Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Alaska: An All Too Short Visit to Ketchikan

Alaska's slim little arm is like everything else in the state--a whole lot bigger and longer than you think.  It is almost 300 miles from Juneau to Ketchikan.  Even though we cruised all night, we still didn't make dock in our final Alaskan port of call until just before noon noon on Fri. July 22nd. 
Steaming down the Clarence Strait into Ketchikan

We could tell we were not alone when we got there.

Good thing we didn't have to parallel park
 Ketchikan, like many fjord towns seems to grow out of the water.  The waterfront street and the first row of buildings sits literally on stilts over the ocean.

The succeeding rows of dwellings climb so steeply

that there is a funicular on Creek Street to access the upper reaches more easily.

 We took a quick lunch on the ship and then joined our Road Scholar group at the Southeast Discovery Center for a program given by a native Haida woman.

Here Jan examines a shawl made from Cedar strips and fringed with fur

Woven hats, carved utensils, and some colorful buttonwork on a jacket

Her presentation covered the Haida's matriarchal society and clan system

and then ended with a rousing traditional song.

Our group then traveled to the Totem Heritage Center

where we saw a collection of  modern and period totem poles.  Totem poles, we learned,  are generally made of red cedar and seldom last more than 100 years because of the damp climate.  Another interesting piece of information was that the natives do not worship totem poles. The carvings usually tell a story or legend or celebrate an auspicious occasion such as a fifieth wedding anniversary or the successful culmination of a hunt. You can tell the more modern or restored poles because they use  brighter, more intense colors. 

The painters of older poles had only available natural vegetable dyes, which tended to be duller and more restricted in color.  Below is an older and un-restored example

Some of the very oldest examples are weathered back down to the natural wood. 

The flat piece below is actually a halibut and it was fitted to the top of a pole by inserting the square hole visible in the center onto a peg carved on the top.

We had only a small amount of free time left after we visited the Totem Center and we used that to walk around a bit on Creek Street.

This was an intriguing group of nicely restored small houses, shops, restaurants, etc. built on stilts and grouped around a small lake and stream.

Miss Dolly's house was a former bordello

This narrow little souvenir and craft store was filled with delightful gifts
All the spaces were connected by boardwalks and it made for a delightful stroll before our 6:00 PM  departure.  Our only quibble was that we definitely could have used more time in Ketchikan.
Lush foliage along Creek Street

Next and final stop, Vancouver,Canada!

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