Skip to content

Exploring Sitka, AK

Airship Goes to Alaska

Sitka3rd-6521

We arrived in Sitka early in the afternoon on the 3rd. The harbormaster put us in an end spot on Float 9 which as it turns out, was a primo spot for watching fireworks from the top deck, but more on that later. 

Sitka_float9-3605

The weather was perfect for an afternoon of exploring, so we headed out shortly after docking. We walked through town, past the Russian Orthodox church…

Sitka-3608

…and the Moose Family Center (love that 70s signage!)…

Sitka-3610

…and over to the Sheldon Jackson Museum:

Sitka-3612

This museum is small but mighty. The Sheldon Jackson museum is the oldest museum in Alaska and is located in the first concrete building in the state. Construction began in 1895 and it has been occupied since 1897. The building was placed on the National Historical Register in 1972.

From their website:

Alaska was under the Russian flag for 126 years, almost as long as it has been part of the United States. The museum’s historical collection of 1,700 objects includes both the Russian colonial era and the American period (1867 to present). Outstanding among the Russian objects are a bronze double-headed eagle emblem, one of only two known to exist, a medallion presented to Alexander Baranov by Catherine the Great, a tri-corner hat and brocaded caftan from the 1840s, and material related to Russian exploration. Tools, weapons, religious icons, documents, and utensils form a comprehensive representation of life in Russian America.

Alaska Native material dominates the collection and includes objects from Alaskan Eskimo, Athabascan, Aleut, and Northwest Coast groups. Items from daily life as well as ceremonial and sacred objects are well represented. The collection of Northwest Coast and Eskimo baskets is among the most comprehensive in existence, and includes fragments of three recently discovered baskets which have been dated to 5,000 years b.p., the oldest ever recovered in Alaska or the Northwest Coast. The collection of Eskimo carved ivory is comprehensive, ranging from prehistoric to twentieth century. The Alaska State Museum also maintains an outstanding collection of work by contemporary Native artists.

We arrived only 30 minutes before they closed and went in anyway. Amazing. They gave us tickets to get back in after the holiday weekend if we want to, and we just might! 

After the museum, we headed for the Sitka National Historical Park.

Sitka3rd-6525

The visitor’s center was already closed, but we got to do what we really came for…the totem trail through the forest.

Sitka3rd-6526

Earlier in town, we stopped at a bookstore where Tiffani picked up a book of information about the totem poles, so she played tour guide and told us about each of the totems we saw along the trail.

The Centennial Pole, the newest one in the park:

Sitka3rd-6528

Sitka3rd-6529

The Tlingit Raven/Shark pole:

Sitka3rd-6538

View from the trail, looking back toward town:

Sitka3rd-6536

Totem detail:

Sitka3rd-6542

This is the Haida “Trader Legend” pole:

Sitka3rd-6540

Detail:

Sitka3rd-6543

This is what’s known as a ridicule pole. These poles were raised to notify everyone of an unpaid debt or of harm or injury to another. The crest of the person who owed the debt or caused the harm or injury would be carved into the pole and raised at a potlatch. The righting of the wrong or payment of the debt was accomplished at another potlatch, again, so that there would be many witnesses. The pole was then burned and the wrong was never mentioned again.

At the top of this pole is a figure representing a white man, indicated by the use of curly hair and a beard. The next figure down is holding a shrimp in its mouth, a symbol to represent a thief. Another symbol of thievery is the crab. It is the fourth one from the top in an upside down position. The bottom figure is a beaver, recognized by the teeth and tail. The original pole stood in the Kaigani Haida village of Sukkwan. This is a replica carved during the 1938-1942 CCC project using local Native carvers.

(Info gathered from EveryTrail.com because I couldn’t remember all the cool details from Tiffani’s book.)

This is the Lakich’inei Pole. The top figure on this pole is Lakich’inei from an ancient Tlingit legend. He is pressing a child who was half human and half dog against the spine of a fish, killing the child. The bottom figure, which you can’t see in this photo) is a bear with a shrimp in his mouth.

Sitka3rd-6556

Sitka3rd-6564

This totem pole was carved by Tlingit Tommy Joseph in 1999 to commemorate Chief K’aylaan, leader of the Tlingits, in the Tlingit/Russian battle in 1804. The pole is located on the site of the Tlingit fort.

Sitka3rd-6551

After the totem trail, we continued on and headed over to Baranof Island Brewing for some beer and a late lunch. Here’s Tiffani and Deke with their beer flight:

Sitka3rd-6573

We got food from the Ashmo’s food truck parked at the edge the outdoor seating area (fish & chips, fish tacos, smoked salmon mac’n’cheese, all good) to go with our beer. Fun afternoon!

We walked back to Airship (along the National Park trail…so nice!):

Sitka-3618

Sitka-3614

Back at Eliason Harbor:

Sitka-3620

Sitka’s fireworks are tonight (July 3rd), but not until it’s dark(ish), which will probably be close to 11pm. We’re ready in our perfect spot!

We brought back a growler from Baranof Brewing and we ordered a late pizza and sat up on the deck for a couple hours before dark, just chatting and watching boats and non-official fireworks.

Sitka-3586

Not a real bird on top of that mast:

Sitka3rd-6579

Sitka3rd-6578

Next up: Fireworks, and 4th of July in Sitka!