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Exploring Ketchikan

We've got some really rowdy neighbors here at the Bar Harbor marina in Ketchikan!

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Yesterday we worked all morning and then headed up to nearby Tongass Trading to spend a few boat dollars. We picked up an Anchor Buddy and two small anchors for the dinghy, a new gas can (also for the dinghy…the one we have sometimes leaks when it gets heated by the sun), another dry bag, and a couple of bungee straps for miscellaneous things.

In the afternoon we hopped on the city bus (two bucks gets you an all day pass) with Mark and headed out to Totem Bight State Park. Totem Bight is home to 15 totem poles from abandoned Tlingit and Haida villages.

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Eagle Grave Marker. The original stood in the old village of Howkan, and was copied from memory by John Wallace. The addition of the Chilkat blanket to this pole makes it unique, and not a common art form found on totem poles. The design is interpreted as mountains, clouds and creatures that live there.

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Wooded paths lead you out to the water's edge and to a field with more totems:

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Kadjuk Bird Pole: This Tlingit pole was copied from Cat Island. The fabled Kadjuk bird sits on the top of the pole. The undecorated portion of the pole symbolizes the lofty habitat of the bird and the high esteem in which the crest is held.

Raven is the next figure, with his breast forming the headdress of his wife, Fog Woman, wearing the labret in her lower lip. In her hands she holds two salmon, which she produced, the first in the world. The two large faces at the base represent the two slaves of Raven.

This is the entrance to the Clan House:

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[From the Totem Bight State Park website] A community house or clanhouse of this size could have housed 30 to 50 people. Although it is doubtful a clanhouse existed on this site (originally a fish camp), this design is representative of the type in many Indian villages built in the early 19th century.

Inside is one large room with a central fireplace surrounded by a planked platform. The walls and floors were hand-adzed to smooth the surface and remove splinters. The dwelling served as living quarters for several families of a particular lineage. Each was allotted its own space but shared a common fire. Housewares, treasured items, and blankets were stored under the removable floor boards, and food items were hung from the beams and rafters. The members belonging to the house would be headed by a house chief of the same lineage.

The carved house posts supporting the beams inside symbolize the exploits of Duk-toothl. He is a man of Raven phratry wearing a weasel skin hat who showed his strength by tearing a sea lion in two. The painting on the house front was designed by Charles Brown. It is a stylized Raven with each eye elaborated into a face. Designs on the house fronts were rare, and occurred only in cases of great wealth.

On the front corner posts sits a man in a spruce root hat with the crest design on his face and cane in hand. He is ready for a dance or potlatch.

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Close up of Duk-toothl:

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As the totems start to rot, they are returned to the forest and new totems are carved and erected.

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Inside the totem restoration house:

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We walked next door to the gift shop and firearms museum over by Potlatch Park.

It was as expected:

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I found an Alaska yo-yo in the museum section! I had one of these as a kid (and could do it well!)

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After Totem Bight, we hopped back on the bus and had an unplanned tour of Ketchikan (the bus we were on was the one that went the long way to downtown). We explored downtown a bit (bookstore, candy shop, the big Tongass Trading) and then headed over to Creek Street.

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Creek Street is a historic boardwalk of buildings on pilings on the banks of the Ketchikan Creek, and a former Red Light District. Now, it's all shops and galleries…and pretty crowded during the day when there are cruise ships parked out front. We were there after the cruise ships had gone, so it was mostly deserted (which also means, sadly, that most of the shops were closed).

It was gray and rainy yesterday in Ketchikan:

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We met our flotilla group for drinks and a delicious dinner at the Cape Fox Lodge. To get up to the lodge, you take a little funicular car up the hill from Creek Street.

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Most of the others took a couple of cabs back to the marina, but Kevin and I decided to walk off some of dinner, and braved the sideways rain for the two miles back to Bar Harbor. We were soaked by the time we got back to Airship, but it was a fun walk!

I'm sure we'll be bumping into several of these boats (figuratively) as we all continue to explore SE Alaska for the summer.

So far today it hasn't been raining, but the forecast for the next couple of days sounds like gray with rain…so we may go check out the museum and make another pass through the big Tongass Trading downtown.

  • Marinas full of working boats are some of my favorite places, only improved by the sound of Beaver float planes taking off but _without_ the duck tour. Love your pictures!

    • Ours too, John! We’ve also got the float planes here…the Duck Tour just adds a tiny bit of comedy to the whole thing. 🙂

      Thanks!