Ketchikan and Totems

The last Alaskan town we visit on this cruise is Ketchikan. Before launching into this story it’s time to add a little snippet about prices, you never know when someone might want to fill up with fuel or buy a carton of milk on a trek through the Alaskan wilderness. I do know that person won’t be me!! I’m not the trekking kind!!

A gallon (3.7 litres) of milk was $6, a gallon of petrol was $5, and the town of Juneau makes 30 million dollars from tourism each year (as told to us by our guide).

Woke to a misty morning  but no rain thank goodness…things are looking up!! The sea was a little rough overnight but it didn’t disturb my sleep at all. Up early this morning as we had pre-booked a rain forest sanctuary and Totem Pole excursion. The Totems were the main interest to me and hopefully I’d  chosen the best tour to see them – so many little tours to choose from and a number of them had the totem poles.

As we walked towards the bus an amazing thing happened …….. the clouds suddenly opened  and a bright ball of light started to show itself. What is that? What’s happening here? The sky was brightening. People were looking skyward in disbelief, some were pointing, others with mouths dropped open , others smiling, but everyone staring at this faint yellow ball. Is it really the sun….yes, yes it’s the sun. 39 days of sun in Ketchikan and we managed to get one!!!!!

We had the usual stragglers but they’re not worth mentioning really so let’s just move on. The entrance to the rain forest was about a 20 minute drive from the centre of town. Our driver was a young female college student on a working holiday. As was usual the driver/guide imparted information about the town and the area, pointed out bald eagles nesting in trees and drove the bus very competently.

There were about 40 people on this eco  tour  so the national park rangers/guides spilt us up into 2 groups. Guess they wanted to make sure the bears didn’t attack everyone – if they happened to pop out to greet us. We were given strict instructions before venturing through the pergola and into the forest. If we had food we were to throw it away now, if we didn’t throw it away we must keep it in our backpacks, handbags or pockets. No eating on the trail because the bears would smell the food and attack us to take the food. I had placed 2 apples in the backpack this morning, along with camera gear, wallets, anti bacterial hand wipes, tissues and a plethora of other bits and pieces….good luck on sniffing out 2 apples Mr Bear!! The ranger continued on with his spiel, “stay close together”, “don’t wander off on your own” he was saying but my mind was trying to move into sleep mode except it couldn’t, it was freezing standing on the spot whilst his mouth continued to move. “Is he ever going to stop talking and start this tour, I want to see the totems” I whispered to Ty, of course I’m standing on his deaf side so he couldn’t understand me!!! I wasn’t going to yell out “get on with the tour”  we hadn’t moved more than 2 feet from the starting point in almost half an hour. There were some photo opportunities whilst standing there…a photo of a skunk cabbage, a sign telling us this is a bear habitat, a couple of odd-looking pieces of flotsam hanging from a tree…. OK  time to move on I’m ready!!! “Oh no”, I hissed to Ty as the guide asked if anyone had any questions, “Someone will ask about snacks”. No, not a mention about snacks this time – hmm perhaps the fear of a bear rushing up and snatching it had stopped them in their tracks. They’d just have to go hungry, I’m not offering our apples….although, should I? It could make for an interesting excursion and some great pics if a bear strides out and snatches an apple off someone – other than me of course!

Finally we stepped onto the trail, although still stopping every couple of  minutes, as Mr Ranger pointed out where a bear had been, or pointing out a hemlock or spruce tree. Tall cedar trees reached for any available rays of sun. Strange growths of varying designs and shades of green hung off tree branches. There was an amazing cedar tree standing by itself so tall and majestic, it was one of the highlights. Mr Ranger pointed out where mother bears had taught their young cubs to climb trees. The ranger was very exuberant,  passionate and extremely knowledgeable about the rain forest. He told us how he grew up in Ketchikan, loved the rain forest and all the ecosystem that sustained life for the many animals, birds and insects in and around it.  No Totem Poles though.

Unfortunately our meander along the rainforest trail was uneventful – we didn’t see any bears or wolves. The sun was still filtering through the trees and as we left the rain forest and entered a large open space it became much easier to soak some rays. Ahh, the warmth of the sun felt like being in a loving embrace, so comforting. The only wildlife on offer to us were reindeer, a bald eagle and an owl at the sanctuary. A bucket of lettuce leaves stood far enough away from the reindeer pen so they couldn’t reach them but the humans could feed them. The owl was a huge grey bird and a little scary as it seemingly glared at you intently when anyone spoke. Beautiful, though, with its large yellow eyes and grey feathers.

As we left the sanctuary we were ushered into a room where a native Indian man was ruling up a totem pole before commencing to carve the pattern. It was a 9 foot totem pole and would take him 2 months to carve. He told us he would earn around $1000 for this intricate totem. Leaving the woodwork room we stepped into the bright sunshine again, no trees reaching for the sky here, we could soak up the full warmth of the suns’ rays. Bliss….

As is usual in these touristy places the gift shop is strategically placed between the attraction and the bus/car parking area.  The Totem Poles were also in front of the gift shop….4 intricately carved Totem Poles of various heights stood in all their glory posing for that fabulous photograph we all strive to take. I certainly wasn’t any different – I’d endured a 2 hour walk (stroll probably more fitting word) through a dark, damp and extremely cold rain forest to get my photo of the Totems…I would take my time to get as many shots as possible.  “Ty come and stand over by the Totems”.  “No, not there, move over a bit more so I can get them all in”.  “Oh, now you’re in the shade, move a bit further this way” And so it goes on trying to get a good photo, just lucky I have an accommodating husband…..although let’s not hold him up too high he does throw the very occasional wobbly.IMG_1022

All up we had five and a half hours to spend in Ketchikan which certainly wasn’t enough in this interesting town.  Perhaps a walking tour of the town would have sufficed because as the tour bus ferried us back into town…what do you think we passed???  A whole street of Totem Poles, research was clearly lacking on this one!!!  Time would not allow a visit to historical Creek Street, shop and a wander back to the street of Totems.  Oh well, can’t miss out on shopping. IMG_1026

Probably should have chosen to miss the shopping…..a jeweller had earrings to match the ring I’d purchased in Skagway, naturally one had to have them.  So the bargaining commenced, a cliche, I know, a purchase was made……totally blew the budget for this holiday.  “Get me back to the ship”.  “Oh, no, wait, not till we’ve visited the souvenir shops, then get me back to the ship”!! Ty laughs and says “my wife is a nut”!!

Once back on board it was time to relax and what better place to relax than the main bar area.  A cocktail was the drink of choice, we sat and chatted to a couple of American women and as we chatted we watched fellow passengers having their photos taken in front of various backdrops.  Backdrops of sunsets and snow-capped mountains, one backdrop was an ornate room with a chaise lounge in front. The people having photos taken were all dressed for the occasion; gentlemen in black tie outfits and women in their evening gowns, some women changing outfits several times.  It was a great talking point over cocktails.

Given 2000 passengers were on board it was only natural there would be extremes of dress and behaviour. People either totally dressed down (badly designed/ill-fitting tracksuits, even bib and brace overalls) or dressed over the top (glittering, strapless evening gowns) for photos in front of a fake picture – standing as if on the bow of the ship (as in the movie “Titanic”).

A number of people had their mobility scooters on board and managed to navigate passengers, lifts, narrow hallways and gangways without having to alight from them. For anyone with a mobility problem a cruise is certainly the way to go.  Although navigating some of those dining areas could be a bit tricky.  The guests in the cabin next to ours never surfaced.  We could hear them talking and their cigarette smoke wafted to our balcony. They had their meals delivered to their cabin and sat on their balcony most of the trip. Perhaps that’s not an unusual thing to do when cruising what does everyone else think?

When we entered Canadian waters the ship’s casino and the duty-free stores closed.  Canada doesn’t allow gambling or duty-free sales in their waters.

As the ship sailed towards Victoria, BC, we sat on deck until 8.30 pm to soak up the last of the sunshine. There was a bit of excitement as a whale passed by very close to the ship.  There had been a little more excitement earlier when the water slides on top of the ship  were open for a short time.  Amazing how many people donned their bikini or swimming trunks and rushed up to use the slide.  Yes, the sun was shining, no, the temperature hadn’t reached more than 20 degrees Celsius – it was lucky to have reached 15 and there was still the wind chill factor to consider.  Brrrrrr, they made me colder just watching.

Time to change for dinner and later a session at the Piano Bar with Keith.  It was “Name that Tune” tonight! Not a lot of choice with the Casino being closed, we went to a comedy show then the Piano Bar.

Victoria,BC, is a day and half away.

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