Sunday, August 9, 2015

Hot In Alaska, Pt 5, Picturesque Ketchikan

THE BUZZING sounds of one floatplane after another lifting into the air seemed like a royal welcome as our ship floated into Ketchikan on a bright sunny morning.

Of course, the planes were not performing for us but rather taking people on tours and business destinations. Since Ketchikan is on an island, the only way to leave the area is by air or by water.

You would never know that eight tourists and a pilot were tragically killed in a crash a week earlier in a similar plane giving a tour. My sympathies went out to the tourists who lost their lives in pursuit of wonder and beauty and the pilot who wanted to give them a great sightseeing experience.

Ketchikan is usually the last stop for cruise ships heading south from Alaska. The port was bustling with tourists wanting to see the spectacular scenery.

The some 8,000 people who live and work amid the picturesque forested hills maintain an authentic community. There is a medical centre, schools, churches and a Walmart in Ketchikan, in addition to quaint cottage-style homes (above).

There is also the historic section (pictured above and below) on a wooden planked street built over a bubbling creek.

Creek Street has restaurants, shops and a scant museum that was once home to a woman who "worked" in this former red light district. It took about two minutes for me to walk through Dolly's House, the green building below.

Near the main street section there is a grouping of statues.

The original native population, miners, pilots and lumberjacks made this area thrive. Nowadays, since there is no longer a timber mill and much of the area is protected parkland, lumberjacks put on contests and shows.

I wondered ... are tourists of wilderness areas big buyers of jewelry? We passed the usual row of mostly cruise ship owned stores selling jewelry on our way out of town with Sourdough Tours to the Saxman Native Village.

Along the way, beyond the bear and roped off area, I got an inkling of what it might be like to actually live in Ketchikan. West of British Columbia, it has a similar terrain and the weather is relatively mild year round.

A few folks were relaxing along the sandy shore.

Some were fishing for dinner.

I liked all the carvings at a nearby store ... they were like mini totems. We didn't see real bears but we did see real and majestic eagles overhead ... their appearance too fleeting and mythical to catch with my camera.

I once imagined mermaids were real. This carving (above) at a store selling jam was one of my favourites. As a child, I might have believed that the mermaid turned into wood for daring to venture too far from the bottom of the sea.

At Saxman Native Village our guide took us to what is said to be the world's largest standing collection of totem poles. There were several and they were spread apart so I took pictures of them individually. One was missing a wing, which according to our guide, was due to be replaced.

Our guide told us stories about the totems and explained that the symbolism of the images were often open to interpretation and a means with which to teach life lessons. The totem (above) was not tilting, by the way. Rather, it was my camera that was tilting.

The nearby abandoned house (above), on the other hand, was leaning, although the weather-worn totem next to it stood straight and tall. The glassless windows of the house stared at me with bottomless black eyes. The past seemed reconciled with the present in Ketchikan, my favourite stop and the last during our 7-day Alaska cruise.

Soon we would be back on board the ship, contemplating our first cruise experience that was in its final stages. As the huge ship carefully detached from the charming but small Ketchikan harbour, the service providers on board were busy making beds, cleaning suites, clearing off the dirty dishes and peeling potatoes for nearly 2000 people. Tourism is a team effort I was beginning to realize and the significance of everyone involved, especially the service providers (a subject of my upcoming post) cannot be overstated.

Meanwhile, up next is my moment of bliss with an Alaskan sky.

Links to each of my Hot In Alaska cruise posts are as follows:
Pt 1: Setting Off From Vancouver
Pt 2: Settling Into The Noordam, Melting In Juneau
Pt 3: Skagway & The Historic Route To The Yukon
Pt 4: Margerie Glacier Interlude
Pt 5: Picturesque Ketchikan
Pt 6: Sunrise To Remember
Pt 7: Service With A Smile

Visit Postcards From Penelope Puddle to view BC scenes.

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Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms


  1. Thanks for sharing the tour of your trip. Love the houses on stilts, so colorful. Beautiful scenery.

  2. Great to see this area as I have read several books on the history of Alaska . I like seeing photos of the truth and not leaving the "pictures" in my mind to what I was only imagining.

  3. That was a great tour. Thanks for taking me with you.

  4. Oh, a great tour indeed!!! Thanks so much for taking us along!! Love your captures of such beautiful, incredible scenery!! Hope you have a great new week! Enjoy!!

  5. Hello, what a nice tour of Ketchikan. I remember the streets lined with stores. It is neat seeing the houses up on the hill. Beautiful images, thanks for sharing your trip!

  6. A very beautiful place to visit and your photos are great. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Very interesting place to visit with wooden planked street over the creek, the houses on the hill behind the harbor, totem poles, and so on. I was interested in your reaction, Maria, to the mermaid and the glassless window of the weathered leaning house.


  8. What a beautiful place, with so much of interest to see and experience. Your photos are lovely and make me want to visit too!

  9. Beautiful part of our beloved country. It's on my bucket list of places to see one day. Thanks for sharing!

  10. This was so great. We had a ferry stop at Ketchikan, but not long enough . If we ever went again, we'd arrange to stay overnight and get back on the next day. We already thought that, but this post really cements this!

  11. So many things caught my interest in this post about Ketchikan, Maria! First, I was shocked to learn of the people who died on the plane. How tragic for their families and friends. I don't even remember a news story about that!

    A Walmart, huh? :)

    I guess there are tourists who love the more "touristy" sights and others that crave the "real" life behind the one shown to travellers. You managed to do a great job of showing us both sides of the coin. I did love the leaning house and those scenic shots at the end. Will look forward to the post about service providers. (I'm wondering if there were musicians hired.)


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