Sitka, a surprising Alaskan experience…

The cloudy scenes were appealing, although a sunny day in Sitka would have been nice.

Please note: We’re finalizing the headcount for the “Meet & Greet” for our readers in Minneapolis on June 9th from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm at:

Grizzly’s Wood Fired Grill at this location in Plymouth, Minnesota:
220 Carlson Pkwy N, Plymouth, MN 55447
Please RSVP if you plan to attend and haven’t already done so.  Hope to see you then!
It’s not easy to describe Sitka, Alaska. It’s a combination of rustic cabins, many worn and tattered, ocean front homes of varying sizes and value and a few more modern properties built or being built by those seeking refuge from the hustle and bustle of life in more populous areas in North America and other parts of the world.
The “Welcome to Sitka Alaska” sign greeted us as we disembarked the ship.
However, it’s easy to see how Sitka may become the chosen place to-run-away-and-hide from the rigors of big city life. The surrounding scenery is some of the most exquisite in the world, rife with wildlife, lush vegetation, mysterious little islands and some of the world’s most prolific fishing suitable for all skill levels.
There are thousands of small islands in the sea surrounding Alaska.
Here are some fun facts we found on Sitka from this website:
  1. Sitka is the first and oldest city in Alaska, some sources say it is 10,000 years old

  2. For 63 years Sitka was a major Russian port. (Fur trading)

  3. Sitka was the site of the signing of the Alaska purchase on October 18th, 1867.

  4. The City and Borough of Sitka, Alaska, encompasses 4,710 square miles, making it the largest city in the United States.

  5. Sitka, Alaska is the 4th largest city in Alaska by population after Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau. (Population around 9,000)

  6. Sitka was featured in the hit US movie, “The Proposal” with Sandra Bullock, although most of the scenes of the city are actually filmed in Boston

  7. Smithsonian Magazine named Sitka number 9 in the 20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2013

  8. Travel Channel Recently Featured Sitka on their popular show “Bizarre Foods

  9. James Michener lived here while writing his epic novel Alaska

  10. John O Connell Bridge between Baranof and Japonski Island is the first cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere

We were the only ship in port and the crowds in the town weren’t wrong.

As is the case in each location we visit, we ask ourselves the interminable questions, “Should we return here for a two or three-month stay or could we ever live here?” Yes, to the first question. No, to the second.

Our bus driver explained that most days it was so foggy and cloudy a scene such as this would have been impossible.

We’ll never live in such a cold and snowy location after spending a lifetime in Minnesota for Tom, and over 40 years for me, in the frozen tundra that so well describes the winter months in the cold northern state, bordering Manitoba, Canada.

Walrus tusk decorator items.

Then again, the bigger question becomes…”Will we ever “live” anywhere permanently?” Highly unlikely, based on our current joy in living as nomads, a lifestyle we’ve easily adopted, hopefully for the long haul.

Me in another giant bear chair.

Yesterday, after uploading the post, we bundled up in warm clothing and made our way to deck two to depart the ship for the free bus shuttle to downtown Sitka. 

Is this some type of Bison?

Getting off the ship was relatively quick and easy but the line inside the visitor’s center waiting to board the free shuttle buses was long and slow. We waited for no less than 20 minutes. 

Me, posing in yet another bear chair.

The ride to the center of the small town was another 15 minutes but the breathtaking scenery on the way and the informational chatter of the bus driver kept us occupied.

St. Michael’s Cathedral is also known as the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel“.

It’s nearly impossible to take good photos from a fast-moving bus. However, once we arrived in downtown Sitka, the photo ops were plentiful as we walked around the town bumping into other cruise passengers along the way, occasionally stopping to chat with others we’d met on the cruise.

View of St. Michael’s Cathedral from the main road.

As we wandered through the tiny town, my interest in visiting Sitka increased. The cozy small town feel, the handcrafted items in the shops, the playfulness of its residents whether the bus driver or shop owners, all play a significant role in making Sitka a desirable location for visitors.

Alternate view of the church.

We’re totally convinced that the “flavor” of Alaska is hardly perceived on a cruise. Yes, its’ a decent way to catch a few of the highlights but it’s hardly the perfect medium to fully embrace the vastness and beauty of this magical place.

Shops in the center of Sitka.

Hopefully, someday when the time comes to explore North America, Alaska will be on our itinerary if we’re able to find affordable vacation homes in a few different areas or, as our friends Chere and Gary did a few years back, rent a motorhome/caravan and explore on our own.

A pretty scene from the shoreline in Sitka.

Today is a sea day. We’re comfortably situated in Cafe al Bacio on deck five in perfect seats for viewing the upcoming Egg Drop Contest, whereby ambitious passengers make contraptions from which they can competitively drop raw eggs from upper decks to the atrium floor on deck three. It’s a silly but fun event we always find humorous to watch.

View of the bay in Sitka.

With no breakfast this morning, we’ll head to lunch after the Egg Drop Contest, the Captain’s Club happy hour from 5:00 to 7:00 pm, dinner in the Epernay Dining Room by 7:15 and later head to the 9:00 pm show in the Solstice Theatre. At 10:15 pm, we’ll stay up for the adult comedy show.

The dense fog in the forested hills.

Between preparing today’s post, managing our many photos, chatting with passengers, my working out in the gym, the sea day and evening will be packed with plenty to keep us occupied and entertained.

Tom, by our ship.

Tomorrow is packing day. In 48 hours, we’ll be disembarking the ship to grab a taxi to the Sea-Tac airport to fly to Minnesota. How the time has flown!

Be well.  Be happy.

Photo from one year ago today, May 24, 2016:

A year ago we had the opportunity to meet Gede’s our house man’s gracious parents who live in Lovina, Bali where we went to extend our 30-day visas. For more details, please click here.

Part 2, Hubbard Glacier…Wow! Wow! Wow!

We encounter aspects of this world in our travels that leave us emotional with our mouths agape in sheer wonder and awe.  Such was the case yesterday when our ship sailed to the Hubbard Glacier in Alaska.

As we approached the Hubbard Glacier.

Our captain’s adventurous nature and desire to please his passengers got us as close as any cruise ship dare venture when calvings (equivalent to avalanches) were occurring every 10 minutes or so.

Beautiful mountains surround the glacier.

We’d love to have been able to capture calving, but they happened so quickly we kept missing the photo op, especially without our tripod handy on deck five, where we stayed watching the glorious scene for over two hours.

As always, Tom was having a great time.

It was cold outside, and we were bundled up as best as we could with the clothing we have on hand; lightweight jackets, flannel shirts leftover from chilly Penguin, Tasmania, and gloves we’d purchased in the ship’s Alaska shop. I’d added a hat and scarf to my glove purchase, but none were available for men.

At times, we wondered if dark chunks of floating ice were wildlife, but alas, we never saw an animal in the area.

Tom, who more easily stays warm than I, had no trouble staying warm while I nestled up close to him for some added body heat.  Many passengers had brought along heavy down jackets and gloves, but we have no room for such items.

As it turned out, the dark ice was a compilation of rock and dirt trapped in ice.

When we’re on the Antarctica cruise in January, we’ll be renting complete cold-weather outfits through the ship’s pricey rental program. Still, it is undoubtedly better than purchasing everything we’d most likely never use again.

Close up of the top layer of Hubbard Glacier.

After the few hours on deck five, we headed up to our veranda, where we could take the more steady of the two videos included here today when we used the tripod placed on the outdoor table.

This expanse of the glacier is approximately ten stories high.

Although the sun tried to peek through from time to time, the conditions were overcast with dense clouds. Nevertheless, we did our best with the photos, knowing they wouldn’t be perfect in less-than-ideal situations.

Ice floating in the rippling sea as we neared the glacier.

We both feel we’ll need to purchase a more sophisticated camera while we’re in the US, especially with Antarctica and Africa upcoming in the future. These simple cameras we’ve owned over these past years are no longer sufficient for our needs.

The size of the glacier is hard to believe, and it continues to grow over time.

Although I still have a lot to learn about taking photos, I think I’m ready to go to the next level, perhaps taking an online course to help me. I’ve been hoping a more technologically advanced camera would hit the market soon within a reasonable price range that is relatively easy to use without changing many settings while shooting.

The closer we maneuvered toward the glacier, the more the floating ice in the sea.  It’s still early in the summer season.

Alas, I’ve yet to encounter such a product and will soon begin searching for what will work well when weight is a significant factor for me and our baggage. We certainly don’t need any added weight to our already heavy bags and carry-on.

Suppose our current camera continues to hold up. In that case, we’ll keep it since Tom seems to be getting good at handling it, and the idea of us each taking photos in both of the upcoming locations might prove to be the best idea for capturing unique and memorable shots. 

An edge of the glacier.

Today, we’re in Sitka with a plan to get off the ship and explore yet another tourist-orientated town with shops and restaurants. Of course, there’s so much more to see in Alaska, but we’re convinced that someday we’ll return and do so in our way and time.

In reality, one-day visits to ports of call generally don’t do it for us, with a few exceptions. Instead, it’s the magic of living in a location for a period that provides us with the type of experiences that fill our hearts and minds with the richness and depth of any location, hardly accomplished in one day regardless of any tours on which a traveler may embark.

At specific points, the ice appears blue.

This further exemplifies our chosen method of traveling…not quickly skipping from one location to another, instead of spending the time to discover the wonders this fantastic world has to offer.

Of course, one generally doesn’t stay long at the Hubbard Glacier, and for our purposes, this cruise fulfilled our expectations. The sights and scenes yesterday left us reeling with delight over having decided to spend these short nine days on this Alaskan cruise.

We’ll be back tomorrow with many more photos we’ve yet to share.  Have a beautiful day filled with richness and wonder!

Photo from one year ago today, May 22, 2016:

One of the narrow roads we walked in the neighborhood in Bali. For more photos, please click here.