Wednesday, August 29, 2007

 

Alaska Trip, Day 4, Ketchikan

(Day 04 Photos), our time in Ketchikan was very short, but based on the excursions available, it seemed like the most interesting. In hind sight, that was probably biased since we planned on doing our flightseeing in Ketchikan as my aunt and uncle had done. Flightseeing is a single propeller plane (de Havalland Beavers) which has pontoons allowing it to take off and land on the water. Lots of land in Alaska and Canada nearby are only accessible by this type of airplane. You can rent a cabin in the middle of nowhere, hire this type of plane to fly you and your buddies + gear + food to the cabin, and then stay out there until whenever you want them to come pick you up (1 or 2 weeks, say). Sounds like fun, if you're into fishing (I'm not). Lots of folks freakin' love fishing though, especially in Alaska.

So the problem with our flightseeing was that we had booked it through the cruise line, however due to a crash the company had 1 month prior with 4(?) fatalities, the cruise ship canceled those bookings. We were quite unhappy the day before when we found this out - if we had been informed sooner by phone or email, we could have rearranged for another excursion before leaving on the trip. But now we were stuck with no planned excursion in, what I had thought to be, the city offering the most interesting excursions! Frustrating. DM and JK had planned on doing kayaking anyway, so they were alright. But my parents and ES and I decided we'd just try to get off the boat as early as possible and hire a plane.

We found some tours right off the boat really easily, signed up, and headed out to see the town a bit - we had something like 3 hours before the flight. Got some coffee and breakfast on a hillside restaurant, and poked around at some of the gift shops.

Long story short, we had to fly separately, 2 and 2. We could have flown in the morning, but we opted for a later flight. The main area that these plane tours cover is the Misty Fjords national forest, due East from Ketchikan. The morning was definitely misty.... downright foggy. We went for the later flight thinking some of the fog would burn off. Actually all of it did and we had essentially clear, blue skies. Going in the mist would certainly make for a completely different experience. As it was, we all still saw some neat stuff.

A van picked us up to take us to the "seaplane port," I suppose you'd call it. The driver's boyfriend (significant other, she said) was going to be our pilot. Nice people, actually. The flight was 70 minutes, which included a landing in a remote lake. The landings and takeoffs of these small planes was so smooth. Our pilot landed us in the middle of a lake, while my parents, flying with a different company, actually got off the plane onto the shore of some other lake. I assume there are many lakes out there where these planes land. Our pilot, Brian, let us out of the plane and onto the pontoons, though. That was neat - and he got some pictures for us. The water was quite clear, but I still didn't want to fall in. Then we loaded up and headed back to town. The pictures from this tour are must-see.

We were back on the boat by 1p, I believe, as we departed for Skagway around that time. I took some photos as the boat navigated away from the mooring using its side thrusters until we got under way. The boats have quite a bit of manuverability. Used to be this type of mooring would only be accessible with tugboat assistance, or a craft would have to launch smaller boats to ferry people to shore. Neat engineering to simplify the process.

Then by 3p, we had signed up for some wine tasting. This went quite slowly - everyone but me at our table wanted to slam back the wine and get on with the day, however the guy M.C.'ing the tasting insisted on a slow session. He introduced each wine with many memorized details on the wine's properties, describing how to properly approach the wine, smelling, visual inspection, tasting. And he had some good jokes, too. I didn't mind drinking the wine slowly - it was basically relaxing and probably better pacing for a vacation, vs. the go-go-go attitude. Anyway, fast tasting makes everything blend together. In total, it was 4 wines and 1 desert wine. We kept the desert wine glasses (pictured) - they were nice. I mostly liked the wines they offered, all but one I think.

Finally we ended the day with dinner and drinking. JK had some cold soup that was beef broth. It was congealed, with a jello-like viscosity. He said it wasn't bad tasting, but he'd prefer it warm. I have to say that the food was quite unique, and well presented. The flavor wasn't unbelievable, however there was some good variation to make it interesting - service was good though. We had heard to not expect much RE: the food quality, and that was pretty accurate.

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