Sea kayaking in Orca Cove, Ketchikan Alaska

Ketchikan

Ketchikan, Alaska

6:15 AM wake up for our 7 AM arrival at the Ketchikan port. The city is absolutely charming with the different colored houses making their way up the mountains. Ketchikan is 3 miles long and only 3 blocks wide since the mountains make it difficult to build upon. Some of the “roads” with street signs are actually wooden stairs that lead up the the higher houses that cannot be accessed by traditional paved roads!

View of Ketchikan, Alaska from the Crown Princess cruise ship

We got off the ship right at 7 AM and had about an hour to make our way to the Liquid Sun Gauge where we were to meet our kayaking guides. It was about a 10-minute walk down the dock to the gauge and we perused some stores along the way. One of the stores had a “Short cut to downtown” sign that pointed through its doors as you could walk through the store and out the other side. Talk about cute but effective ways to get people in your store!

We arrived at the Liquid Sun Gauge which had Ketchikan factoids on it and showed how much rainfall the town has seen to date vs. its record of 202.55 inches in 1949. The above shows approximately 180 inches through May of 2016 alone! Next to the gauge is a huge bronze statue called “The Rock” portraying a native Ketchikan woman welcoming all of the traveler types that shaped the town (i.e. gold seekers, fisherman, tradesmen, loggers, and more). We waited by the statue until our guide arrived with a big yellow paddle. She escorted us, along with 6 others, further down the dock to Southeast Sea Kayak’s boat HQ. We got a brief safety instruction, dry bags for our valuables, and life vests. We then transferred to a smaller boat to drive about 20 minutes to Orca Cove. Our transport ship’s Captain was from Australia and was quirky and informative about much of Ketchikan. He told us of the natives and various islands where people live around the city. He also informed us that there was no whistling allowed on the ship. We still have no idea why he was so opposed to our tunes, but both Ryan and I got in trouble a few times for that one!

Sea kayaks in Orca Cove, Ketchikan Alasak

The view on the ride to Orca Cove was amazing. There was a larger boat waiting for us in the cove which had all of our kayaks attached. We hopped from our boat to the larger and got put into our two-person sea kayaks. Ryan was too big for our kayak so they had to remove our rudder controlling pegs so he could fit! We also had to wear these water skirt things that we wore like overalls and that covered the sitting hole so if any water came up onto our kayak, it wouldn’t go inside. The water was very calm, but the skirts were nice since they kept our stuff dry from water running off our paddles and kept the heat in so we were warm!

Sea kayaking in Orca Cove, Ketchikan Alasak

The tide was at its low point for the day and we paddled first to the rocky inlet of a salmon run stream. The tide was so low that all of the water from the stream was gone and we could not paddle up, but we were able to look down and see tons of sea life in the rocks since the water was crystal clear. We saw what must have been thousands of red or purple starfish all over the sea floor and exposed rocks that were waiting for the tide to come back in. There were also loads of anemone and sea cucumbers! The amount of life teaming below our little kayaks was amazing.

Star fish on the rocks during low tied in Ketchikan, Alaska

We continued to paddle along the shore line. There were only 6 of us, our guide, and the sounds of nature. We came across a rushing waterfall sourced from an inland freshwater lake and multiple eagles who were perched close to their nests where they mate for life and raise their young every year. At one point, two bald eagles took off from their tree and flew right over us to the neighboring island. It was incredible!

Sea kayaking in Orca Cove, Ketchikan Alaska

We kayaked for just about 2 hours. It was so relaxing and by far my favorite experience of the trip so far. Unfortunately, we did not see any whales or otters, but the scenery alone was enough to satisfy. We headed back to the kayak docking boat and chatted with the guys who captained the boat for a while about their travel stories and how they arrived in Alaska. Most of the workers we met were seasonal and just traveled the world for each regions various tourist seasons. What a life huh?

The owner of theSoutheast Sea Kayak makes his own smoked salmon which we got to snack on after our kayaking ride. With a little cream cheese and crackers, it was so yummy! Our boat back arrived just as we finished our snack and we hopped on to go back to shore. I was so sad our last Alaskan excursion was over, but there were still a few cruise days left!

It took about 20 minutes to get back to shore. We grabbed our stuff and browsed quite a few of the gift shops on the way back to the boat. I bought some smoked salmon for my folks as they love to have salmon on the bagels in the morning and where better to buy smoked salmon than the salmon capital of the world!?

Hanging with my bear friends in Ketchikan, Alaska

Our ship departed from Ketchikan at 1:15 PM. We had “A Taste of India” for lunch and I was surprised at how good the ships take on Indian food was. It wasn’t the best ever, but it was not disappointing either! After that, we hopped into our bathing suits and into a hot tub on deck 15. We were having a nice time and I was stretching my IT bands in the hot tub since they were a bit sore. With one foot out of the water, I looked up and saw this 40ish year old guy in a bright red jacket with fanny pack take my picture, smile, and wave at me! Then he turned around and walked off. It was so weird and creepy – I guess he really liked my feet?!

We didn’t stay in the tub too much longer after foot guy before we had to run back to the room and get ready for formal night! I wore a blue cocktail dress and Ryan matched me with a navy bow tie. We did a little pre-gaming at the buy one get one for $1 drink event at the Wheelhouse bar – a great way to have some strong and cheap cocktails if you do not have a cruise drink package. We then continued our party in the Botticelli dining room and had quite the feast or lamb and veal pate, beef Wellington and smashed potatoes, and baked apple cake with vanilla ice-cream.
After dinner, Ryan and I grabbed the bottle of wine from our room and headed to Disney trivia in another bar. While Ryan’s sister and her husband knew almost all of the answers, Ryan and I were pretty poor Dinsey fans. The girl hosting the trivia used to work at Disney and her questions were very detailed! We opted for trying our luck in the couples “how well do you know each other” game after trivia, but we got turned away since Ryan and I are not yet married – boo! After being rejected, we decided to head back to the room to watch movies and sleep off our wine!

Sea kayaking in Orca Cove, Ketchikan Alaska


Skagway, Alaska

Skagway, Alaska

7 AM marked our arrival into Skagway. We were surrounded by snow-capped mountains in the inlet with beautiful aqua marine water below us. Ryan and I grabbed a quick bite to eat at the breakfast buffet of oatmeal, waffles, sausage, and fruit, and then we headed off the boat. The line to debark was long as there was a hold up with boat member dressed in really old / dirty bear costumes whom you had to take pictures with in order to debark. Seriously, the cruise hustles you for money at every turn!

We sneakily cut back, maneuvered around the bear photo line, and finally made it off the boat and onto shore. It was so windy and there was a low fog that blocked the sun of coming out. Apparently, all of the helicopter tours slated for the morning were canceled due to the weather! Thankfully for us, we had booked a hike and float tour and we were scheduled for pick up at 9:35 AM.

Skagway, Alaska

There is a shuttle from the ship yard into town for about $5, but with about an hour until pick-up, we walked the wharf trail to the town instead. It only took 10 minutes and was definitely worth doing! The town of Skagway is quite quaint, greeting the boat passengers with a big rail road train and statue of the founders in a well-kept garden area. Once passed the train, there are old buildings lining the gravel street dating back to the gold rush. We walked down Broadway (the main drag) and went into a historical salon that had been restored. We decided to save the gift shops for the afternoon, so we wandered the streets for about 30 minutes longer until it was time to turn back to the boat.

The wait for our transport seemed like it took forever as the wind whipped our hair around and made it much colder than inland. Eventually, two wilderness men showed up looking very mountaineer with a mixture of hiking sandals, big beards, and plaid. Sam and Rosco were to be our guides on our hike and float, and they quickly escorted us to “Kylo Ren”, the newest, all black van in their tour fleet. The guys both had quirky and hilarious personalities, telling corny jokes as we made our 40-minute journey through town and then the mountain side to our hiking spot.

The views along our drive to the Chilkoot Trail in Skagway, Alaska

The view along the drive was spectacular. We followed the inlet into the mountain side during low tide and even saw a few bald eagles.

Sam was a funny type of informative, as many of his historical tid-bits got distracted by seeing his girlfriend biking on the side of the road or further improved upon with side stories from his own journeys. While he had a bit of a tough crowd in the 9 of his passengers, he definitely made for an entertaining guide with a great spirit! This continued as we started up the rainforest trail. We would stop to hear stories from travels around the world, or about Sam’s fascination with finding wild mushrooms and how some of his friends are convinced that, in order to find good mushrooms, you must leave “tokens” of important items in the forest for the gnomes and trolls that live there.

The trail through the forest was so lush. There was moss at every turn and giant trees that were so dense they blocked out the sun. Occasionally, we would have stumbled upon a little stream, or even bear claw markings on the trees that let other bears know how big and strong they were. One of the bear claw markings must have been 10 feet up on the tree that was marked upon!

Hiking on the Chilkoot Trail in Skagway, Alaska

The hike itself was not super strenuous, but that was mostly because we stopped often to chat. There were quite a few steep climbs up and down rock stairs, but our hike was nothing compared to the 33 mile trail the gold rush passers had to take with 100 lb. packs with all of their belongings with another 500 miles to go after they passed through Canada. Those people looking for gold must have been very determined to make such a trek!

We got to talking to our other guide Rosco and, as it turns out, he is a member of a well-known band called “Etcetera and So On” and he toured on Warped Tour and all over the world. He was in Alaska visiting / working for some friends at Skagway Brewery between tours. It was really interesting talking to him about his life, his travels, and his Shell Silverstine tattoos. You can meet some incredible people if you just put yourself out there and talk to strangers on your travels.

It took about an hour for us to make it to the river. There were wellies waiting for us to change into so that we could get in / out of the raft without getting completely soaked. We had to add a few layers on as well since the open water was much cooler than the hike in the forest. We hopped into the boat and took off. Captain Sam went bare foot and I couldn’t fathom how he wasn’t freezing! I guess you get adjusted to the cold just as you get adjusted to the heat. However, Sam did say that the wind chill in the winter of Skagway can get as cold as -40 degrees and I do not think anyone can get acclimated to that!

Anyways, the float down the river was so peaceful. Rosco took over the paddles and him and Sam traded off telling stories about their adventures going down 4 and 5 level rapids. Apparently, the trees that float down the river can get clumped up in certain areas and become very dangerous for those who fall off boats as they can get stuck easily within their branches and pushed under water. Our river was very calm with no rapids at all so our adrenalin only started pumping when our guide’s stories became intense. We saw a few more eagle nests and learned about the strength of the water and how it’s flow from the mountains changes and completely alters the landscape on a constant basis.

At the end of our very relaxing float, the guides had some snacks of Salmon, cheese, crackers, Oreos, and Capri Suns for us. We felt like we were back in grade school with that assortment of snacks, but it was so fulfilling after our trip!

Sam and Rosco drove us back to town and dropped us off at the Skagway Brewery. We heard so many good things about it, we had to try it! The place was packed but we got a table pretty quickly. Ryan got a flight of their beers and I had the Spruse Tip Ale. It was delicious! I also had some warm chilli and focaccia bread for lunch which warmed me right up after being cold for the better part of the day. It was so satisfying!

After lunch, we walked in and out of the dozens of souvenir shops. There was everything from art to jewelry, soaps to clothes, additional excursions to fun magnets. We opted for some Chia Tea lattes as a walking break and continued on to find something fun to buy for my mom. We had been walking for about ten minutes when I realized my backpack was not on my back – it was on the seat’s back at the coffee shop! Ahh! I sprinted through the hordes of tourists back to the coffee shop and to my relief, my backpack was right where I left it. *Phew!*

After that scare, we walked back past the train and the founder’s garden, and back to the ship. We were just in time for our 5:30 dinner, so we grabbed some wine from our room and met Ryan’s family at the dinner table. They had been on the rail road to White Pass and had nothing but good things to say about their day. For dinner, I had baked goat cheese to start, a lamb tartar, raspberry mint sorbet to cleanse the palate, pork tenderloin with various veggies for a main, spicy penne with mariana and a separate plate of scallops that the waiter brought out extra for us to try, and then we finished with vanilla ice-cream and green tea cookies. Again, so stuffed! The waiter took our empty wine glasses from our room, so I had to smuggle out our water glasses so we could refill our wine and bring it to the comedy show that was next on our agenda!

Carlos Oscar was the comedian for the night. He had a funny story about getting on the cruise. I was not super fond of his delivery as it was a bit all over the place, but he had some good punch lines and I laughed quite a bit. His show lasted about an hour until it was time to watch the sun set and go to bed.