"The Alaskan Adventure Begins"

Prince Rupert, BC to Ketchikan, Alaska

July 3rd to 5th, 2002

After 3 days of on and off rain in Prince Rupert, we boarded a medium-size ferry called the Taku. This is part of the Alaskan State Ferry system. Boarding the ferry was somewhat different. We were instructed to arrive at the terminal 4 hours early, as we needed to be measured for length. We arrived and were measured, and then sat, hour after hour. Some of the time was spent talking with other travelers who likewise had become bored.  Part of the time was spent reading up on the locations we intended to visit. Finally we began moving up. Customs was interesting, the agent asked the standard 5 questions and sent us on our way without a search. There was another hour or so of waiting at which time we were approached by a shore-worker who advised that we would have to move to the front as we had special loading requirements. Slowly they began shuffling vehicles this way and that until the lane to my right was open. Squeezing into it was quite a trick. With walkers on both sides, I inched forward around a large boat and amazingly got through. Then the trip onto the ferry was inch by inch as the turns were sharp and the ramp narrow. Once we got in we saw that the right side had tractor-trailer type trailers on it. As we were getting off at the next stop we had to drive all the way to the end of the ferry and then back up while changing lanes so that we came up in front of the trailer. The loading crew is very stern and demanding and expects their word to be carried out immediately and to the letter. Once on, we were instructed to take what we wanted and go to the above decks. Passengers are not permitted on the car deck during the trip with the exception of escorted visits at specific intervals. The trip was uneventful as we stood in a strong wind and watched the island and banks drift by. Some 6 hours later we arrived in port and were instructed to rejoin our vehicle. Getting off was more difficult as a sharp right turn was required at the end of the ferry. Here again the ship-workers took a strong position on what was to be done. This normally works out fine. For some reason, signals got crossed and I began getting instructions from two different people, one in front and one in back. With the one in front fast losing patience with my apparent refusal to obey his commands, I finally hollered at him to get with the guy in back and figure out who was in charge. I got back a big smile and the slow sad shaking of his head from side to side. Five minutes later we were off the ship and heading for the trailer park.

Ketchikan, Alaska
We made it!
All 50 states. Hawaii was done several years ago by plane but still we did it. We found Ketchikan city a strange mixture of sights and sounds. The area around the trailer park, some 15 miles north of the city is wild, desolate, rugged and lovely. It is predominantly a fishing community doing some logging from time to time. Its other main source of income is the five cruise ships that arrive every other day, offloading some 8000 people onto the streets of Ketchikan. The life for at least a mile around those ships is very much like that of Gatlinburg, TN. Thousands of tourists running around with money to spend and only a few short hours to spend it. There was a lumberjack show for a price, which featured ax throwers, log rollers and all those neat little things that the loggers once did for entertainment. We watched as a guy, off the street, was given a chance to climb a 25 foot pole with climbing spikes, belt and a rather sturdy looking safety line. He actually did pretty well. We walked around doing the touristy thing, looking in shops and checking out menus, and then headed into the back streets looking for Creek Street and the old red-light district. Ketchikan Creek was once the cradle of the little town that grew to become today's fourth largest Alaskan city.  The creek provided pure, cold drinking water, it supplied power for electric lights and industry and most notable, it teemed with spawning salmon.  Every summer for centuries before the first pioneer settlers arrived, the Tlingit natives beached their canoes on the tide flats and set up fish camps.  In 1903 the town's Common Council began rooting out prostitutes from other neighborhoods for relocation to shanties along the banks of the creek.  The following year, Creek Street's first two story buildings were built near the bridge.  and the new red-light district grew around a few small factory enterprises and Ketchikan's first powerhouse. The world's oldest profession is no longer practiced here, legally, however the old houses have been preserved, or re-built and Black Molly's old place serves as a museum to the trade.  The atmosphere carried a feeling of the past, with the outside boardwalk, elevated over the rushing river and the old dilapidated appearing buildings.  I even got a picture of a couple of pretty stand-ins at the front door of the most infamous house on the street. The rain has been a constant threat. Every once in a while the clouds would part and sun would shine just to let us know that it could be done, even though it was not going to happen any time soon. For the most part the days have been gloomy and cool. We would soon find out that this was the norm for the weather for the area known as southeast Alaska.  All in all, our first day in the last remaining state to be visited was a whopping success.

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