June 26 – The weather was overcast when we woke up (although the locals said it was mostly sunny). After breakfast we decided to go into Ketchikan and take care of a few shopping needs (we knew that there were 4 cruise ships in port so we didn’t want to do any of the tourist stuff). We started out at the grocery store and needless to say had sticker shock. Food is quite pricey here, but when you have to bring everything in by boat that’s to be expected. To our surprise there was a Wal-Mart in town (yes paradise has been ruined by corporate America). Dave bought some popcorn (it’s been almost 2 weeks since he had any). We stopped in at the Harbormaster’s office to pick up an area tide table (the tide swings about 14 feet making some steams inaccessible at low tide). We had also heard from our campground hosts that there was a free phone line available for people to access the internet (the local library will not let non-residents use their computers due to too many cruise ship passengers abusing the privilege). Not only was there a phone line, they even brought out a table for us to set the lap top on! Our final stop was a fisherman’s supply store for some Alaskan sneakers. To quote one quidebook “Red, brown, or black calf-high XtraTuf rubber boots ideal for hiking in muskeg, going to the symphony, and reciting wedding vows. Ubiquitous fashion – one pair goes everywhere.” The quote couldn’t be truer – you see the boots everywhere and they’re very comfortable. For lunch we stopped in at “Burger Queen” a place recommended by our campground hosts. The only had 4 tables (they do a big delivery business) but Dave’s burger was good and messy and Stacie loved her Halibut sandwich. The onion rings were tasty.
In the afternoon we took the kayaks up to Connell lake, a few miles above the campground. The lake was made by the Ketchikan Pulp Company as a source of water to power their pulp mill in Ward’s Cove several miles away. There is a wooden pipe from the base of the dam running all the way to the pulp mill (wood pulp is used to make paper, added to plastics and is the source of “cellulose” in many ice creams and other food products). The mill closed a few years ago (the Forest Service has severely curtailed timber harvesting which has devastated local economies), but the Forest Service still maintains the dam and pipeline. The lake was drained over the winter for a dam inspection and has not yet been completely refilled (we estimate it was around 10 feet low) making for an interesting kayaking experience. Before the dam was built the timber was harvested, but the trees were not cut off at the ground leaving tall poles sticking up to within eight feet of the intended lake level. This was done most likely to create fish habitat. With the lake drained we were paddling through an eerie graveyard of trees. Along the way we landed in a few places and walked along the shoreline. The new boots proved themselves on the mushy muskeg especially when Stacie sunk in to the top of her boots.
June 27 – After our now customary breakfast of oatmeal and O.J. we decided to start the day off with a hike. The Perseverance trail started near the campground entrance and went for 2.7 miles (one way) up to another lake. The trail was described as gravel surfaced through forest giving way to boardwalk over muskeg meadows, moderately strenuous. The gravel part was true, but after that they should have called the trail the stairmaster. We lost count but there were hundreds of steps, up then down then up again. There were some muskeg meadows but this trail was an exercise in exercise. The trail ended at the lake and gave some beautiful views. On the hike back down we met fellow campers from Pennsylvania who recognized us as the people with the truck (it seems we developed a following). We talked for a while and they told us that another camper had built his own rig. We had seen the truck in the line up at Prince Rupert – it was like you had taken the dump part off of a dump truck and then put an extra large camper on it. There were also many toolboxes on the sides.
After lunch we jumped in the truck and went to Totem Bight State Park. The park was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 30’s. It features around a dozen totem poles carved as copies of existing poles that had deteriorated. There is also a replica clan house. Our next scheduled stop was the Margaret Creek fish ladder which was listed as 26 miles north of town, on the local road system. Unfortunately the main road ends about 12 miles north of town (we’re starting to love the Forest Service’s directions). We later learned that the ladder is accessible by logging roads which are only accessible by boat. Having driven as far north as possible, we decided to go south. The main road ended at a hydroelectric plant (the main source of power in the region). Dave remembered reading something about a trail from the plant to a lake. Although it was raining lightly (if a local had been around he would have said it’s cloudy), we decided to hike the trail. The trail turned out to be the gravel road used to access the lakes and water pipes that feed the power plant. It was 2 miles of uphill climbing. The views on the way were wonderful despite the rain. We returned to camp and complained about sore muscles.