June 28 – The time had come, there were no more clean socks – laundry day. We were hoping that we could put it off until Wrangell, but there was no avoiding it. We drove into town and found a Laundromat with showers. The machines were small and it took us four loads which wouldn’t have been so bad, but it was $2.25 a load to wash and 5 cents a minute to dry. Stacie found a bargain though, her shower ($1.75) was supposed to be 8 minutes long, but she was ready to quit long before it was. Dave did even better – the shower in the men’s room was stuck on. While Dave was shaving a gentleman came into the bathroom and asked about the truck. As it turns out the folks with the big custom camper were doing their laundry too. Dave and the guy went out to look at each other’s trucks, compare grinding wheels and swap welding stories (some kind of guy bonding thing). As it turns out the couple was from Rochester, N.Y. (where Dave was born) and spent a few months every year on the road. In the winter they pull the camper body off and use the truck to pull a 43 foot travel trailer that was also home made to Yuma, Arizona where they stay until spring. Needless to say seeing this other truck gave Dave new ideas . . .
After laundry was all sorted and packed back up we grabbed a quick bowl of chowder at a local restaurant. We then went over to the boat ramp to launch the kayaks for our afternoon adventure. Dave checked in at the harbormaster’s office to pay (the signs said $5 per use) and was delighted to learn that the harbormaster was also letting us use the ramp for free. As we were getting into the kayaks an amphibious tour bus/boat came down the ramp. It wasn’t a real “duck” (DUKW, an old WW II amphibious truck often converted for tour use), rather it was a specially built unit based off of a delivery truck body. While it may have been big, it was slow – we passed while kayaking. Our goal for the trip was Creek Street – the last “original” street in Ketchikan. This street was actually a boardwalk built above and along a creek. In the old days it was the red light district and as such was never developed with a paved road (today it is developed with shops for tourists). We had an approximately 1 mile paddle against the wind before we were able to turn into the marina where the creek let out. Along our way we dodged seaweed, driftwood and float planes (though it is pretty neat when one flies over you and then lands). Once in the marina we had to dodge the many fishermen on the shore and on the bridge above the creek. After going under the bridge we’d reached Creek St. and it was fabulous. What struck us the most was how many people stopped and took pictures of us (unfortunately due to some camera problem only one of ours was saved in a useable format). After spending about 15 minutes looking around we again braved the fishermen and headed back into the open water. We crossed the main channel and drifted with the wind and current looking for whales and sea lions. We didn’t see any, but there were several bald eagles working the area. Upon reaching the boat ramp we pulled the kayaks out and headed for camp. It was still early when we got to camp so we decided to hike the trail that went around the lake we were camping at. The trail was about 1 ˝ miles long and had signs with information on the forces at work in a temperate rain forest. Along the way we found a spot where we could easily launch the kayaks.
June 29 – Our last day in Ketchikan. It was a still morning on the lake so we put the kayaks in and explored the lake. The stream that fed it was deep so we paddled in as far as we could and watched kingfishers pluck out minnows (and then fly out of camera range). We had an early lunch and then headed south for Herring Cove. In the stream that feeds the cove is a salmon hatchery and each year the adults return to spawn. This attracts many fishermen (who are not allowed to fish in the stream itself) and bald eagles (who can do whatever they want, Clio said it was OK). At first it looked like there were no eagles to be found, but as we started to look more closely we found them perched in trees and on logs. We were amazed at how close you could get to them (of course they were up in a tree, what could we do to hurt them?). After watching their majesty for quite a while, we headed into Saxman, a small city just south of Ketchikan. Saxman is known for its totem park, said to be the largest collection of original totem poles in the world. Being as these are original poles, they are well worn, but still beautiful. The town also features a carving workshop where the craft is passed on to a new generation. Next we went into town to tour Creek St. the way everyone else does. All of the touristy stores on the street were closed as it was Sunday and the last cruise ship had left port. No great loss. We then went over to the Alaska Discovery Center – a kind of welcome/information center for the entire inside passage area. It had good exhibits on the native plants and animals as well as an exhibit on the challenges of managing the land (over 90% of the inside passage is parkland in one form or another). We briefly walked around town, seeing a fish ladder and the “married man’s path” to Creek St.
We did some grocery shopping and decided to take in some local flavor for dinner. We wanted to have a beer on a deck watching the water, but that combination didn’t exist on a Sunday evening. So we found a small bar (the First City Saloon) and listened to charter boat mates swear like sailors. Although it was a dive, it was a nice dive – there were good tunes playing and the bartender (who somehow knew we were “tourists”) was very friendly and talkative. The bartender lived on his boat at the marina – he had been sailing up every summer and then 2 years ago forgot to go back and now lives year ‘round on his boat (apparently lots of people do). He described the winters as very mild (when it does snow, rain comes a few days later and washes it all away). The group of pilots and charter boat mates next to us apparently were on a softball team and had just managed to pull off a great upset and win their game (they were down 11 to 1 after the first inning) and were celebrating. Shortly after we arrived one of them rang the bell at the bar which meant he was buying everyone in the place a drink. The bartender dropped off two more beers for us and explained the reason. We toasted our new friend who later in the evening came over to meet us. We talked for a while and learned he worked on a charter boat taking cruise ship passengers out fishing for the day. He was fascinated by our trip and gave us some tips on things to see in our travels. We left the bar and ambled on over to the Dockside Diner. They had a deck on the water and from there we could watch the eagles soar. At one point there were 10 all vying for scraps a fish processor had dumped into the water – quite a sight to see! We had to be in line for our ferry to Wrangell at 6:30 am, so we headed back to camp and packed up everything except the tent.