Don’t forget you can click any thumbnail to see the full size shot. Do click the above panorama of the dockside, it looks great full size!
Ketchikan–the Tlingit name means “thundering wings of an eagle.” Or possibly “the river belonging to Kitschk.” People seem to favor the first interpretation, and the native sculpture near the docks depicts the “thundering wings” name.
It’s the first Alaskan city as you head north to Alaska, so all the Inside Passage cruises stop there first. When several cruise ships are in town, the tourists outnumber the 7000+ residents. Two ships were in port the day we visited, ours (the Celebrity Infinity) and the Radiance of the Seas, so it was pretty full of tourists.
The dock area presents a pretty solid front of tourist shopping–diamonds, gold jewelry, gemstones, Alaskan souvenirs made in China, and so on. Ketchikan is in a temperate rain forest, part of the Tongass National Forest, with more than 160 inches of rain a year. Sure enough, it was chilly and drizzly the day we were there. Several stores along the waterfront had racks of sweatshirts and warm jackets out on the sidewalk, all bearing the word “Alaska.” Smart owners! They sold like hotcakes–I’ll bet they do most days. Mr. K and I bought our share. I also bought a pair of polar bear socks because my toes were cold.
But we quickly got away from the waterfront and into the real town. We joined a tour conducted by a local resident via mobility scooters. What a delightful way to tour! Mr. K and I agree it was the best city we visited.
Our first stop was Creek Street, the one-time red-light district, jutting out over Ketchikan Creek. Later in the tour, we visited “Married Man’s Trail,” the path from the residential district through the woods to the Creek Street bordellos. Our tour guide said that married men would walk the trail in their bare feet so their muddy shoes wouldn’t give them away. (Remember that 160+ inches of rain.) For an extra charge, the prostitutes lent them towels to clean their feet before putting their shoes back on.
As you can see in the Creek Street photos, Ketchikan is very hilly. I was fascinated by the stairs everywhere. How would you like to make this climb home?
Ketchikan is famous for totem poles and salmon. We saw lots of both. The creek below Creek Street was teeming with salmon trying to swim upstream to spawn. We watched them jumping out of the water and slamming back in. Our guide explained that they were intentionally beating themselves up to loosen the roe. Further up the creek, along the Married Man’s Trail, we saw them trying to jump the falls time and time again. A lot of them make it eventually because when we reached their spawning grounds further up the creek, thousands of salmon were digging trenches, laying their eggs, then dying along the edges of the creek. Their decaying bodies supply nutrients to the babies until they’re ready to make their way to the sea.
Where are the photos of all this salmon activity, you ask? I shot hundreds but got nothing. Because of the rain and darkness, I had to use slow shutter speeds, resulting in nothing but blurred motion. We were at the spawning grounds when I finally remembered that my new little camera (the Canon Powershot S90 IS) can capture video. So here’s my one and only, mostly out of focus capture:
As for totem poles, that’s the subject of my next post.