June 6, 2015

Onward to Sitka

We had another ridiculously early morning ferry departure from Juneau last Sunday.  Although the ferry did not leave until 6:30 am, we had to check in by 4:30 am.  So, we just decided to check out of the campground the evening before and spend the rest of the night parked in line at the ferry terminal.  I’m not sure which is the better option, but we weren’t too fond of the idea of getting the RV packed and ready to go at 4:00 am.  It’s just something to think about when making ferry reservations.  Often you have no choice with schedules, but every now and then there may be more than one option.

All of our ferry rides to this point had been on the M/V Matanuska, but we picked a fast ferry for the trip to Sitka, and we sailed on the FVF Chenega.  The fast ferries are much newer and do not have cabins, since the sailings are not overnight.  There is also no cafeteria, although there is limited food service.  We were so impressed with the crew on the Chenega, especially the car deck crew members who went out of their way to make sure the RV could safely negotiate the ramp.  One guy even got down on his knees to look under the RV to make sure it cleared the high spots.  We were very appreciative, especially after our unfortunate experience in Wrangell.

Will She Hit the Bottom?
Made It!

We had another beautiful day for sailing, and the trip from Juneau to Sitka is particularly scenic.  We passed another lighthouse, the Point Retreat Light Station that is similar in design to the Five Finger Lighthouse that we passed on the way from Petersburg.  We saw quite a few humpback whales, but I was too slow to get a photo. 

Point Retreat Light Station

Ready to Turn into Peril Strait

We soon turned into Peril Strait and the most stunning part of the trip.  In some ways, the journey through Peril Strait is similar to the one through Wrangell Narrows.  Only small cruise ships and the Alaska ferries can fit.  The strait is also very narrow, and the strong tides can cause issues for any vessel.  In fact, an Alaska ferry hit a rock here in 2004 and almost sank.  Fortunately, we sailed through with no problems.  Peril Strait may be even more beautiful than Wrangell Narrows because it is more unspoiled.  There are very few houses along the water, and there is much more of a wilderness feeling.

Clouds Added Drama to the Trip through Peril Strait

Successfully Navigating Around the Buoys

Views of Nearby Mountains

A Beautiful Passage to Sitka

Unlike the other towns we’ve visited in Southeast Alaska, Sitka is not actually along the Inside Passage.  Located on the west side of Baranof Island, Sitka is somewhat off the beaten path, and consequently fewer cruise ships schedule stops here.  Once the capital of Russian America, Sitka has a long and rich history.

After the ferry docked, we proceeded to our campground.  We will be staying in Sitka for two weeks at the Sitka Sportsman’s Association RV Park, which is located next to the ferry terminal.  The sites are essentially parking spaces in a paved lot, but sites have a nice view of the water and lots of trees line the perimeter.  The full hookups are essential for us for such an extended stay.  A clubhouse with an indoor shooting range is on the property, and it has been a bit disconcerting to hear gunfire during the day.  We have had the place mostly to ourselves, so we have had no problem with close neighbors.  If the park were full, however, the sites would be very tight.

Our View at Sitka Sportsman's Association RV Park

The FVF Chenega on Its Way Back to Juneau

You may be wondering why we are spending two weeks in Sitka.  Tim has a contract with Sitka National Historical Park, and we planned our entire trip through Southeast Alaska around this commitment.  Tim and I are in Sitka to catalog and rehouse a remarkable collection of almost 1,000 glass plate negatives.  These images were taken in the Sitka area by noted photographer E.W. Merrill during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  I will have much more information about the project in a later post, but it is very exciting to be working with such an invaluable cultural resource.

Welcome to Sitka National Historical Park

After arriving here last Sunday afternoon, we hit the ground running on Monday morning and have been working eight-hour days ever since.  We’re just not used to such hours!  Consequently, we have had no time to explore the town and have had to be satisfied with drive-by views of the downtown area and the historic structures here. 

We have discovered a few good restaurants.  The Larkspur Café offered Sitka’s version of rockfish tacos, and they were very good.  On Friday night we stumbled upon a real find.  We had tried to get into Ludvig’s Bistro, but the tiny place was packed.  

The staff suggested their wine and tapas bar upstairs, so that’s where we headed.  Although there were only a few choices on the menu, every single item we ordered was extraordinary.  A blackened broccoli tapas plate was complementary when ordering a glass of wine, and it was the best broccoli I’ve ever tasted.  The clam chowder was unlike any I’ve ever had– the addition of chorizo gave the chowder just the right amount of spice.  Even the cheese and meat plate was delicious.  I was enjoying myself so much that I forgot to take out the camera.  You’ll just have to take my word for it.  

Perhaps it was because all of this was so unexpected, but we had such a marvelous time.  The food really was some of the best we’ve had in Alaska.  I can’t wait to make a reservation for the bistro and sample the entrees prepared by the same chef.

After one beautiful day following our arrival in town (I knew I should have stopped to take a few photographs!), the rains finally found us.  I think most of Alaska is experiencing the same weather, but it’s a bit of a shock since we’ve been so spoiled for so long by such gorgeous days.  At least for us, we’re working now, so the rain has not interfered with any plans.  It’s still raining today (Saturday), so we decided that sleeping late and taking care of chores and errands would be the way to go.  Even if it’s still raining on Sunday, we are heading out, and I’ll report back on what there is to do in Sitka.


  1. So sorry to read about your mishap. I don't how I missed that post but I went back and caught up. So nice that you could get help. Yes, that is an important compartment! I can't wait to understand what it is that you are doing there. Sounds interesting!

    1. That was definitely not a fun experience, but we were fortunate to be directed to someone who could give us a temporary fix. I'm not sure how we could have continued the trip if we couldn't dump! I'll post a lot more information about our cataloging project by the end of the week. It really is interesting and is giving us a greater understanding about the history of Sitka.

  2. Just stumbled upon your blog. Sounds like an interesting trip you've embarked on and seems you got to Alaska a lot sooner than most of the other RVer's. I'll be reading some of you older posts just to catch up. Safe travels.

    1. I'm so glad you found us. Welcome! The trip so far has been wonderful. I had always wanted to spend a summer in Alaska, so it was very near the top of the bucket list. Traveling by RV is certainly the perfect way to see this state.

  3. What a great project to be working on. Sitka is one of the places we would like to visit when get up to AK ... the more I read your posts, the more I think we'll need to do two separate trips ... one for mainland AK and one for the SE by ferry. I hope you'll mention in an upcoming post how you landed this project in Sitka.

    1. I think Sitka may be our favorite town in Southeast Alaska. I do plan to do a separate post about the project. It has been a wonderful experience.

  4. Sitka is beautiful. I loved the harbor. The NPS job sounds like a photographer's dream!

    1. Sitka is one of the prettiest towns in Southeast Alaska, and we have been fortunate to spend quite a bit of time here. It really is pretty amazing that we have been able to look at gorgeous photographs all day. It's been a very nice job.


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