Alaska Cruise, Day 6 – Sitka, Part 1

Sitka was one of the most enjoyable ports we visited. Ignore my expression in most of the pictures; I really was having a good time, but I was at the absolute lowest ebb of my energy levels so I look grumpy. 🙁

The port is a tender port, meaning you have to take small boat from the cruise ship because the water isn’t deep enough for the ship to dock. That was especially fun since we got to ride in a life boat. Something I have secretly always wanted to do, except for the fact that if you’re riding in a lifeboat it’s usually not a good thing. Man, if they filled those things, it would be massively uncomfortable. Not to mention Natasha noted no rest room facilities. As a tender, they were great, though. Totally protected from the chilly winds of Sitka.

Making our trip by lifeboat even better was the sea lion siting we had as we rode in. There were a pair of them really close to the boat happily fishing! That was good to see, as there has been a tremendous (and complicated) reduction in the sea lion population. Everyone said it was amazing to see them in Sitka Sound.

This was our two tour day (adding to my tiredness, though I was still really excited to go) so we started out early with a Sitka cultural tour. First, we visited the National Historic Park, where we got to see more native artwork and visited a nature trail. There had evidently been a siting of a young bear there recently, but our guide and some of the local parks people pointed out that it was a while ago and the bear was gone. They pulled down the bear warning sign during our visit.

I can’t say enough about our tour guide, by the way. She helped us find edible berries on the nature walk, and had a lot of really interesting things to say about the wildlife and life in Sitka.

In fact, she told the story about her recent encounter with a mama bear and two cubs while camping, which a friend caught on this YouTube video.

It’s very scary to encounter a mama bear with her cubs, because, of course they can be very violently protective. Worst of all, the folks you here them talk about (one of whom was her husband) were down on the beach fishing with piles of fish next to them. Right in the path of the bears. Thankfully, they managed to slip away when the bears approached. Lost their fish, but it’s a good trade.

After the history center, we went over to the Alaska Raptor Center, where we got to meet eagles and other Alaskan birds close up. The raptor center cares for and rehabilitates birds, mostly for re-release unless for some reason they couldn’t survive in the wild. We met Sitka there, a bald eagle who had lost a toe, making it impossible for her to catch food on her own. She has become one of the newest representative birds there, who get to meet humans as a representative of their species. It was really breathtaking to finally see these birds close up and fascinating to get a chance to learn all about them.

The next stop on our whirlwind tour of Sitka was a show by the New Archangel Dancers. They are a group of ladies who perform traditional Russian dances. Great show, and our multi-talented tour guide even sang harmony on the Alaska State Song.

After that, to continue our dip into Russian culture, we stopped by the beautiful Russian Orthodox Church in town, St. Michael’s. The art on display there was amazing!

Our next stop was for lunch and then on to a wildlife cruise…more on that in the next entry….