Coming from the north on way to Peril Strait, the Eldred Rock Lighthouse is one of the few originally built lighthouses still standing. It is the only octagonal one in all of Alaska.
Every so often we’d be surprised to find somebody out traveling or working in such empty territory.
Peril Strait is aptly named, as waters begin to narrow.
At one point crewmen are stationed so as to confirm the buoy numbers. It is not pleasant duty.
Now southbound we parade softly pass an endless spectacle of trees.
If they aren’t all off by Haines, they are by Skagway. The Malaspina’s car bays are split – and this truck is all that’s left as we leave Haines. We are halfway through our roundtrip.
We may have seen more barge traffic than boats as we traveled the Inside Passage. Doesn’t matter the time of day that freight comes in, there are men and equipment there to transfer the containers. This took place at Haines and the bright lights mark a tug busy keeping the barge snugged to the docks.
This is what Skagway looks like at 6:30 in the evening. This is the Arctic Brotherhood building. In summer is mobbed by tourists trying to take pictures of it – the facade is all driftwood.
There are only lurkers about in early evening. This man got lost looking for the ferry.
You never know when you are going to stumble on “found art.” while traveling.
Not a great view of the MV Taku but this ferry is a favorite from previous trips. Like our ship, the Malaspina, it was one of the first built. 10 years ago we boarded the Taku in December in Ketchikan and adventure followed adventure for the next 5 days. Here the Taku is parked for the winter.
Ketchikan is a pivot point for the Alaska Marine Highway System. During the busier spring, summer and fall seasons, these ships are all on the go. This is the MV Columbia. In peak season it doubles up on the Bellingham route – so there are two departures each week. Want to get there faster? Take that seaplane you see in the sky.
The MV Prince of Wales operates separately from the state’s Alaska Marine Highway System. It connects Ketchikan with its namesake: Prince of Wales Island. We met a number of folks headed that way. That island is the fourth largest island in the US and has more paved roads than any other SE Alaska islands.
Ketchikan also has an active ship dry-dock business. This is the Gordon Jensen, out of Seattle. It is a fish factory ship originally built in 1943. As I get ready to post this, the ship is now in the far western reaches of the Aleutian Islands and no doubt processing your next fish dinner.
Remember the “Bridge to Nowhere”? It never got the funding and so this little cross-channel ferry continues to takes passengers (& some vehicles) from town to the “International” Airport.
This is a totem that will stand no more. Bug and rot ridden, totems are literally laid to rest on the forest floor. Over time they return to their primitive state: duff that feeds the next generation of growing things.
These two are easy ones to identify: a bear totem and a halibut.
I suppose you could call Dolly’s a totem. Matter of fact, Dolly & Totem go hand in, er, whatever. This place was a famous house of ill repute to early travelers, miners and sailors to Ketchikan.
Creek Street, home to Dolly’s (and other shops) now serves to separate money from the thousands souvenir hungry cruise ship passengers that come here every day from late April to October.
No matter the spelling, we couldn’t avail ourselves of the offer as we are not in tourist season and so no one is about. With 3 major tribes found in SE Alaska deciphering totem legends is not always easy.
Ketchikan has more totems than any other place in the world. This totem is easy to interpret – the bird is a Bald Eagle. These totems were at the Saxman Totem Park.
This pole has some fairly identifiable creatures. Each relates back to the carver’s tribe clans, called moieties. There are 634 recognized First Nation bands or tribe spread across Canada.
To give you some idea of the amount of work that went into the totem in the previous image, this is a detail from it. The individual chisel marks and the patterns made as the artist shaped each creature reveals the care and artistry that went into its making.
Even one of the hotels in Ketchikan has an area dedicated to this art form. Unfortunately nothing in the hotel’s website told me anything about these beautiful pieces.
I call this shot “Caterpiller People”. This time of year there are still a few hardy souls that choose to sleep in the solarium.
It is inexpensive and fairly warm – note the ceiling mounted heaters. However, on this older ferry, anyone staying on this deck has to go leave the shelter of the solarium, travel down an open deck to a door that will lead to the bathroom. The newer ships have a bathroom accessible from inside the shelter.
It’s pretty easy to meet people. Things are low key in winter and the ship is full of Alaskans going home. Dan was coming back to Ketchikan. He and his wife just completed a six month slow journey around the US, their first trip of that kind. As he told me, he was, “Coming back with new eyes.”
The Malaspina has a number of nooks and displays. This cabinet contained a few pieces of local (Native) art. The basket above was a basket meant for harvesting seaweed. The vest was made of sealskin and the beading was beautifully intricate.
What goes up must come down. There are only a few sections of the Inside Passage where you are exposed to the Pacific. This was one of them. Note the mountains in view at top, then the sea at bottom. It looks worse that it was. The cook wasn’t sure why I was shooting him.
Who goes to Alaska in winter? For the third time in ten years I have. Even though South East Alaska is geographically a small part of the state, it offers a vastness and beauty that is wonderfully easy to reach by ferry. It is all the more dramatic in winter, away from the crowds and close to a wonderland of mammals and mountains.
Late on a Friday afternoon we board the M/V Malaspina. Even the Port of Bellingham looks exotic through the wide panoramic windows of the observation deck.
Though many travel by car, we are on foot. Most of the folks that we met onboard were from SE Alaska and returning home. Some were from further north and would have a ways to go before reaching Anchorage or Fairbanks. Amtrak can also drop you right next door if you want to come without a car.
There is freight to be moved. Not only in the hold but at nearly every port we stopped at we saw Linden Transport’s equipment. From Bellingham, Lynden just drops their trailers on board. When the destination port is reached then one of Lynden’s trucks will drive on and hook up. Though seas are generally very favorable on the Inside Passage, the ship’s crew still takes every caution and firmly anchors any trailer.
This is our itinerary. On the northbound leg, reflected above, we’ll be stopping in a few places that we won’t be awake for. Other stops will allow us to venture off the ship and take in some local sights.
This is my traveling companion, brother Mike. He’s already engaged some of the locals as you can see. We are going to make some new and unusual friends on this trip if Mike has his way.