Friday, September 5, 2008

Photos and More Commentary from Ketchikan and Juneau

It’s Friday and we spent the day in Skagway, but I want to catch up a little bit on the last few days so will save today's report for tomorrow!

A few things I learned about Ketchikan: It is known as the Salmon Capital of the World and also as the Rain Capital of Alaska, with about 162 inches of precipitation each year. There is a higher concentration of Alaskan Native people in Ketchikan than any other city in the state and “Ketchikan” is said to mean “Eagle River” in Tlingit. It is also home to many recovered totem poles from around the area, which are now displayed in the Heritage Museum that we enjoyed visiting. It is so interesting to learn about the history of the Alaska Native people and all that they have accomplished over many years, despite all of the hardships they have faced.

The first several photos are from Ketchikan and then the rest are from our visit to Juneau. We had a lot of fun there with Kyle and Emily, who took us on a little sightseeing tour of the area. We saw the amazing Mendenhall Glacier, which is huge, but continues to retreat as the glacial ice melts. We encountered a baby black bear while we were in the park to see the glacier! It was coming straight for us and I was a little freaked out, even though it was just a cub. It was totally disinterested in us, though, and just kept going. Kyle is working part time as a canoe guide and takes people out toward the glacier to get a close-up look. After leaving the glacier, we enjoyed a scenic drive out of town to the Shrine of St. Therese, which was established by the Catholic Diocese of Juneau and is set in a beautiful, lush forest. Stone “stations of the cross” encircle the outside of the chapel and a rock labyrinth invites visitors to walk and pray.

We are in the heart of the Tongass National Forest, which is the largest temperate rain forest in North America, covering almost 17 million acres, including nearly all of Alaska’s Inside Passage. Funny, Juneau has 262.2 miles of hiking trails and only 41 miles of roadway. Here’s some trivia for you: Alaska has one mile of road for every 42 square miles of land, compared to the US average of one to one! Juneau is named after a gold prospector named Joseph Juneau who came to the area with Richard Harris in 1880. The town was first named Harrisburg but that name didn’t stick and ended up being called Juneau instead. Wonder how poor Mr. Harris felt about that!

After spending the day in Skagway, we are now on the water again on our way to Glacier Bay. More updates tomorrow!

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