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Friday, October 25, 2013

Sitka, A Retrospective Tale of Two Travellers Part 12

Sitka is where our youngest daughter now lives, with her wife and their daughter.  It is where we spent an amazing 12 days in September.  As you would have seen by Parts 4-11 of this Retrospective Tale of Two Travellers there are lots of amazing things to do in and around Sitka, but what about Sitka itself.

Well here's what I know:

Sitka is the fourth largest town in Alaska (although I've also heard it is the third) and with a population of just under 9,000 that seems quite small to this Aussie.  Makes me wonder just how big are the bigger towns?  Next time we are there we intend to find out, but back to Sitka.

Sitka (Sheet Ka - Tlingit name) has a rich Tlingit history that goes back thousands of years, more recently there is the history created when the Russian's laid claim to the land and plundered the waters for the rich spoil of sea otter pelts that they traded with the Chinese.  Then there was the Alaska purchase when Russia sold the territory to the USA, I often wonder why Canada did not purchase the land given it sits right next to them.

Sitka straddles two islands, with most of the town on Baronof Island and the airport, SEARHC, the Coast Guard on the southern part of Chichagof Island.  Sitka is surrounded by lots and lots of small islands some which have houses and lighthouses on them.  If you buy a house on an island you need a boat to get there and need to supply your own power and water, rubbish needs to be bought back to the main island for disposal and if the waters are really rough you can get stranded either on the island or on the main island, but just imagine having a small island that is your home - awesome.

There is a bridge that spans the gap between to the two islands and we regularly saw bald eagles perched on the top of the bridge on our near daily trips over the bridge.  (Hubby's photos from the bridge are featured below)

Sitka's harbour is full of fishing boats and there was a regular parade of small trawlers that cruised past our accommodation each day.

During 'tourist season' there is an influx of visitors which arrive on cruise ships (around 2-3 a week while we were there).  Tourists can choose to disembark for a day of tours or just strolling around the town and shopping (lots and lots of shopping).

The harbour is busy on these days with the ship's tenders ferrying the visitors to the dock as the harbour is not deep enough for the ships to tie up.

Fly in, fly out fishing charters are also big business with fishers coming in and out through the airport.  I lost count of how many large boxes of frozen fish I saw being taken out through the airport.  Each box can weigh no more than 50lbs and fishers are often seen taking the snap frozen fish out and putting it into their carry on luggage if they are over the limit.

There are various land and water based tours offered to the tourists as well, from bus tours to bicycle rickshaw tours around the town itself.  We were there towards to the end of 'tourist' season and the last couple of cruise ships cancelled their port call due to forecast storms and heavy seas (which didn't actually get as bad as forecast).

Sitka is surrounded by mountains and coastal temperate rainforest much of which is part of Tongass National Park.  In the book Sitka, Portraits of the Wilderness by Dan Evans (photographer) and Dan Hardy (writer) I found the following:

... Sitka, Alaska, a rainforest wilderness of mountains and clouds rising from a vast and temperamental ocean ....   

Couldn't have said it better myself.

The mountains are just there, I can't describe it any other way.  Where we stayed you basically walked out the front door and over the road was a mountain (there was a road and a couple of blocks between us and the mountain, but for people like us that come from a very flat environment, the mountains were just there).  I loved the mountains, I loved the forest and I loved the water.  Truly I could live here and be happy, there is a little piece of Sitka in my heart now, not just because people I love live there, but because the place itself spoke to me that much.

Out the front of where we stayed, this photos just doesn't give the perspective of how big the mountains are, we struggled with that in all the photos we took.

The local supermarket and the view from the car park, again it is hard to really show that the mountains are just there and how high they are.  I suppose if you look at the red ute just under the tall trees and then look at that against the height of the mountains, it sort of gives you an idea.  

The street my daughter lives on, and yet another mountain.

All this and it also snows in Sitka (my idea of heaven), although it doesn't get as cold as some parts of mainland Alaska, and there was only a tiny bit of snow left on top of a few mountains as most of it had well and  truly melted by the time we arrived at the end of their summer.  I imagined how awesome all this would be with lots and lots of snowy mountains.  When I mentioned this to Randy the night we had dinner at his place he shared some more of his photos with me.  Now I just have to go back (his photos at the end of this post).

I love this photo of my daughter when within days of her first arriving in Sitka to live last year it started to lightly snow, that look of amazement and awe that is on her face is just how I feel about this beautiful place, even without the added joy of snow.  (I know for people that live with snow it is not always joyful, there is slush and being snowed in, and cold and more cold and black ice.  But for me, who has never had more than a fleeting (one day at Mt Buller in the mid 1970s) experience of snow I know I am going to have to spend at least one winter in Sitka sometime in the future.

My daughter's balcony after the first heavy snow fall when she arrived, she was so excited she just had to share

On the day of our Whale Watching adventure, we had lunch in town and hubby decided to go for a walk over the bridge and then up Castle Hill which sits close to the bridge.  Here are his photos of Sitka, the town, the harbour and the mountains.

Now I hope I have these in order.  So first up from the bridge:

Then from  Castle Hill and including some of the interpretive signs on site.

And here are just some of Randal's photos of Sitka, it's harbour and the ever-present mountains, topped in snow .. pure bliss and an invitation for me to return in the not to distant future.

The bridge between the two islands on which Sitka sits
Don't you just love the light in this photo??

A snowy Mt Edgecumb in the distance.

Looking towards St Michael's Church (which literally sits in the middle of the street with traffic going to the left and right of the building with very little spare earth on either side).  The bookshop in the left foreground shares it's space with the awesome Back Door Cafe. 

So once again I present you with a photo heavy post, I offer no apologies to having more photos than words, for these photos say as much if not more than my words ever could.

I have to admit that the memories that have flooded back as I write these posts have given me a certain amount of melancholy, I'm missing the place and the people I left behind there.

Thanks for popping by xxxx


  1. How beautiful. It reminds me a little of Ushuaia in Argentia. Ushuaia claimed a piece of my heart, so I can completely understand your longing to return to Sitka. With camera in winter please.

    1. Hope to go back in winter, if not next year then the year after for sure. Rang hubby today to ask him a questions about one of his photos, when he came home tonight he commented he didn't get much work done after my phone call as he was day dreaming about the holiday. Good thing I only rang about an hour before he was due to leave work!! It's interesting how certain places take hold of your heart. Did you ever get back to Ushuaia? Thanks for popping by

  2. This is another wonderful blog and fantastic photographs for which many thanks.
    I understand exactly what you say about falling in love with the mountains, the scenery, the snow etc. We had no loved ones there but that is exactly how we (me in particular) felt about New Zealand. The spectacular scenery and the friendly people. (Pop of course had seen mountains (and snow) in England and Europe in his younger days). Now you will understand why we went back to NZ a second time and if we hadn't had family here in Perth we would possibly have gone to live there. You will go back to Sitka and love it just as much a second, third, fourth time with the bonus of seeing loved ones as well. xx

    1. Thanks Mum, it's a shame you didn't get to go back to NZ and live, family are family even if they are in other part of the world and we would have come to visit, but I understand your comment fully. Hubby thinks we should go to NZ maybe next year, I think he can handle that distance better than all the way to the USA. Well see how it pans out. xxxx

  3. It all looks so beautiful K! I'm enjoying learning about Sitka and Alaska with you. I've read a bit about the area in a series of fiction novels, but this is so much more. Odd that Sitka is the 4th largest city, yet in my (tiny) atlas it is such a small hard-to-find dot. I really must get a larger atlas.

    1. LOL River, it is a very little place and it is fascinating that despite it's small size it holds the ranking of 4th largest town. What books are you reading that features the area, would love to know. Thanks for popping by xxx

  4. Wow..mountains everywhere...so beautiful...and those reflection shots of the harbour are to die for.

    1. Thanks Delores, Randal does take some amazing photos and I agree that harbour reflection shots are awesome. Do you have many mountains close to you in Canada? Thanks for popping by xxx



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