Alaska Cruise, Day Three – Ketchikan

Day three of our Alaskan vacation took us to Ketchikan, our first real port stop in Alaska. When Natasha and I first ventured off the ship into the town, I had this notion that we were in the Alaskan equivalent of 192 (which is where all the tourist t-shirt shops are here in Central Florida). I mean, the first building we ran into was the Tongass Trading Company, full of screaming eagle eggs and moose poo items, so you’ll forgive me for kind of thinking, “Oh, Alaska is just the same as everywhere else…”

So I didn’t hold out a lot of hope for our Native Village and Lumberjack Show tour as being very much more than the sort of cardboard tourist stuff I’m used to here. Wow, was I ever wrong! Our first stop was the Saxman Native Village, an authentic native village tour run by the Tlingit (which, for some odd reason is pronounced “klinkit”). The tour centers around totems and their place in the culture of the Tlingit. Considering that totems are not only art, but architecture, literature, and history, it makes them the perfect way to access the Tlingit culture. It’s kind of kewl to picture the storytellers of the Tlingit sitting down next to a totem pole and telling the story that the pole illustrates. The culture really takes on physical presence.

Natasha even got to dance with the local Tlingit dance group.

Our next stop was back in town, the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, where I learned why it’s okay to be a lumberjack (or jill) — something Monty Python never bothered to explain. So evidently I had completely missed the fact that there is something called Lumberjack Sports that shows up on ESPN from time to time. The lumberjack show is a chance for these athletes to show off their chopping, climbing, chainsawing, log-rolling, and furniture-making skills. Yes, it’s very touristy, but, I have to admit, when they cranked up the overclocked chain saw (called a “hot saw”), I had that moment of “Holy crap! Someone is going to lose a limb!” And, if you’re into male eye-candy, the lumberjacks are probably worth a look.

That night, as we sailed out of Ketchikan, we had our first whale sightings. These first pics are blurry, because I was shooting in low light and having to spin around to try and catch the whales as they surfaced, but they give you an idea of what there is to see. It really kind of amazed me that people go on an Alaskan cruise and spend a bunch of time on the whole 4-hour “dinner and a show” experience when nature is giving you a show right off the bow.  Our ship even had a naturalist onboard who was making announcements when she would spot interesting wildlife, which means we always knew when to rush up on deck. Much more fun than watching your poor waiters perform “Hot Hot Hot” with flaming desserts balanced on their heads….

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