Adventures in Alaska, part 4

After departing Haines, I returned to Juneau for another night. Then, reunited with my bike, it was nearly another day’s travel to Sitka. Sitka was definitely my favorite town I visited while in Alaska. Sitka is located on the Pacific Ocean, or as they like to say, “the outside of the inside passage.” Since the voyage to Sitka requires cruise lines to tackle the open seas (instead of narrow channel passages that the Ferry navigates), cruise ships make few stops in Sitka. The harbor is also not deep enough for the mammoth ships to dock, so they anchor outside if the city and lighter passengers over. Regardless, the ferry ride over to Sitka was also one of the most beautiful, passing several lighthouses, one of which was a renovated early 1900s art deco specimen, the last of these types of lighthouses in use.

The ferry arrived at 1:30am in Sitka. I had a hostel room lined up, and they were supposedly aware of my late arrival. When I arrived at the hostel, sometime after 2am, I found the doors locked and the building unresponsive to my multiple knocks. I biked downtown where I found a room at Super 8. Now almost 3am, the night manager was so accommodating; she gave me September’s cheaper rates for the two nights I booked. In the morning, I called the hostel and canceled my reservations. They were apologetic but at that point, I’d had it with Alaska hostels. Yes, they are cheap but because of the day time lock outs and night time curfews, the inconvenience greatly outweighed the savings. After that snafu, and a late morning in the first comfortable bed I’d slept on in nearly two weeks, I went for a ride to the harbor, stopping at the local museum. Again, another fine display detailed the history of Sitka as first a Tlingit village and later as the seat for the Royal Russian Colony. When the Alaska territory was purchased from the Russians by the United States in 1867, the ceremony for passing the ownership of the lands was held in Sitka. Sitka was indeed the Capitol of Alaska until the Klondike gold rush in the late 1890s when Juneau was decided upon as a more easily accessible Capitol city.

After the museum, I took a stroll through the Sitka National Historicl Park. In addition to its breathtaking scenery and sunny blue skies, it also houses an amazing collection of authentic Totems. It is also Alaska’s oldest National Park.

While in the park, I spied this fellow 20 feet above me. He was focused on a little red squirrel in the brush near the bottom of the tree.

Even more Salmon spawning in the streams in Sitka. The ones in this stream are locally known as “humpies.”

After visiting the park, I went to the Alaska Raptor Rehabilitation Center, where I observed all sorts of eagles, hawks, owls and even some corvids (ravens!). This little girl is named Arizona and has only one eye. Can you guess where she’s from? As I have an affinity towards animals bearing the names of states, she was obviously my favorite bird on display. The guide even taught me how to hoot to her in order to get a response back!

My favorite museum was also located in Sitka. The Sheldon Jackson Museum has an impressively unique history as well as a huge selection of cultural artifacts from four distinct native groups, including Aleut, Athabascan, Eskimo and Northwest Coast peoples. The museum was established in the late 1890s and is the oldest museum in Alaska. One could literally spend days going through the collection.

Back at the Sitka Harbor in time for sunset.

The Sitka Pioneer Home

Overlooking the bay.

The Russian Orthodox Church downtown was beautiful as well. The interior of the church was gorgeous. I stopped at their gift shop and purchased a few religious icons with foil embellishments from Russia.

After a day and a half in Sitka, I departed on another 34 hour voyage back to Bellingham, Washington. I slept in the Solarium again. Really, I can’t say enough good things about the Alaska Marine Highway System. The views are spectacular. The vessels are small enough to take channels too narrow for cruise ships. The weather cleared up as we headed into Canadian waters. I saw orcas, humpback whales and pods of porpoises throughout the voyage.

The morning we were due back in Washington was brilliant.  Sunrise over the San Juans was unforgettable.

Once last look at the Solarium and the outside decks…

And it was back to reality. I rode to the terminal’s long storage parking, unpacked my bike and put the bike rack back on the car, Alaska adventure achieved.

In closing, please plan a trip to Alaska. For the love of all that’s wild and wonderful, don’t go on a cruise.

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