Friday, August 11, 2006

Uh, Kath, Could We Just Sit-ka Down for a Minute? (or, Excuse Me, Ma’am, Is This Sit-ka Taken?)

We arose to a misty rain on Wednesday morning. After tendering to shore, we set out on foot to explore Sitka, the town that would become my favorite on our itinerary.

Sitka on Baranof Island was settled in 1799 by Russians, who came to trap otters, seals, and blue foxes for their pelts. An active fur operation was maintained for almost 70 years by the government-supported Russian American Company. When wars left the Russian government in dire financial straits (and overtrapping left few otters to sell), Alaska was sold to the US for $7.2 million in 1867.

Today, Sitka has about 9,000 residents and, at least according to one source, the largest area of any of Alaska’s “cities”. If the calluses on my feet were any judge, I’d have to say that this last is a true fact:), and Kathie and I covered a fair amount of it. From the time we set foot on land to the time we re-boarded the tender boat five and a half hours later, Kathie and I did not sit down once…not even to each lunch!

We saw or visited:

The Sheldon Jackson Museum, which has the “best ethnographic collection in Alaska, and it's one of the finest small museums anywhere. Even the building is an artifact: Alaska's first concrete structure (1895), and a product of the Victorian Era's dubious flirtation with the octagon.” (Sorry, I've lost the reference for this!)

Bald eagles flying around like crows and lighting in tree tops to spread their wings to dry,

the Alaska Raptor Center, where we saw Arizona the owl and at least one rescued bald eagle told us, “I AM smiling”,

lots of beautiful flowers in people’s yards,

the Russian cemetery, all overgrown by rainforest and hauntingly beautiful, and

Castle Hill - no castles standing anymore but still the site is pretty cool. And very historic: this is where the sale of Alaska to the US was finalized.

Back on ship, we finally got to eat. We read our camera books, napped, and I did sudoku puzzles. That night, we dined in the dining room, where I carried on a conversation with Bob about health care and, again, ate too much.

Bedtime at 9:30 pm was most welcome.

(Check out some really cool photos on this Sitka website's photo contest.)

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