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Dick planned a trip to Sitka. I questioned, “Sitka, Alaska? What on earth is there of interest in Sitka, Alaska?

That bustling, attractive city, when we visited in 2009, had multiple landscaped streets of new, modern buildings and jewelry and souvenir shops for the tourists interspersed with the many lovely old churches and government buildings from its storied past. It is a popular tourist destination and while we were there the monster, city size cruise ships would pull into the deep harbor and hordes of tourists would flood into the gift shops and restaurants. They would mill about for a couple of hours and disappear back into their ship.

To get to Sitka, we arrived at Prince Rupert, British Columbia via the Alaska Marine Highway. We had driven the two thousand miles from Denver to Prince Rupert enjoying the scenery and cities along the way. The final four hundred miles on that two-lane highway had magnificent scenery, but no towns. We did not pass a car going in either direction for miles and miles. We made a pit stop or two along that stretch, walk a little, start the car and drive some more. We finally arrived at our hotel in Prince Rupert and parked out front. After registering, Dick went out to move our car to the back parking lot and it would not start. The car had to be towed and had serious problems. We left it in the shop the entire time we were away. We cringed at the thought, “What if it had died along those miles and miles of nothing we had just passed through? We might still be sitting out there in the wilderness.” We could barely believe we were so lucky to have the car wait until we reached civilization before it died. 

After a restless night in a very noisy hotel, we were eager to get on the ferry the next morning. The two-day ferry ride on to Sitka was worth the entire trip. We spent hours standing at the rail on the wide, open decks to see whales and porpoises as we glided over the calm waters. The ferry made multiple stops at the many forested islands and along the coast line for those that use the ferry as their local transportation. There are no roads into many of those small towns along that rugged coastline. We disembarked at one of the small villages. The industries of the past were shuttered and the homes that were still occupied were worn and neglected. Many houses were boarded up. The trip was smooth except for the one hour we ventured out into open ocean during one night. I felt the swells as the ferry rocked and shuffled us around a little as we all slept.

Sitka was settled by Russian explorers in 1799 and in spite of conflicts with the native Tlingit warriors, Russian control continued until 1867 when they sold Alaska to the United States. The transfer ceremony was held in Sitka. Fishing is still a major industry there in addition to the tourism.

Our B & B, once we arrived, was very nice. Our room was small, all chintzy and pillows, but the bed was comfortable. The couple running the B & B split their duties. She made reservations and kept the books and he cooked our exceptional breakfast every morning and gave us history and insight into the surrounding area while we ate. We took the free bus that ran continuously from one end of the area to the other daily. We could go down town and stroll the waterfront or out to the far reaches where the salmon were running and the bears were feasting. We walked miles to one of the giant fish canning facilities where the local fishermen brought their catches. We walked through the silent forests of huge trees hung with moss. Tall ferns and giant elephant ears grew out of a carpet of bright green moss with streams running here and there. We expected dinosaurs to come crashing through at any moment.

We walked through parks filled with tall trees and beautifully carved Tlingit Totem Poles and visited the modern, colorful Tlingit museum. We visited the historical buildings from the 1800’s in town and had excellent meals in very nice restaurants or ate fast food at popular chains from home. We stopped for a drink in a small, local looking bar one evening where one of the natives insisted we try some of his, “Fresh caught and smoked salmon,” he had in a paper bag. We did and managed to smile. It was raw and so bad. I am sure the locals were laughing uproariously as we left. They had spotted us as green horn tourists immediately.

Our week passed too fast and it was soon time to leave, but we still had the great ferry ride back to the car to look forward to with its interesting passengers. Instead of renting a small cabin we simply slept on the benches along the perimeter of the big open indoor observation lounge. Going and coming, we were surprised at the number of people with baggage, groceries, children and live animals that flooded onto the ferry at each stop. We were grateful for the two benches we had staked out as the crowds slept on the tables, under the tables and in between so that one had to step carefully over them to get to the tiny head during the night.

After collecting our repaired car in Prince Rupert, we stayed the night at the best hotel in town, a very elegant, modern place. Palm trees bordered the long curving drive out front. We had freshly made croissants and jam over-looking the bay our last morning there and began our long drive home after another surprising, amazing adventure.


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