Port Call: Ketchikan!
As you recall, we are parked out in the Tongass Narrows, while the other ships are tied up at the pier. When I looked at this ship I noticed something familiar about its logo: this was a Holland-America ship! (It turned out to be the ms Rotterdam.) We couldn't even be number one with our own cruise line. ☺
Now we are looking up Mission Street, after moving about a block away from Front Street. Across the street is Barnaby's Old Town Curios, and it was the most interesting shop that we visited during our time ashore.
One of our dear friends, Tom Kreider, who has come out to visit us several times from his home in Maryland, (E.g. Hike 1, Hike 2, and DWLZ-3) immediately came to mind when we saw this store. We never knew he was into collecting gold nuggets, minted coins, and jewelry, but it sounds fun. ☺
We wanted to make sure that Tom knew we were thinking of him, so we took this picture with Dotti pointing at the sign. (See Tom, you were in Alaska with us.)
We soon moved over to the other side of the street because Barnaby's Curios shop looked mighty interesting. (Also that Mocha My Day sign had our names all over it. I want COFFEE!)
Looking up the side of the building I noticed that there was a "Historical Restoration" sign mounted there. This building was an old one apparently and has been restored to a like-new condition. One other thing I noticed was that they had Christmas lights up and lit! These are my kind of people. ☺
This church is St. John's Episcopal Church, the first church in Ketchikan, built in 1903, just 3 years after the village of Ketchikan was incorporated. The Episcopal St. Agnes mission that built this church gave Mission Street its name, and this street was the main thoroughfare in town at the time.
Many of the white people who moved here were gold rush enthusiasts who ran out of funds before they ran out of enthusiasm. They couldn't afford to make it back home, and so they remained here and created a town. This church was at the heart of it.
Anyone who knows Dotti well can probably guess what happened here. She had buried her fingers into the fur of the bear just see what it felt like, and then afterwards she saw this sign. Oops! ☺
But you can't keep Dotti disappointed for long. The smile came right back. The little teddy bears at the feet of the stuffed bear looked comical being so small next to the giant.
The biggest bear on earth is the polar bear, even surpassing the dreaded grizzly. You can see that this one stood like a tower over Dotti! Of course its feet are on a platform that brings them up to about thigh level, but even accounting for that, this was a large beast. It isn't something you would want to stumble across on a Sunday walk.
This one was shot in 1964, stands 9 feet tall, and was said to be shot by a "native hunter" in Point Hope, Alaska. The picture of John Wayne and his daughter standing next to the bear was taken in 1969. (Wayne filmed the movie "North to Alaska" in 1960 in California, not Alaska.)
As you can tell, Tammy was getting the feeling that there was something just a bit creepy about putting dead animals—that still look like dead animals—onto your body. Of course we have put parts of animals on all our lives really, with leather belts, coats, and shoes. But the leather has always been worked to look like it is merely a textile product, and not a piece of a cow holding up your pants and covering your feet. And for Dotti and I, our family name makes the coon skin cap seem even stranger.
Dotti had moved past the feeling creepy stage and was getting into the humorous side of the coon skin cap, feeling a bit like Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone. But Dotti is a lot cuter than they were. ☺
Dotti turned here to show me what the back of the hat looked like. She looked like she was studying the shop to see where she would next run off to in order to find something interesting to investigate.
This was my favorite picture of the day. Dotti is so cute, and the fact that she normally isn't a poser, makes the cutesy pose that more adorable.
Tammy turned to show the back of the hat, and it looks like she is completely surrounded by fur.
There is one other thing that I never noticed before I was looking through these pictures. We had been so taken with the furs, because they were so out of the ordinary for us, that we never even saw the signs all over the wall saying, "No Pictures with our hats on please. They are expensive." And here we were obliviously doing just that. Tourists!
The lady behind the counter knew about the signs on the wall, and she was looking at us ignoring them with a look on her face that said it all. But bless her heart, she never said a word to us.
Our apologies to her and to Barnaby's for running around like unstuffed animals, playing with their merchandise in ways they were not happy with. I don't think we damaged anything, but we try to be better visitors than that.
Alaska was claimed and populated by Russia because of the furs that were available in this wild country. It was mainly the sea otters, with their thick fur that drove the Russians, but you can see that fur, fangs, and claws of many varieties were plentiful in this land of the north.
Animals that eat other animals, and animals that are eaten. All have adapted to the cold climate and developed thick fur and ways of dealing with the harsh conditions that Alaska often produces.
Ketchikan is at the same latitude north as Moscow is in Russia, but the water in close proximity moderates the climate a great deal. Ketchikan itself does not suffer from terribly harsh weather. But to the north and when you move inland away from the water, the latitude's real weather brings out its claws.
Jim has found a skunk skin cap and is holding it up with a smile. I can't imagine wearing that one. People would tend to steer clear of you when you were in public.
Over his head, there are the heads of three predators holding fowl in their mouths, getting set for dinner, except they will never have another dinner.
This guy looks like he should be a drill instructor in boot camp. It's 4 in the morning and he just threw a metal trash can down the middle of the barracks aisle to get your attention. "All right all you slackers hit the deck!"
As time went by, the sense of death just started to hang in the air for me. Looking at the animals that once had roamed free and wild started to give me the feeling of a cemetery.
Tammy inspecting a fur hat.
In a land as cold as Russia is (the vast majority of that country lies in a latitude north of North Dakota) warm furs were not just a luxury item, they were needed for survival. It is no surprise that they came to Alaska (or Russian-America as it was called then) to harvest the pelts that were so plentiful.
Jim inspecting the various animal pelts that were formed into hats.
Fox furs were hanging from a rack, while the shelves behind them held rabbits' feet and various other items created from rabbit pelts.
By this time I had seen about enough of all the furs on display. I was having trouble separating the feeling of death from the displays I was looking at. It probably comes from being a city boy, where meat comes in wrapped packages, and belts are stained and decorated. You don't see the animals that went into your steaks or hamburgers, or your shoes. This was a step nearer the source. There was a whole array of things bouncing around in my head about life and death, and odd things like what these animals had for their last meals. It was about time to leave.
It looked like Dotti and I were about on the same page concerning the store. The novelty was wearing off, and we weren't going to be buying any furs today.
This little ferret was too cute to be dead, and Dotti was feeling sorry for him, as she held him up for the camera. Life and death, and the meaning of existence could easily be pressed upon your mind when you are walking through displays like these.
On the way out I got some coffee, and I came across this stuffed animal that I thought was cute. I put my coffee cup between his paws and took the picture.
It was raining and much cooler outside the store and Dotti looked like it was a shock to her system. But she has her rain poncho on, and she is staying dry, if not terribly warm.
This is a bridge across Ketchikan Creek, and the people are looking down into the water, because it is a busy place. Salmon and seals frequent this creek.
Creek Street is listed in all the guidebooks as a "must see" attraction. It is an interesting study in human psychology that, while none of us wants our sons to go to one, and we would never want our daughters to work in one, once they are closed down we honor whorehouses almost as if they were old churches. We call them bordellos, a much softer name, and the female pimps who ran them are given the honorary title of madam. (Dolly was the name of most famous one of Creek Street.) In nearly all old towns of the west, if they have a historical tour, it will include something like Creek Steet, the old "Redlight District." The implications of this could make the subject of a study that could take a lifetime to sort through.
But our's is not to reason why, we are just tourists passing through. ☺
Tammy shared her pretty smile for the camera with the Ketchikan Creek in the background. The rain had let up enough to allow her to pull her hood down, although the lady in front of her still has her umbrella up.
Looking upstream, we see the rough path the salmon have to travel to get back to where they spawn. Getting past the fishermen and the seals is only part of the problem. They then have to jump past rapids and rocks that can beat them up unmercifully. If instinct didn't push them on so strongly the breed would have died out long ago. But the need to reproduce is stronger than the desire to live. (The previous discussion about Creek Street might tie in here, but we won't go there right now.)
The old "Redlight District" has been renovated and instead of ladies of the night, you now will find book stores, restaurants, and gift shops. It's all very civilized these days. ☺
Care for some "Fish & Chips"? There is even an ATM machine! (I am sure Dolly would have appreciated that in her day. ☺)
It is clear that many other passengers from the cruise lines read their guide books and found their way to Creek Street, because it is a bit crowded.
We ended up splitting up for a bit here, because I wandered off into a bookstore (it is a cross I have to bear, whenever I pass a bookstore I have to go in, I simply can't help myself), and Dotti found a shop down the boardwalk that she couldn't resist. Tammy was watching the wildlife in the creek and was very excited when we all came back together, because she had spotted a seal fishing for salmon.
We saw a number of dead salmon on the rocks beside the Ketchikan Creek.
As Tammy told us we would, we saw a seal fishing in the creek. He came up out of the water and he had a salmon in his mouth, but I didn't get a really good picture of him. You can see his head, and just see the fish in his mouth a bit.
Enclosed telephone booths used to be the standard everywhere, but it had been a while since we had seen one. It made a lot of sense in a place that gets this much rain.
We were running out of time. It was about an hour before the last launch would head back to the ship, and we didn't want to miss it, and we had seen what we had come to see.
Tonight would be another formal dinner, but we had some rough water to get through before that. First we tackled the Tongass Narrows in the small launch and later it was the Pacific Ocean in the ship.
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