Monday, August 11, 2008

Alaska '08 Day 56, Juneau to Sitka

Wed Aug 6, 2008

The ferry we got (unknowingly) to Sitka is the high speed ferry Fairweather. It is a catamaran capable of 36 knots. The passage is 4 hours with the high speed ferry so it must be like 12 hours with the slower boats. The high speed runs Juneau-Sitka-Juneau like 4 or 5 days a week but you have to take a slow boat south and that is only 2 days a week (Wed or Sat). So we had to work our Sitka stay around the ferry schedule. Our other stops all had boats in or out every day so it wasn't a problem.

We saw 4 humpbacks from the ferry! One whale was a juvenile that was rolling on the surface and slapping its tail maybe 100 yards from the ferry. I also saw a deer walking along the waters edge at one point and later on the boat spooked a sea lion from its path.

About half way through the passage the path narrows as you go up Peril Straight. There were a couple places where it looked like the boat just fit. The boat makes a lot of turns as it winds its way. Made for an interesting ride. We had a clear day so we could see most of the mountain tops, especially around Juneau when we left.

There were a lot of seine fishermen out, especially as we got closer to Sitka. In the harbors right around Sitka the seiners were in groups working the shoreline. Off shore there must have been 20 trollers. They say the trollers are after the silvers, the seiners are after the pinks.

According to Church's Guide there isn't much of a choice of campgrounds in Sitka. The only commercial campground is the city campground in the harbor parking lot. It is convenient but just a parking space. So we decided to pick one of the government campgrounds. The guide said Sawmill Creek Campground had room for larger campers but neglected to say it was a one lane mountain road to get in. There was plenty of room in the campground for our camper but I hope I don't have to pass anyone on the way out!

By the time we got all setup in the campground it was too late to do much, everything closes early. We went up to the Sitka National Historical Park visitors' center and walked a trail and looked at some of the exhibits. They have a couple native artists working in the visitors' center and the carver (Tommy Joseph) is raising a totem pole Friday in one of the city parks. If we have time we will go down and take some pictures, I imagine it will be a big deal.

We stopped at Whale Park. It is a city park with some observation points out over the harbor and some whale statues for kids to climb on.

The road to our campground is full of salmon berries, red and yellow. They are all coming on now. The weaver at the vistors' center said the salmon berries are great with sugar and whipped cream. The kids were all excited to pick and eat some so they ran out and picked a bowl full. The raw the berries are not sweet like a raspberry but they are really good with sugar. They are also larger than raspberries, some as big as medium sized strawberries.

Towards dark we drove through downtown. It looks like most of the residents are commercial fishermen. There are more people here than I thought. Sitka is larger than Haines and maybe larger than Valdez. There are also quite a few nice houses here.

- Jon


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