the things that Tim and I were most looking forward to during our visit to
Ketchikan was a flightseeing tour of Misty Fjords National Monument. Misty Fjords is an immense wilderness area
just 22 miles east of Ketchikan and can only be visited by boat or plane. Since we had just spent six hours on the
ferry the previous day, we decided that a floatplane tour was the way to
go. Not only would we be able to grasp
the immensity of the monument from the air, but we would be able to experience
the sensation of landing and taking off from the water. I absolutely love floatplanes and opt for one
whenever that choice is available.
Fjords was named for the almost-constant rainfall that is characteristic of the
area, but it didn’t live up to its name for us.
We flew on a mostly sunny day with nary a raindrop in site. It was a perfect day for flightseeing. Soon after departure, we were flying over the
deep fjords and sheer granite walls that rise directly from the water. Thick forests of spruce, hemlock and cedar
appeared as a green carpet from the air and provided a nice contrast to the snow-capped
|On the Way to Misty Fjords National Monument|
|Sheer Granite Walls|
spotted lacy waterfalls as they wound their way down the cliffs, fed by the
streams and lakes that dotted the mountain tops. About half way through the tour, our plane
began to descend, and we soon landed on one of those jewel-like lakes. At least for a bit, we were the only ones
there in that incredible wilderness. We
were able to step out of the plane and onto the pontoons and admire the beauty
that surrounded us. That was a special
moment. Too soon, however, it was time
for another floatplane to take our place, but it was wonderful while it lasted.
|An Endless Wilderness|
|Landing on a Lake|
|Time to Get Back in the Plane|
over the lake one last time and began to make our way back to Ketchikan. We soon spotted Tongass Narrows, the waterway
on which Ketchikan is located, and made a smooth landing back at the dock. The flight was over way too soon, but what a
blast it was!
|Our Shadow in the Snow|
|We Qualified for Our Alaska Bush Plane Certificates|
is one of the most popular tourist activities in Ketchikan, and for a very good
reason – it’s an amazing experience and one of the best ways to see the
spectacular scenery of this area. Numerous
companies offer tours to Misty Fjords, but we flew on Taquan Air, which seems
to offer the most flights. I believe
that five other planes took off at the same time we did. Some of the smaller companies may offer a
more personalized tour, but we were very pleased with our experience.
we select Taquan Air? It was simple –
this was the only outfit that offered a two-for-one deal. With tour prices around $269, that represented
quite a savings. How did we get this
deal? Before departing for Alaska, we
purchased an Alaska TourSaver book that offers hundreds of coupons for tours,
attractions and accommodations. We had
checked out the offers beforehand and decided that we would recoup the $99 cost
of the book with just one or two uses.
We’re already ahead with the Misty Fjords tour, as well as the one free
night offer we used at Clover Pass Resort.
tour we made our way to downtown Ketchikan to see the town. Since it was Sunday, we were easily able to
find parking on the street. We spent
some time walking through the downtown area and tried to concentrate on the
historic architecture, not the plethora of Caribbean jewelry stores that
occupy the storefronts. Is this really
what cruise ship passengers want to purchase in Alaska?
favorite area was Creek Street with its charming buildings constructed over the
water. This former red-light district now
houses shops and restaurants, as well as Dolly’s House, a museum dedicated to
the life of Ketchikan’s most famous madam.
we learned that the crowds would increase four-fold on Tuesday, with five
cruise ships due in port. More than
12,000 tourists would descend on the town of 8,000 residents. And we thought it was crowded with just three
ships in town! With that bit of news, we
decided to stay downtown and try to hit more of the sights that were on our list.
The hordes of cruise ship passengers that descend en masse is the biggest negative
for independent tourists visiting towns along Alaska’s Inside Passage (I'm
sure a lot of the cruise ship passengers are not especially fond of it either). Thousands of people can overwhelm these small
communities, and it is often hard to discover the true character of a town when
you are fighting for a place on the sidewalk.
However, if you simply walk just a few blocks away from the main activity
center near the piers, it is often more peaceful. Even with three ships in port, we found
streets to walk and places to visit where we encountered only a handful of
other visitors. Spending several days in
each port is another way to avoid the busiest days.
stop was the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, an interpretive center operated
by the U.S. Forest Service. We rested
our legs a bit by watching one of the films, a very informative history of
Ketchikan, and then toured the center.
The exhibits focus on the land, people and culture of the Tongass
National Forest, the largest national forest in the United States. We were impressed with the quality of the
displays on the temperate rain forest, native traditions, ecosystems and
|Southeast Alaska Discovery Center|
followed the very handy downtown walking tour that is mapped out in a brochure we had picked up at the visitor center. Our
destination was the Totem Heritage Center, the world’s largest collection of
nineteenth century totem poles. During
our visit, only two other couples showed up.
Ketchikan is known for its totem poles, and you can find them scattered
throughout the city. All of these are
new totems, or reproductions of original ones. What makes the Totem Heritage Center unique
is that it preserves and displays historic totem poles in their unrestored condition.
poles are the most prominent symbol of cultural identity for the Northwest
Coast Native peoples. These icons were
carved to honor important individuals and to commemorate significant
events. Carved from western red cedar,
totem poles were designed to stand in place until they fell and were returned
to the earth. And that is exactly what
happened to most of them as Alaska Natives moved from their villages to seek
employment in Ketchikan and other towns along the coast.
some totem poles were sought out and salvaged by museums and collectors in the
early twentieth century, it was not until the 1960s that a major effort was
undertaken to survey and document those that remained. With the permission of Native elders, the
Alaska State Museum and the Alaska Native Brotherhood then began to retrieve
abandoned totem poles in the 1970s, and the City of Ketchikan provided the
facility to house them. The stipulation
was that the totems not be restored, but kept in the condition in which they
|Totem Heritage Center|
of Ketchikan operates the Totem Heritage Center, which is also dedicated to
preserving the cultural traditions that gave rise to the totem poles on
display. During the fall and winter,
classes and workshops are taught in traditional arts and crafts in an effort to strengthen and
perpetuate these traditions for future generations. An exhibit at the center showcases the works
produced by the students. The quality of
the objects makes me think that this artistic heritage is in good hands.
Your post brought back wonderful memories of our first trip to AK - a cruisetour with Princess. Yes, we were one of those cruise ship pax ;-) We took a boat & flightseeing tour to Misty Fjords ... the flight portion was better as it gave us a real appreciation for the fjords; but if not for the boat portion, we would have missed a great encounter with a visiting pod of orcas. Everyone who plans to spend time in AK would benefit from the TourSaver Book ... we recouped our cost ... and more ... on the first use ... a nostalgic flightseeing trip in a DC10 out of Anchorage.ReplyDelete
Wow! A flightseeing trip in a DC10 sounds amazing. I'll have to see if it's still offered. Getting out on the water should be high on everyone's list of things to do in Alaska. We haven't spotted any whales yet, but hope to see some on the ferry or one of the other day cruises we have planned.Delete
I still remember the whale encounters from my first cruise in Alaska (yes, I was also one of those people). We were on a very small ship (less than 100 passengers), and the captain would notify us of any sightings. Several times that happened during dinner, and everyone got up and rushed to the deck. Good times for sure.
Alas, the DC10 was discontinued a few years ago as the safety of the aircraft became an issue ... I only see heli flights offered by ERA now.Delete
Oh, that's too bad. I guess safety does outweigh everything else. Heli flights are also a fun way to go.Delete
Ketchikan is the place that made me fall in love with Alaska. Misty Fjords is what made us want to go to Alaska by boat. Still a dream not yet realized... Now I'm wondering why we didn't take the ferry like you are. Maybe next year, in a downsized rig. A B is perfect for that. Thank you for the beautiful pictures!Delete
You are welcome. It's been fun taking photographs, but not so fun culling through them and deciding which ones to post! Don't second guess yourself about not taking the ferry. You are seeing things that we will not have an opportunity to see, and there are advantages to both routes. However, I do like the idea of coming back next year and doing it the other way.Delete
Great recaps and pictures. We also have a sprinter. Question- do you typically turn off propane while en route to places and then how do you keep food cold. We are not full timers but take weekly trips and sometimes will drive 8-10 hrs in one day. Just curious.ReplyDelete
Thanks so much. I answered a similar question about propane on the last post. Here's what I said. There is a great debate among all RVers about the subject. To be very safe, propane should be shut off. However, many folks leave it on, and that's what we've been doing for years. We try to remember to turn it off while filling up at gas stations, however.Delete
Many people who do turn off propane run their refrigerators on battery power while driving, since the alternator is charging the batteries. That's an alternative, but we would often forget to switch to propane when we stopped for sightseeing, etc. That can drain your batteries quickly. You might want to test out this option and hang some kind of reminder to yourself to make the switch.
We will continue to leave the propane on, although we just found out that our new lithium batteries can run the refrigerator for a very long time.