Patricia Stone, Owner and Founder of Global Adventures, sailed on a 7-day Inside Passage Cruise visiting Alaska on Zuiderdam with her family. Enjoy reading about their adventure. This post was written by Jennifer M.
It was the 4th of July when we arrived in Ketchikan and the Independence Day parade was rolling along Tongass street. It was a lively and colorful way to see a wide cross section of the locals in this town of 15,000.
It was clear that this quaint coastal town, not only is patriotic, but also has a unique variety of people.
The first locals we got to know were Lesley and Steve Kamm, owners of SeaWind Aviation who offer float plane tours of the Misty Fjords. Friendly, kind, and gracious, Lesley met us at our coordinated time and place. She was a welcomed personality from the other “salesmen” characters we encountered selling similar experiences. Steve was our pilot and the next two hours were as amazing as our first impression and their customer service! Our plane fit 8 of us, and despite some breezy conditions, Steve kept us soaring stably through some of the most awe inspiring vistas we have seen during our time in Alaska. The fjords, dotted with natural lakes, tucked in valley after valley, flying below and above waterfalls was stunning…almost unbelievable. We landed our float plane on a lake and wandered on a tiny little island to take pictures and have that glimpse of the float plane experience. Our kids didn’t get to come, but next time we will take them for sure. This adventure makes you pause and be grateful for the many wonders that exist in the world.
Also, FAMILY AIR provided our group with flights to the Misty Fjords, and owner Dave guided us over these 3,000 vertical cliffs through the Behm Canal teaching us about the natural history of the fjords here. He seemed to know every nook and corner of the 2 million + acres of Misty Fjords National Monument. We landed on Walker Lake, walked the sandy granite shoreline and tried to absorb all of the wonder surrounding us. Pure nature. Untouched, unspoiled, gentle, rugged. Our adventurous father and grandfather couldn’t get over the breathtaking views and gasped, “This is like 1,000 Yosemites!” His 7 year old grandson exclaimed, “THIS is where I want to live. It’s AWESOME!”
The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show was as advertised, “rugged woodsmen and a rowdy good time“! Getting “YO HO’s” and cheers from the crowd were easy for these young men flexing their lumberjack muscles in a variety of feats of strength, quick footedness, and adeptness with axes and chain saws. This is an entertaining way to spend an hour and appreciate the logging heritage of this part of the world.
Bering Sea Crabbing Expedition—Two uncles and five nephews experienced an informative demonstration of a day in the life of a crab fisherman. We didn’t actually go to the Bering Sea, but we boarded the Aleutian Ballad, which has spent many crabbing seasons in the Bering Sea. Our guide said that this vessel has been featured on Deadliest Catch as well as the Discovery Channel. The fishing boat is impressive; the crew is even more so, and the main guide Danny, gives a lot of insight to the dangerous, intense, hard-working life of a fisherman. During our three and a half hour tour, the Ballad turned into an at-sea classroom. The crew demonstrated crabbing skills, technique and equipment. At each of the five crabbing stops, they pull up cages with a variety of crabs and shrimp, and then put the crabs and shrimp back in the cages before they throw them back in the water. Watching the crew work together in this controlled environment gave us a glimpse of the challenging, exhausting and often life threatening experiences of a crab fisherman — experiences we heard about one after the other from crew members who lived to tell about them.
The highlight for us was the eagle watching — the boat crew took us by what seemed to be an eagle habitat where at least 25 bald eagles soared above the water and trees. A large nest was there which was fascinating to observe. The fisherman threw in about 100 dead frozen fish which the eagles flew down and swept up from the water’s surface – really fun to see!
Ketchikan Taxi Tours–Dave was the perfect guide to complete our beautiful day. We only had 90 more minutes to explore! He asked what we had done already and tailored a memorable mini tour. As we drove, he answered questions about the history and nature of Ketchikan. We stopped at the Saxman totem pole park dotted with colorful, hand carved, story-telling poles of the Tlinget Native American Indians.
We took another stop at Herring Cove to observe bald eagles perched in fir trees, their massive nests, and graceful wings soaring through the sky. On a bridge around the corner, a river runs to a local King Salmon fish hatchery which is the destination this time of year for hundreds of thousands of salmon returning to spawn. Although we were a week early to see the river filled bank to bank of King salmon, the “early birds” (or fish!) were finding their way up the river. These are big, strong fish, easily 2-3 feet long. Over 2 dozen juvenile and adult bald eagles waited just on the other side of the bridge deciding if they would take on a smaller salmon, or wait for a fish head or meaty spine the fisherman would leave. In my life, I would have been thrilled to see just one of these proud birds, and I had see over two dozen in their habitat in one day. From observing them today, I understand why the majestic bald eagle is the proud symbol of my country.
Creek Street Boardwalk — Did you know that the name “Ketchikan” comes from the Tlingit word for “the creek that runs through town?” Dave dropped us off to walk through Creek Street Boardwalk. It may be the cutest seaside boardwalk I’ve ever seen. Snug brightly colored, wood construction shops line this elevated board walk. Wherever there wasn’t a shop, you found salmon berry bushes loaded with berries. I love the attitude of the locals…I wanted some berries tucked behind a food stand, and when I asked if I could jump up on a wood box to grab a few, the owner heartily bellowed, “It doesn’t depend on if I’ll letcha, it depends on if you can get yerself up there!“ I did…and the berries were delicious! Before we left, we wanted crab legs. So we bid farewell to Dave as he dropped us off at the end of the main pier next to Alaska Fish House, where he assured us we would find good crab!
Alaska Fish House – Perched above the marina docks, as we watched the fishing excursions unload their catches from the day (including a 265 lb halibut!), we ate THE MOST scrumptious King and Dungeness crab legs. Chuck, the owner, not only runs the fishing boat that helped his fishing excursion passenger bring in the record catch – a 265 lb. halibut, but he runs Alaska Fish House. He explained their simple recipe for treating us to the most mouth watering crab legs we’ve ever eaten. From seasoned crab-eating Grandpa all the way down to rookie crabbies Lincoln (6) and Will (7), it was messy fingers and silence at the table because mouths were happily occupied!