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.
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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