Misty Fjords | Day 1

Airship Goes to Alaska 2016

On Thursday morning we left Ketchikan and headed for Misty Fjords. We didn’t get to Misty Fjords last year and since we were about a week early to Ketchikan…what better to do with that week? We thought we’d check out New Eddystone Rock first, and then decide where to anchor for the night. New Eddystone is pretty spectacular. It rises 230 feet high and looks like something out of a video game.

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We did a loop around the rock and then went over to see what Checats Cove (along the east side of Behm Canal) looked like. It looked like it was totally exposed and not much of an anchorage at all. Kayley said the real highlight of this anchorage was the view of New Eddystone from there, but that’s not really true. The rock is about two miles away and looks pretty tiny from Checats Cove. I mean, you can see it, but it’s not what I’d consider a great view of it. We headed back over to the anchorage at Winstanley Island, just a bit south. It was lovely and protected. We anchored in about 50 feet not too far from the Forest Service buoy (reserved for the Forest Service cabin on the shore). We put out a couple crab traps and this morning we had five or so Dungeness…two definite male keepers, and one on-the-line male that we put back.

I made us a quick breakfast and we pulled anchor and headed for Rudyerd Bay. Our plan was to do a little tour through Rudyerd and then go on up to Walker Cove tonight.

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Rudyerd Cove and Punchbowl Cove are THE most popular tourist stops for Misty Fjords. Float plane after float plane after tour boat after tour boat….it was kinda nuts. There’s one mooring ball in Punchbowl Cove and some areas to either side of it for anchoring. There was a group of several boats that looked rafted together. We had a look around, and then continued deeper on into the bay. It was beautiful…big granite bowls and cliffs carved by glaciers, snow-topped mountains, tons of waterfalls…and really a LOT of mist. We could only occasionally see the snowy mountain tops…I’m hoping it gets a little less misty while we’re in here (not holding my breath). As we passed the entrance to Punchbowl Cove on our way out, one of the boats in there hailed us on the radio to let us know the mooring ball was free and that they’d also be leaving pretty soon. How nice! We thanked them but said we thought we’d continue on up to Walker Cove. They said they were headed there next too, so they’d see us there!

So…Rudyerd Bay is beautiful. Punchbowl Cove is impressive. But holy crap Walker kicks Rudyerd’s ass. It’s not just about the plethora of float planes and tour boats, either. As you enter Walker Cove it’s majestic. Enormous. Waterfalls everywhere.

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As we approach the anchorage area, there are brown bears on the beach. Six of them. One sow with three cubs and one sow with one cub. “Oh hi, bears.”

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There’s one other boat when we arrive (though we’re expecting quite a few more) and that boat has the mooring ball, so we anchored on the east side of that boat. (The west side, closer to the river, shoals up REAL fast. How fast, you might ask? Well, you could be going really slow in 60 feet of water and find yourself in 4 feet of water at the blink of an eye.)

Okay, back to the bears.

Kevin went to set some crab traps as the flotilla from Rudyerd Bay arrived (turns out they’re the Roche Harbor Yacht Club flotilla…and they seem great!) While Kevin was out dropping the traps, I noticed a single young male brown bear on the shore (that makes 7 bears total here).

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A float plane circled around and then landed in this cove, scaring the bear away. The passengers and pilots got out of the plane and stood on the floats for a while, and eventually the bears came back, so everyone was happy.

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We took the dinghy out for some exploring and headed up the river a ways. On the way up, we passed two dinghies from the flotilla group as they were on their way out. It was a little Jungle Boat ride-like at that point…”Keep an eye out for the hippo!”

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It was gorgeous in there too, but man is it difficult to get ANY photos that describe the beauty of this place.

As we passed the beach/shore/field on our way back to Airship, and…more bears! We hung out and watched them for an hour or so as they…well, as they ate grass. Lots of grass.

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Nice bear family portrait:

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Awww, cub nuzzling mama bear:

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We pulled some of Kevin’s BBQ ribs from the freezer, thawed them and then finished them on the grill, and I made a mushroom risotto and a caesar salad. (I needed to use up the mushrooms, so we’ll have crab and asparagus pasta tonight with our fresh crab.) There were at least four bears on the beach until it was just about dark.

Here's today's track from Winstanley Island, into Rudyerd Bay, and on to Walker Cove (32 nautical miles, 4 hours 38 minutes):

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Another Day in Ketchikan

Airship Goes to Alaska 2016

Last night's sunset from Airship:

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We originally thought we'd leave town today and head around to Misty Fjords and Behm Canal, but we got focused working for quite a few hours this morning here on the boat and decided we'd wait and leave tomorrow morning instead. Around noon we took a break for lunch and a little exploring, and headed across the street to a very well-liked local spot called Burger Queen. It's tiny, and doesn't look like much from the outside, but whoa! What a great burger! (The fries were perfect as well.) All the tables inside were filled by noon, so we sat outside. This'll give you a feel for the unglamourousness that is the Burger Queen outdoor seating (two picnic tables on the side of the road):

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No one cares. The burgers are amazing. We both got Sriracha bacon burgers and shared some fries and...well, just go there if you're in Ketchikan and you want a burger. You'll be glad you did. 

Next we thought we'd hop on the bus and go down to the Saxman Totem Park to look at some totems. I went to Saxman last year while I was hanging in Ketchikan and Kevin went to San Jose for business, and I thought he should see it. Plus, it'd be a nice outing...the weather was mild...gray but not raining. We missed the bus by about 5 minutes, and the next one wasn't due for another hour, so we decided to walk (about 2.5 miles further down the road).  This was fine, since we'd just had burgers and fries for lunch. 

By the time we arrived, the guy at the booth where you pay your $5 entry fee said they were just closing up (there was no one in sight) and that we could wander around for free. Sweet! I only took a couple photos, because pretty soon two tour busses full of people showed up. 

The clan house:

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Aw, I didn't mean to cut off the halibut's head:

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We caught the bus back downtown (I'm breaking in my new tennies at a frantic pace!) and are now back at Airship doing...you guessed it...a bit more work. We'll cook up some salmon for dinner tonight and head out in the morning. 

Oh yeah, this was a funny scene yesterday morning. This is the Ruby Princess (the giant cruise ship the Orange County couple was from)...that yellow/orange vehicle backed up to the entrance is the Duck Tour.

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If you were following our trip last year, you might remember we were docked RIGHT next to the boat ramp where these babies launched, playing (loudly) the theme from Hawaii Five-O and then Gilligan's Island...over, and over, and over again. Anyway, they pull RIGHT UP TO THE CRUISE SHIP DOOR. How perfect. 

 


Today in Ketchikan

Airship Goes to Alaska 2016

This is a story about a bus ride.

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(If you look closely, you can see Airship, just right of center.)

Here's us today: coffee, work, work, work, breakfast, more work, go to the grocery store, back to the boat, more work, watch cruise ships leave, more work. Later we're going to have dinner over at the Bar Harbor Restaurant

We rode the city bus down to the Safeway near the Bar Harbor marina, but we decided to grab the bus going the other direction. The city bus has a free shuttle that does a loop from the end of downtown to the plaza where the Safeway is, so we got the whole loop in by catching it going the opposite direction. 

Our bus driver was a native...totally cool Tsimshian guy with great jewelry and a super dry sense of humor. We chatted with him about his family, where he lived, the woodwork/artwork he does, the silversmithing tools he gave to his grandson and how he's going to pay for art school for him as a graduation present, and some other random stuff. We told him we'd stopped in Hartley Bay (the Tsimshian village in BC where we stayed on Day 14), and he said many of his relatives live there.

He asked us about our boat, and we talked about some places up here we have and haven't been. Then, this cruiseshipper couple got on and asked the bus driver if he'd take them to the Ruby Princess at Berth 4 (just next to the City Floats, the stop where we got on). He said yep, he'd have them there by 4pm. (It was around noon.) They laughed and sat down in front of us, in the seats that face the center of the bus. They remarked how much larger this bus was than the one they took from the ship into town...that one was just a tiny little bus...and then they noticed they were going away from the ship. I said "This is a city bus, but it's free, and it's a loop, so you'll get back to the ship" and not to worry. "This is a city bus?? Oh, okay? But it's free? Well that's nice!" Kevin asked them where they were from and they said Orange County, which is funny, because it was as if they expected people would know the name of their county. Not their city. Not their state, but their county. Now, I grew up in Orange County, so I did know their county, but I imagined someone (in Alaska) asking me where I was from. And what if I replied "Multnomah County" as if they should know where the hell that was?? Anyway, I digress.

They followed "Orange County" then with "Huntington Beach. California." as if they'd been given the blank stare after the county name before. I said "Nice. I went to Huntington Beach High School. Grew up in Seal Beach." Small talk ensued..."nice place to grow up..."  "so close to the ocean..." 

Then, they asked the bus driver, "Where are you from? You look to be of some Indian descent." He said "I'm a Native." They said "A native what? An Indian?" He said "No, I'm not from India. Columbus was lost and confused." He patiently told them the name of his tribe, Tsimshian, and that he was also part Tlingit, and it was like they had no idea there were even any indigenous people here. It was crazy. They chatted amongst themselves a little more and he continued his conversation with us about different places to see, traditional canoes, etc. 

Next, I asked the couple in front of me "So, what all have you guys seen since you've been in Ketchikan?" (even though I was pretty certain I knew how this would go). The wife answered with a chuckle, "Not much! Mostly the jewelry stores." (OMG seriously??? Why on earth do people come to Alaska on a cruise to shop for stupid gemstones that no one has ever heard of, and that have nothing whatsoever to do with Alaska? It baffles me.) I'm totally cool though and ask her "So, is it a better deal to shop for jewelry here than where you live?" (Kevin was so proud of me.) She said yes, that whatever stone she bought earrings of was maybe a hundred dollars less than where she could get it at home, and they got a really good deal because they were from the cruise ship. I said I heard that all of those stores were actually owned by the cruise ship companies though...and she said, "Well, some of them, like Diamonds International and the Tanzanite places." But apparently she thought she was shopping in a Native-owned jewelry store. She said "We've been here before though!" as if to excuse the fact that she'd only seen cruiseship-owned jewelry stores during her visit. I asked if they'd been down to Totem Bight State Park, or the Saxman Native Village before. Nope...like they'd never heard of those places. (Oh, but her husband just LOVES Alaska. That's why they keep taking cruises up here.) I told her those places were definitely worth visiting and that you could get there by bus.

The bus pulled into the stop at the Totem Heritage Center and stopped. I told the cruiseshipper couple that if they had time sometime when they were here and didn't want to leave the downtown area, they should check out this museum. There are some great exhibits with tons of interesting information. The husband noticed the totem poles out front and asked the bus driver if there was time to get out and take a quick picture. The bus driver said, in a loud booming voice "Nooooooo" and then smirked. The lady asked how long they'd be stopped here and the bus driver said "This is my 3 hour break." :)

The husband got out and took a few photos the totems out front, and the lady said to the bus driver "We're quite a ways away from our cruise ship!" and the bus driver replied, in the same loud booming voice, "GOOD!!!" (I could feel him winking at us as he said it, even from behind his dark aviator shades.)

At the next stop, another cruiseshipper couple got on the boat and the women immediately compared jewelry shopping stories, the woman in front of us moving her hair to show off her whatever-ite earrings.

We got off at the Safeway and thanked our cool bus driver for the ride. I shook his hand and he asked how long we'd be in town. I said we'd be bopping around for another day, then gone, then back for a week or so and that I was sure we'd see him again. 

As we were moving to the front of the bus, the lady looks at me and asks "This'll take us to our ship, right?" I said, "Yep, next stop."

Best bus ride ever.