We were scheduled to arrive at our first port of call, Ketchikan, at 6:30 AM. That
probably happened, although we were not up to observe it. Our first land excursion was a Rainforest Nature Walk through the second largest rain forest in the world, after the Amazon. Our driver and guide for the bus ride to the forest was Lisa who announced, “I am super fantastic!… And I am also super humble.” She did give a good talk along the way, though. She described how a cruise ship, in windy weather, refused pilot assistance and smashed into the dock, causing three billion dollars worth of damage. Three billion dollars? Maybe there was a little exaggeration there, or I heard it wrong. The population of Ketchikan is 3000, not counting tourists, and they have 13 feet of rain a year. Ketchikan is on an island and there are only three ways to get to the island, boat, plane, and canal… birth canal.
There are four grocery stores on the island, the latest to arrive as a Walmart which sold out the very first day it opened. It’s not a big Walmart, apparently. The ratio of men to women is 3:1 which you would think would be great for women except that our guide offered the opinion that the men were a little odd.
We then began the nature walk and I learned that the soil is only 5 feet deep, which means that trees have to grow their roots sideways, without a tap root, and more significantly, trees grow on other trees, and we saw a few examples of that along the way. The trees that other trees and grow from is okay called a “nursery log”. By the way, in case you were wondering, the Western Hemlock in Alaska is not related at all to the European Hemlock.
We’re too early to see any salmon spawning because the season for that is in August.
Also, Alaska is going through a drought at the moment. We did see evidence of brown bears which will mark the trees with their claws, high up as possible, to intimidate rival bears. There were also other marks even higher up made by baby bears who were climbing the tree to avoid being killed by adult male bears. In this region bears hibernate in a semi-conscious state, and actually deliver their cubs during their hibernation.
We saw a wide variety of vegetation, of course, including skunk cabbage, moss, lichen, Devil’s Club, Sitka Spruce and the poisonous Fool’s Huckleberry, and Red Elderberry. We also learned that the call of an eagle is a high pitched squeaky note, so in movies they use the deeper call of a red tailed hawk instead.
The most fascinating thing was when we came to an open area with a big wooden ramp where we saw over a dozen eagles together. Most of them were gathered in the little area by the water, and it turned out the reason was that there was salmon that they were eating. It was a relatively civilized process, as food competitions go. It seems like there were more or less taking turns. There was a salmon ladder here too, and the guide explained that they now have learned that the way salmon navigate is by means of the metal in their scales interacting with the gravitational characteristics of their spawning ground, and route to their spawning ground.
We finished the tour with a visit to an old saw mill, which, I believe, has been in operation up until 1992. Has the special design feature in that it can cut a log simultaneously horizontally and vertically, and there was also a planer which can smooth four sides of a board at once.
We met Carl who has been carving totem poles for 27 years, and has cut 40 poles in that time. It takes about eight months to carve a pole. However, it
looked like he was taking a shortcut with the one he was working on now. It had only about two vertical feet of carving at the bottom, and the rest was smooth up to where a big fish carving was going to be mounted. Not at all like the typical ones with the carving all the way up, that often tell a story. We did buy our one Alaska souvenir, a winged totem pole.
After we were driven back to the
boat, I took a walk through town, which basically consists of one street along the water’s edge, with all sorts of provisions for boats. Actually, I spent most of my time sitting in a bar discussing my cell phone bill with AT&T and got adjustments made in two categories of charges, Canadian and shipboard. Thank you AT&T! (I don’t think the picture looks much like a selfie, but it is.)
Back on board ship, in the early evening, we met on the sixth level of the splendid golden multi-decked Atrium to proceed
down to the main stairway for our “teaser” performance, which I think was very impressive, although not error-free. We then gathered in the in the Gateway Bar for a drink before dinner. If you order a beer or martini, you get two by default. It must be a labor-saving strategy. I asked for an Alaskan beer, and was served “Denali Red”, which is billed on the label to be an Alaskan style beer, and was brewed nowhere near Alaska. Oh well, I tried.
Dinner in the Provence room as usual, except this time we had a celebratory dessert with a
candle for Pat and Sten, who were celebrating their 25th anniversary this day.
At 9 o’clock I headed down to the casino to try my luck at no-limit Texas Hold ‘em. I bought in for $45 and came away with $61 so that wasn’t too bad. We started with two players, one girl joined us, who quickly busted out, along a couple of others who did the same. When I quit, at about 11 pm, we were a table of six congenial people.
ALBUM FOR THE DAY
(Selected pictures that wouldn’t fit in the blog.)