shoppers/preferences. Even though I THOUGHT we’d get jackets or raincoats, we ended up both opting for ‘Alaska’ hoodies….thick, good quality…for $20 each!!
Boarding the ship today was a longer line than I’ve ever experienced in port before.
I came to realize that it was because of the very short port time (6:30-2)… everyone (3000+ passengers and crew) were trying to board at basically the same time. The process took 45min-1hr.
Once we were finally back on board, we grabbed a bite to eat and headed to the 3rd naturalist presentation: “Experiencing Alaska’s Awe Inspiring Flora”. This was one title we were a little unsure how interested we would be… we sat on the end of a row in case we wanted to make a quiet exit.
Well…wouldn’t you know it. It was just as interesting as the last 2. 🙂 We stayed the entire time!
Of particular interest to us was the information about the Fireweed. This flower begins to bloom in the Spring ..and blooms from the bottom up. At the height of summer, the blooms have reached the top. Then…as summer wanes, the blooms begin to die from the top down. When all the blooms are gone, Summer is over… You can ‘read’ the season in the Fireweed.
After this information, we were much more attuned to the Fireweed – especially as we drove the Klondike Highway from Skagway in a few days.
The OTHER news we got from the Naturalist this afternoon was: We were sailing through prime humpback whale territory – starting at 5:30 today. She would be on the bridge offering commentary….and we were invited to be out on Deck 15 forward (directly below the Bridge) to (hopefully) see whales.
We had originally planned to eat in the MDR that evening…but those plans were immediately changed. We were going to see WHALES!!!
Here’s the Most Amazing Part! While we were out there…we heard a lady squeal…and turned around just in time to see a whale breech!! YES!!! REALLY!!! Sandra Schempp (our Naturalist) said that was really unusual for this time of year. The whales were still feeding and they usually practice their ‘breeching’ AFTER that (when they’re full and ready to start the ‘flirting’ process…. 🙂 Of course, it all happened too quick to get a photo…I don’t know that anyone got one…but I promise!! It happened!!!! 🙂
TidBit of Info: A whale’s tail is how he is identified. Each one is different and unique…much like our fingerprints…
We stayed out on the deck until probably 7:30…then got a bit of dinner in the buffet and went back to the cabin to prepare for tomorrow. Every port day required packing of a day pack – to fit what we were doing/where we were going. We packed that the night before to make the next morning easier….and tomorrow we had FULL schedule so wanted to get off the ship as soon as possible.
There WERE many activities happening on the ship this evening. I’m sure there were many passengers who were enjoying those things…Princess wouldn’t continue to plan them if someone wasn’t attending…but we were kept SO busy learning about Alaska…and seeing Alaska…and spotting whales (and seeing them breech) in Alaska. We just didn’t have time for anything else.
Budget (and Savings) Today: Ketchikan CAN be a rather inexpensive place to visit as it lends itself very easily to exploration on your own…
Cruise ship Excursions vs. Doing It On Your Own:
- Totem Bight: Princess charges $47 pp for their excursion; We got there and back on the city bus for a total of $4 pp…plus the $5pp admission to the park.
- Princess offered Whale Watching excursions out of Juneau for $160-$190 per person… We saw whales…even one BREECHING out on Deck 15 forward of the ship this evening…for FREE
- Princess included Creek Street in several of their excursions, but there’s no way to put a price on that portion as it was ‘included’ with other things… But this is just a stair step path….there’s no charge for walking it. Just find it and start climbing. 🙂
Next: Alaska Cruise: Juneau