Alaska 2022 – Start thru Sitka

Friday July 8, 2022

Kara and Jim arrived early to take us to the Comfort Inn Bloomington, MN near the airport. nice dinner and lots of laughs at our traditional vacation eve place, the Outback Steakhouse.

Saturday July 9, 2022

Kara and Jim met us in the lobby at 8:30 and dropped us off at the airport. Very little traffic seemed strange. Walked through TSA security with only 2 people ahead of us. Gate D3 is only 200 yards from the TSA, so we arrived at the gate 2:05 hours before our 11:00 flight to Seattle. Blue skies suggested no travel delays at MSP.

An uneventful flight, just like we like it! Linda watched the movie The Proposal, which is supposed to be set in Sitka Alaska. I read a book on South Eastern Alaska to be better prepared for our visit.

Landed in Seattle with partly cloudy skies, perfect to view beautiful Puget Sound. With the time change, we landed at 12:48. I flew to Seattle many times when our primary hospital software vendor was based here. I experienced lots of cool damp trips, but it was mostly sunny and 74. With the mountains and lush green trees, it is hard to find a prettier place when the sun shines!

With a long layover, we found the Tap and Pour, with the largest seating area in Sea-Tac airport. I Enjoyed a tasty African Amber from Mac and Jack’s Brewery in Redmond WA. Linda had a nice lager from 10 Barrels Brewery in Bend OR. Ordered lunch at the bar. Realized the crazy price for beer at the airport, so we left to find our nearby gate.

Delta 3523 to Sitka Alaska was delayed from 5:15 to 5:59. Not a big deal. With the delay, we arrived at 7:50. It was beautiful to see the mountains with snow still on snow top. 57 degrees.

We took the shuttle to the Totem Hotel. Checked in and then walked across the street to the Pioneer Bar in Sitka for a couple local beers. The hazy IPA from Harbor Mountain Brewery in Sitka was excellent! Still light at 10:00 local time 1:00am CT.

The harbor next to the hotel is pretty and the ring of clouds around the mountains are beautiful. A long day, but we made it!

Sunday July 10, 2022

Originally, we had planned to board a ship for 7 day cruise, but the vessel was deemed not seaworthy and they canceled the cruise in May. We were fortunate to find a 6 day cruise from and to the same cities. We have a couple extra days to explore Sitka!

Could not extend our stay at the Totem Hotel, so we transferred to the nearby Sitka Hotel.

Room was not ready, we left our luggage and set off to explore Sitka’s harbor area.

Then we walked the Totem Trail in Sitka National Historic Park. The many tall totem poles are very amazing! The huge old cedar and spruce forest was equally impressive.

Sitka is the largest incorporated city by area in the U.S., with a total area of 4,811 square miles, of which 2,870 square miles is land and 1,941 square miles (40.3%) is water. That’s almost four times the size of the state of Rhode Island!

Sitka sits at the base of Mt. Edgecumbe, a dormant volcano and along the large protected harbor of Sitka Sound.

The local Tlingit clan held the Bald Eagle and the Raven as their top spiritual symbols. We saw several Eagles and a couple Ravens right away. The Ravens call is very unique.

The park commemorates the 1804 battle between the local Tlingit clan and at a Russian fort built here. The Russians were the first white explorers to find and later settle what is known as Alaska. Sitka was the capital city of the Russian holdings in the area.

Sitka served as the U.S. Government Capital of the Department of Alaska until 1906. The seat of government was relocated north to Juneau in 1906 due to declining economic importance of Sitka relative to Juneau, which gained population in the Klondike Gold Rush.

After our hike through the park, we stopped at the Harbor Mountain Brewery for lunch and a couple beers.

We hiked up the mountain along the Indian River until we reached Sitka’s Cross Trail which stretches above the town before heading back down the mountain into town. It was a beautiful hike! Huge cedar and spruce forest.

Some pretty views of the snow capped mountains.

Stopped to cool off and relax at the Bayview Pub. I sampled a local red ale and a hazy IPA. Linda enjoyed a local blueberry beer. After checking into the hotel, we went back to the Bayview Pub for dinner, Linda was excited to get her first meal of fresh Salmon.

Sitka is only accessible by boat or plane as it is on a pair of islands in the Pacific Ocean. With no roads to the mainland, we saw a surprising number of cars/trucks. Gas is $6.07 per gallon.

Hiked 7 miles. I might have over done it again for the first day (again).

Monday July 11, 2022

Up in time to prepare for our Florida condo board meeting scheduled for 1:30ET or 9:30 in Sitka. As Treasurer I wanted to support our President Bill Althoff and Vice President Terry Hodnik as they made the case for all owners to pay for a $1.4 million dollar improvement to replace the curtain wall facing the beach as well as replacing all the 40 year old windows in the master bedrooms. The proposal was approved by the owners and construction should start this fall/winter.

Sitka averages 219 days of rain every year, so it was not surprising that we were greeted with steady rain as we began our walk. We dressed appropriately and headed out along the harbor.

We saw a float plane harbor, a common mode of transportation in Alaska.

For a land locked town of 8,400 people on an island with no access to the mainland, we continue to be surprised by the number of cars, buses and trucks on the roads.

We walked to the end of the harbor so we headed back towards town. Many restaurants were closed on Monday, so we returned to the Pioneer Bar to relax.

My new rain pants are a little baggy on me, so we were on a mission to find suspenders. After several failed attempts, we found the Rugged Gear Store and found just what I needed.

We walked along the shops downtown and were surprised by the number of people. Thought it was like Rhinelander on a rainy day and everyone comes to town, but this was different, a cruise ship just dropped off 3,000 people!

We ended up in a big line of people wanting to have dinner at the Watermark Restaurant. A group of 9 ahead and a group of 7 behind. We snuck through the crowd to grab a couple stools at the bar. We talked to a couple of young women from the cruise ship. Sounds like a big ship, with a pool, a casino and all of the features of a luxury cruise. Not our style.

After enjoying halibut caught by my friend John Cunningham last September, I was looking forward to enjoying some fresh halibut in Sitka. Linda found some fresh salmon on the menu. Everyone is happy!

Talking to the manager, it seems like the local businesses find the big cruise ships as a blessing (more sales) and a curse (a rush of guests that strain staffing).

On our walk back to the hotel as the rain stopped, it was amazing to see the fog rising from the trees in the mountains.

Tuesday July 12, 2022

My birthday! No rain and 59 is nice weather for walking. We hiked up nearby Castle Hill in the morning. In 1867, Russia sold Alaska to the USA. The purchase added 586,412 sq mi of new territory to the United States for the cost of $7.2 million dollars or $.02 per acre. Sitka celebrates October 18, 1867 as the date the Russian Flag came down and the US flag was raised in front of the Governor’s house inside the fort on Castle Hill. Only a cannon remains to mark the spot. This was also where the first US flag with 49 stars was raised when Alaska gained statehood in 1959.

The view from the top of Castle Hill is spectacular.

We stopped to look inside Saint Michael’s Russian Orthodox Church. Very ornate.

The Bishop House is one of only four remaining Russian structures still standing in Alaska and several other historic Russian buildings in Sitka.

The downtown area was very busy, two large cruise ships were unloading passengers into smaller boats to shuttle people to shore. Some people boarded tour buses and vans while others just wondered around the shops and historic places.

We walked along the harbor and then hiked through the rest of Sitka National Historic Park located across the Indian River from the Totem Trail. This less traveled area is filled with huge old spruce trees as well as many bushes filled with different berries. Yellow and red salmon berries and blueberries.

Stopped at Harbor Mountain Brewery for a cold beer and a pizza.

Walked back to the Sitka National Historic Park and walked through the museum and watched a brief video on the history of the area.

The flowers were in full bloom, pretty amazing given the short growing season.

A fog rolled in over the harbor in late afternoon. The two huge cruise ships have disappeared in the fog.

After a light rain, the skies cleared a bit, but the mountains tops were still encased in thick fog. We walked to Beaks for dinner. A small restaurant with excellent food at a reasonable price. Linda’s seared King Salmon encrusted with sea salt was outstanding! A nice birthday sundae was a nice treat!

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