Trip 2: Ketchikan, Juneau, Gustavus

The day after I got back from Denali and seeing the gorgeous mountain out in all of her glory, I was flying over her to head to my trip #2!  Josh and I were flying to meet up with my Dad and Julie.  Josh and I got upgraded to first class and got to see the mountain out.  It was a perfect way to start our trip!  We puddle jumped quite a bit to finally arrive in Ketchikan.  We were on what is nicknamed the milkrun.  We stopped in Anchorage, Juneau, Sitka, and then finally Ketchikan!  It was Sitka where we were low to the water, ready to land, when the plane pulled up and away from the runway.  Fifteen minutes later the pilot came on the speaker saying we couldn’t land because there were eagles too close to the runway!  Oh Alaska problems!

We landed in Ketchikan and saw my Dad and Julie, who were waiting for us for almost two hours!  They met some fun people while waiting and got to order food through glass (they were stuck out of the terminal).  We got our bags and realized we had to catch a ferry that only left the airport for Ketchikan every 30 minutes.  Since my Dad was there way before us, he had already gotten the rental car, so we ended up third in line for the ferry.  I was shocked at how many cars fit on the small ferry.

None of us have been to Ketchikan before, so everything was new!  We all were looking all around and taking note of how industrial and scenic it all was.  I loved all the colors and eagles I saw all across the city.  Josh was sitting in the passenger seat, aka the cartographer.  He was having Siri lead us all over the place.  I had directions from the lady who owned the AirBNB we were staying at but Josh decided he didn’t want them.  We drove around for awhile.  Fun fact about Ketchikan, some of the street signs would lead you no where!  Haha!  You would see a sign for a street and you would turn into a driveway or no road at all, which made finding the place we were staying just a little more difficult.  Josh ended up leading us to an area and we had no idea where the AirBNB was so he finally caved and read the directions.  We went back the way we came and then back to the main part of town.  We traveled through town and ended up RIGHT WHERE JOSH HAD LED US!  We looked around and found our place!  How funny!

I loved a lot about Ketchikan but one negative was parking.  There was nowhere to park! We parked on the road against the curb in front of our place and ended up getting a ticket day 1!  Ha!  We then found a place to park after hitting up the store for snacks, beer, and wine.  Our rental car stayed there the rest of the duration of our stay in Ketchikan.

We were right below a salmon ladder, which is a manmade structure to help salmon get through a rough part of a river or stream that may have elevation or rapids to it.  I almost wish we had a salmon ladder, or an easier way to climb up and down the 57 stairs it took to get to the place we were staying at.  We carried our bags up the 57 stairs and then relaxed for a little in the fabulous place!  It had three bedrooms, one large bathroom, a clean kitchen, spacey living space, and incredible balcony.  We spent a lot of time on the balcony enjoying the views of the tree covered hills that surrounded us.  We decided to walk to town and find a place to just eat and relax for awhile!  We loved town!  All the wooden buildings were elevated over water and so colorful!  It probably helped that we hit a little sunshine right when we got there.  We took a little tram up to Cape Fox, which cost three dollars a person.  Cape Fox has lodging and a restaurant.  The restaurant was just what we were looking for!

The food was absolutely amazing, the staff was friendly and responsive, and we had a blast drinking draft alaskan beer, eating appetizers, king crab, and laughing!  We were at the Cape Fox restaurant for over four hours.  When we left we headed back down the tram.  The once busy little town was now quiet and you could hear the river trickling versus conversation.  We took the Married Man’s Trail back to our place.

We made it up the 57 stairs and Josh had a fellow Alaskan swim coach, Patrick and his girlfriend Megan come over for a night cap.  We had a great time talking about coaching, Ketchikan, and Alaska.  It was great meeting them!

The next morning we slept in, which felt great!  We decided to walk around Ketchikan and see what Ketchikan was all about.  Turns out Ketchikan really caters to the cruise ships, which many coastal Alaskan towns do.  We walked down to the docks where there were multiple ships.  They had a informational kiosk building where people desperately attempted to get everyone passing through the tour they were promoting.  We ended up falling for one.  It was a tour around Ketchikan where you see some popular spots.  We learned more about the history of Ketchikan.  We went to the salmon ladder right in front of where we were staying (our place was just about part of the tour!), to a spot where you could possibly see black bears, the Saxman Native Village, a spot for eagles and where they bring in some fish, and then they drop you off at Dolly’s House.  Dolly’s house was Dolly Arthur’s house, Creek Street’s in Ketchikan’s most famous madam!  A lot of Creek Street’s history has to do with Dolly and Married Man’s Trail!  Creek Street, which I had been calling town was at the center of Ketchikan’s Red Light District.  There were brothels offering services to men working in Ketchikan in fishing and lumber industries.  The overall tour was fun!  We did see some eagles, no bears, and the Saxman Village was great!  I don’t think I would have paid to go in to see Dolly’s house museum, but the tour gave us free passes to go through it.  It was interesting getting to see the 1900s antiques.

After the tour we ended back up the tram to Cape Fox for more food!  We again ate until we almost exploded!  I would recommend the baked brie and crab dip over nachos!  It is not on the menu but just ask.  It was beyond delicious!  All the food we had there was pretty darn spectacular.  After another fun time at Cape Fox we headed back to our AirBNB.

We again made it up the 57 stairs and decided to play some poker!  We didn’t have poker chips so we improvised.  We looked around and ended up using rubber duckies, shells, and q-tips.  We drank our beer and wine we had bought the first day in Ketchikan.  Us ladies did pretty well at first.  Dad had to borrow from the bank at one point!  As we laughed and drank, time flew by.  It was an evening to remember!

The next morning snuck up on us!  We had to pack, shower, and make the ferry back to the airport.  We were on our way to Juneau.  We carried everything down those 57 steps and just made it onto the ferry on time. We were on the milkrun again.  We left Ketchikan and touched down in Petersburg and Wrangell before making it to Juneau.  We got our rental car and went to Island Pub on Douglas Island.  I have been there before and it was just as yummy as I remembered.  We checked into our AirBNB and then headed to see the Mendenhall Glacier.  It was not raining so I wanted to do and see what all we could with this nice weather!  Nice weather can be pretty rare in the south east and coastal cities of Alaska.  The glacier was beautiful.  We also hiked out to Nugget Falls which was about 1.5 miles roundtrip.  Seeing how much water was rushing out of the falls was just awe inspiring.  We took some photos, videos, and enjoyed the beach.

We then went to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center and watched the short video on the glacier.  The movie was very eye opening.  You get to see how much the glacier has receded and how that has changed and shaped the land, wildlife, and nature surrounding it.  I recommend watching it if you have the time!  After the video we headed to Fred Meyer’s, the Alaska Walmart of sorts, to stock up on some snacks, breakfast foods, and more libations.  We brought the food back and popped some frozen pizzas in the oven.  Hilary and her almost five year old, adventurous, shark-loving son, Olin came later that night!  We went to bed relatively early because we had a wildlife boat trip early in the morning!

We woke up and headed out to a dock in Auke Bay.  We used Rum Runner Charters for the tour, they were my mom and I’s favorite boat charter we took two years ago.  Captain Chris met us right at the top of the dock.  While he was talking about the tides and life in the harbor, Olin announced that he saw a whale!  We all kind of blew his remark off, yeah right did Olin see a whale already!  …but he did!  There were two humpback whales right in the harbor!

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After we left the harbor we saw some Bald Eagles and some “Sea Puppies” (aka: Sea Lions).  We saw some more humpback whales as well!  One of them gave fluke pretty darn close to us!  Another lung fed so we got to see it’s flipper and belly!  Olin took note of the barnacles he saw on the flipper!  It didn’t rain too hard and wasn’t too foggy which was nice.  We ended up the trip seeing more eagles, whales, sea lions, and harbor seals.

It was a rainy day in Juneau.  We were hungry after our four hour boat trip so we went straight to twisted fish after getting off the boat.  Food there was also pretty darn good!  We went back to the AirBNB house after lunch to reassemble.  After a little relaxation time we went to see Hilary’s dad’s boat, which was in a harbor about a half mile away.  The boat was awesome!  It was huge, with so many nice homey touches.  Olin tried on an emergency suit while on the boat that made him look like a robot lobster.  This provided about 20 minutes of laughter and entertainment.  We then walked to the Island Pub for some more food!  The Island Pub was about two blocks from our AirBNB rental!  I really love Douglas Island. It is close to the city of Juneau but without the abundant amount of foot traffic and other tourists.  That night Hilary’s dad and Hilary’s friend came over for a game of Battle of the Sexes!  It was a blast but the women always lost!

The next morning we slept in and awoke to sunshine!!!  It was absolutely gorgeous!  We decided we just had to go on a hike!  We chose to go on Perseverance Trail, which is a trail full of history that helped shape Juneau.  Along the trail you will see old mining remnants including an old mine shaft where you can get a very cool breeze!  We walked about a mile and a half down the trail and then headed back.  We went to a few bridges that crossed over a stream.

When we got back to town we went to lunch at the Red Dog Saloon.  It was a lot of personality for us who were a little tired from hiking and staying up late the night before.  The food was pretty good though.   After lunch we went to the Alaskan Fudge Co and then the Alaskan Brewing Company.  After our desert, some souvenirs, and a quick grocery run, Josh drove us to the Alaskan Brewing Company Brewery for a Brewery Sampling Tour.  We got to try seven different beers, or seven samples of beer.  Everyone working there were very polite, friendly, and professional.  Julie and I left a little buzzed, but luckily we had our Designated Driver!  The store in Juneau also has shuttles out to the brewery for these tastings that are nice so you don’t have to drive.

We went back to the house to change for dinner at Salt, one of Juneau’s nicest restaurants.  We had a new server which made for a few hiccups but overall dinner was delicious!  We went back to the house and played more battle of the sexes!  The women finally won because we switched the cards… women were answering the women cards and men we answering the men cards.  The women cards that we supposed to be for the men were way easier than the men questions meant for the women, even the men agreed.

The next day we woke up and were determined to find a black bear!  We kept hearing about black bears being around Ketchikan and Juneau, it was time to see one!  We drove back out to Auke bay and headed up the road a ways to the Shrine of St. Therese.  We got out of the car and walked out to the shrine.  It was another spectacular day full of sunshine.  We headed back towards town when all of a sudden my Dad yelled, “A Bear! A black and a brown bear!”  Josh stopped the car suddenly and we all leaned over and looked out to the right of the car!  I saw them for a brief instant and watched them run off into the woods.  We decided to wait for a few minutes to see if they would come back out.  After about 5 minutes they emerged from the brushes behind us.  There were two black bears, one was very dark black, and the other was very brown in color.

We watched them until another vehicle scared them off.  I was so excited to get to see some black bears and enjoyed seeing the color difference between the two.  Great eye Dad!  After the bear viewing we went to a Mexican restaurant.  We ate way too much!  We then left for the airport.  We had some extra time and we spent it relaxing at the airport getting ready for Gustavus and Glacier Bay National Park!

The flight to Gustavus was the quickest flight I have ever had.  I think it was 18 minutes long from take off to landing.  Of course this was the flight I got upgraded to first class too!  Haha!  The scenery was spectacular and the airport very tiny!  Your checked bags are claimed outside.  We stayed at Wild Alaska Inn and Jan picked us up from the airport.  My Dad and Julie are not the best at compact packing so we had quite a few bags.  The Inn has a van and a smaller electric vehicle to shuttle people to and from activities and the airport.  Jan brought the smaller electric vehicle and miraculously we all fit!  Julie and I had to hold onto our bags in the trunk and the trunk door had to be open during the drive but we made it!

The Inn was very rustic and eclectic, a great Alaskan experience!  All the rooms and bathrooms were very clean and the food was top notch!  We had two rooms upstairs and shared a bathroom between us four and one other bedroom of guests.  I was a little worried my Dad wouldn’t fit in the twin bed (each room had two twin beds in the upstairs rooms).  I took the bed with a foot board since I was the shortest.  Everyone fit in their beds and seemed to sleep well.  We just relaxed that evening and got prepared for our Glacier Bay National Park Tour the next day.

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We woke up to a delicious breakfast of crepes!  Jan drove us to the harbor to get on the boat for the Glacier Bay National Park Tour.  We got a spot upstairs on the right side of the boat near the door so I could pop on out to photograph.  The tour was knowledgeable and entertaining.  There were some good wildlife sightings and their junior ranger program was very thorough on the boat.  My favorite wildlife we saw were the mountain goats!  I typically choose smaller boats to see ocean life, I like to be close to the water and see the animals more on eye level.  For the mountain goats, they are typically higher in the cliffs so a larger boat worked pretty well for the goats!

Other animals we were lucky to see were sea lions, seabirds, eagles, black bears, brown bears, sea otters, harbor seals, and wolves.  The wolves would have been my favorite animal sighting but they were so far away that they were more like wolf dots!

It wouldn’t be Glacier Bay National Park without some Glaciers!  The whole area used to be one giant glacier but it receded to the point that there are a bunch of smaller ones that are currently retreating everyday up the mountains.  Some of the glaciers we saw were still tide water glaciers, or glaciers that are still reaching the ocean.  These glaciers are fun to listen to.  You can hear the cracking, the splashing, and the crash of the pieces of ice caving from the glacier.

We got back to the harbor and spent some time and money at the Glacier Bay Lodge!  The lodge was more like a series of little cabins.  We didn’t try the food there but the draft beers were pretty scrumptious and refreshing after a day at sea!

We were picked up at the lodge and found out some sad news about our hosts at the Inn. Every year in Alaska you hear of fatal plane accidents and animal related deaths.  About a week and a half before we got to the Inn I heard about two plane crashes in the same day.  One was a crash with prominent men of Fairbanks.  They crashed north of Fairbanks a little ways and were both killed in the accident.  I then heard about another crash that happened near Haines.  This involved three people, one of which surviving.  One of the men that was killed in this crash was the oldest son of the people who own the Inn.  You hear about crashes and might know someone who might know someone who has died in a crash, but with so many small planes flying everyday, it is crazy that we were at the Inn whose son died in this tragedy.  We felt for the family and tried to bring them a little light, laughter, and smiles, during this horrible time in their lives.

When we got back to the Inn we had another yummy dinner!  We brought our own wine in box form and had a few glasses with dinner.  After dinner we played Apples to Apples.    We laughed, drank some wine, and played the game for over an hour.  After the game we went up to bed to get ready for our all day wildlife tour.

We woke up and had some breakfast.  We were all ready for our small boat wildlife trip! On the way we saw Jan driving towards us… He stopped us and said it was too choppy to go out on the boat in the morning.  We were disappointed but also were glad to not go if the weather and winds were too strong.  We went out to the dock anyway and ended up hiking around on the beach admiring the Bald Eagles during the low tide.

It got a little windy and we were picked up by Ella to bring us back to the Inn.  After grabbing a few items we ended up getting a ride back to the lodge and Glacier Bay National Park.  We thought we would do a little hiking.  We got there and as Josh, Julie, and I were waiting for my Dad, he got out and saw two black bears in the Lodge parking lot!  The bears quickly ran into the woods.  Only Dad saw them and I was extremely jealous!

We went into the lodge and relaxed for a bit.  There was a Glacier Bay National Park exhibit from the National Park Service upstairs in the lodge.  It had some great displays and information.  One of the most fascinating items I saw what a set of whale bones on display!  Pretty awesome!

We were thinking of looking at the menu for a snack or appetizer for lunch but then someone informed us that a black bear was in the backyard of the lodge!  We rushed outside and saw two black bears!  It was an older cub and a sow.  It was a little bit of a circus.  We would see the bears go by and then rangers go by.  Then the bear would run back and a ranger would follow, the bear would leap into the tall grass and come out on the other side of the ranger.  It got a little intense once when the sow ran towards the ranger but the ranger stood tall and stood his ground.  The ranger backed a way a little and the bear walked by.  The cub then seemed to be stressed out searching for it’s mother.  It climbed a tree and was chased off by rangers in all directions.  We watched the bears for a good 30 minutes before they finally ran off.

After all the excitement with the bears we got notified that we were going to head back to the lodge for lunch and then out on the boat in the afternoon!  I was pretty excited!  We ate and then were shuttled to his boat.  The boat was very functional.  He actually made the boat from the hull up, which is super impressive!  We headed out on the boat and first saw an otter.

We went across the bay and saw more otters and a whale.  The whale poofed air a few times and finally gave a little tail.  We rounded the corner and Josh spotted a brown bear sow and two older cubs!  We headed towards shore towards them.  The sow seemed pretty focused on what she was doing and didn’t seem to notice us right away.  When they did end up noticing us they went pretty quickly into the woods.  We then headed out to the open ocean.

We saw some more humpback whales, sea lions, and eagles out on the ocean.  The whales were further away and weren’t very active but the sea lions put on a pretty great show!

It took quite a while to get back to the dock in Gustavus.  When we did get back we went straight to dinner.  There were new guests and the Inn was full.  The dinner again was delicious.  After dinner we relaxed a bit but then went to bed pretty early because we had an early morning fishing trip.

It was fishing day!  The boat was in the same little harbor as the first larger boat in Glacier Bay National Park.  Surprisingly to me we actually fished all day in Glacier Bay National Park.  We killed animals in a National Park!  It was a weird feeling!  Lucky for the National Park we didn’t actually kill that much.  Both Jan and our fishing boat captain Jim both commented on the changing of the ocean and wildlife.  Animals were not in their typical locations for this time of year, fish seemed to be no exception.  We were fishing for Halibut but only ended up getting one.  We did get a lot of “uglies”, an arrow tooth Turbin, a blue eye lady, a flounder, and one “ugly” with an octopus inside of it!  During the fishing charter we saw humpback whales, harbor porpoises, sea lions, otters (a WHOLE BUNCH of otters), a variety of birds, and a few harbor seals!  Even though fishing wasn’t exactly that amazing for Halibut it was still a fun day.

We got back and we were pretty pooped.  Ella cooked up the flounder and the arrow tooth turbin to compare to our black cod dinner.  The black cod was definitely our favorite fish they served.  Although the fish we caught were extremely fresh, they didn’t quite taste as delicious as the black cod or any other fish we had there.  Both fish weren’t bad though.  We attempted to drink the equivalent of 8 bottles of wine to finish our box wines, but epically failed.  Josh tried his hardest though.

Sleeping in felt fabulous.  We had crepes again, which were my favorite breakfast.  We decided we would bike to town on the last day in Gustavus!  Julie was a little weary at first, her depth perception isn’t the best, but she was the best biker of all of us!  Dad picked a bike with a flat tire and then had trouble biking it to town!  Haha!  He was peddling so hard and yet going nowhere!  I picked an old school bike with no gears.  It was a bike made for survival and strolling, not speed and off roading.  Lucky for us we were only biking on the road.  I could have chosen a little quicker of a bike when we were heading back in the rain, but I truly enjoyed our biking adventure!

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After we got about 3/4 the way to town Dad and Josh switched bikes.  When we got to town Josh filled up the bike tire at the gas station.  We then went to the Sunnyside Market.  Town consists of about 5 shops on four corners.  There are other stops and spots in town but the main area seemed to consist of a few places in one structure, the gas station, and Sunnyside Market.  We rehydrated at Sunnyside and then shopped at a little gift/art shop across the main road.  We helped the Gustavus economy by buying some souvenirs before heading back to the Inn for our last meal in Gustavus.  We pulled out all of our leftover snacks we brought from Juneau and the leftover sandwiches Ella made us from the day before.  We ate so much that most of us ended up napping before we had to go to the airport.  On the way to the airport we had to stop and get our little baby amount of fish!  We got to the airport in plenty of time and had about 30 minutes to kill waiting for our flight.

We had to fly from Gustavus back to Juneau, then to Anchorage, and then finally Fairbanks!  It took all afternoon and most of the night but we made it!  Dad and Julie got to meet Elias!  We were all exhausted and slept in, well all except Josh.  Josh had to go to work in the morning.  We met up for breakfast and then relaxed back at the house.  Just getting to relax at home was great.  I let Dad and Julie choose dinner and they chose the Pump House!  I am always up for the Pump House.  We sat in the bar area by the pool tables.  Between the fried zucchini sticks, oysters, and beers, we were having a superb happy hour before Josh arrived.  Dad and I ended up getting King Crab, which I wish I could eat every day!

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We watched a television show for a few episodes before retiring off to bed.  4:30am came way too quickly.  We had to head off to the airport to drop of Dad and Julie.  It was sad but what an amazing trip we got to have!  We got to see Glaciers, bears, whales, sea lions, and so much more.  We ate lots of fresh sea food and drank local beers.  It was a lot of flights, landings and take offs, but everything went pretty darn smoothly.  The sun was also extremely cooperative, which may have been the most rare sighting of all in the southeast.  It was great spending time with family and getting to create memories no one will forget.  All the planning and money was worth it!  I can’t wait for the next adventure!  Thank you again Dad and Julie for coming up to Alaska!

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