DAY 5 WEDNESDAY: SITKA
23.05.2012 - 23.05.2012 55 °F
Mike and I had a window, but our view was blocked by the lifeboats or tenders. At 6am, the crew started getting the lifeboats ready to shuttle passengers to Sitka. Pretty hard to sleep through that noise, so I headed off for BF. I had french toast, fruit, tea. Not too many in the buffet that early so it was easy to get a window seat. Mike found me and I waited while he ate. We tend to sit halfway down on the right side, makes it easier to find each other. There was no hurry as we will be in Sitka from 7am to 1pm. Back to the room, get ready. I am taking a day pack, cameras, water, windbreaker inside. Mike and I head down to Deck 1 where they are loading the tenders for the run to Sitka. Cruise ships are just too big to get into the dock area. The tenders hold over a hundred people and it is pretty tight quarters. We make the 10 minute run into the dock area and are ready for our time in Sitka. Located on the west side of Baranof Island, Sitka has a population of around 9,000, making it the 4th largest city in Alaska.
First thing up is a short walk up to Castle Hill. The Tlingit Indians occupied this hill and built a fort to defend their territory. After the 'Battle for Sitka' in 1804, this site was ceded to the Russians. The Russians occupied Castle Hill from 1804 until 1867. On this spot in 1867, Russia transferred ownership of Alaska to the US after selling their holdings in 'Russian America'. Sitka was the seat of government until 1906 when it was moved to Juneau. Baranof Castle Hill State Park was selected as the site for the first 49 star American flag to be raised in 1959. Views from Castle Hill.
Off the hill, we see a large totem pole in aptly named: Totem Square. This pole was placed back in Totem Square, Nov. 2011 after being refurbished. The seawall needed repair and it had to be taken down during the construction. Close by is 'The Prospector', a statue honoring Alaska's gold mining past. Sculptor Alonzo Victor Lewis modeled his statue after William 'Skagway Bill' Fonda. It was dedicated on Alaska Day, Oct. 18th, 1949. The Sitka Pioneer Home behind the statue is assisted living for Alaska's seniors. We head over to Lincoln St, the main drag in Sitka. St. Michael's Cathedral is prominent downtown and was on our list to see. Mike is Catholic and wanted to walk through the cathedral. St. Michael's was built between 1844-48 but was totally destroyed by fire in 1966. Sitka citizens formed a human chain to save the precious icons, paintings, vestments & crowns from the flames. St. Michael's was restored with contributions from across the land and was rededicated in 1976. We paid our $2 and toured the cathedral. Many beautiful items inside and worth your time IMO. I took plenty of photos, no restrictions on photography.
The Sitka Lutheran Church is next door, but did not have much inside worth a photo. They do have an impressive pipe organ, but it is hard to photograph. The Kessler Organ was the first pipe organ on the west coast of North America. Manufactured in Estonia, it was shipped to Sitka in 1846 to serve the the Finnish Lutheran congregation. There are plenty of shops on the main drag and I decided to buy some souvenirs for family/friends. Travel mugs with Sitka on them seem like a good idea and I got 4 of them. I wanted a metal water bottle to get rid of using plastic bottles and found a nice one under $10. Mike and I consulted our map and headed for Sitka National Historical Park (SNHP). Also called 'Totem Park', it is Sitka's 'must see'. It is not that far, an easy 15 minute walk if you have good knees. We don't, but limped over there anyway. There is a museum that exhibits native artifacts and exhibits, $4. As we approached SNHP, I saw kids having their lunch and enjoying the low tide area. One of the teachers told me this was great weather for Sitka and they wanted to get the kids outdoors. I started popping some pics before walking the trail through Totem Park.
You can pass on the museum and just start walking through Totem Park. This is what I did. The 2 mile trail winds its way through the rainforest by the Indian River. This is the site of the Battle of Sitka. Russian fur traders were defeated at Castle Hill in 1802. Over 400 killed, others enslaved by the Tlingit Indians. In 1804 the Russians attacked the fort the Tlingits had built to protect the mouth of the Indian River. The Russians suffered many casualties but won the battle when the Tlingits ran out of supplies. The Russians had their foothold on 'Russian America' and would stay until 1867 when they sold to the Americans.
There is nothing left of the fort, but it really is a nice stroll through the forest. Totem Poles are located all through SNHP as you walk the trail. Western red cedar is used for most totem poles. Straight-grained, easily carved and resistant to rot, red cedar is ideal for totems. Called 'the tree of life' by native people, red cedar is used to construct their houses & canoes. The inner bark is used for baskets, rope, clothing.
I took plenty of pics and met Mike back at the museum. It was starting to drizzle and we were about out of leg. We limped back to the docks and waited for a tender. The sea were not rough and it was an uneventful ride back to the Westerdam. Same routine, scan our cruise card, metal detector and we were back home. We headed for the buffet and had lunch. Back to the cabin for a rest, then I got my workout gear and headed up to Lido Deck. Today was my day to pump iron, then stomach, shower, back to our cabin. I headed over to the Digital Workshop for a class by Tony on advanced Photo Editing using Windows 7 Live Photo Gallery. I have been using Photoshop, but will try Live Gallery when I get home. After class, I decided to try out my new travel mug and headed up to the Observation Deck to read. I got my tea from the buffet and started reading as we pulled out of Sitka. I fell asleep trying to read my book, finally woke up and heading to the buffet. Tonight is formal night and I don't have the clothes for the dining room. Mike does and will dine at 7:45. I had some salad, fruit, veggies, tea, then head for the Lido Pool. Tonight is the Chocolate Festival, ice sculptures & chocolate goodies made by our ship's dessert chefs. Very excited passengers photograph our chefs and their chocolate creations. I do as well. I spot Reid & Eunice and we eat way more goodies than we need. Oh well, we are on a cruise and this is not the time to diet.
This is why I workout each day. All of us are eating more than we do at home, so hopefully the workouts will help fight the weight battle. After the Chocolate Festival it is back to the cabin, get rid of my travel mug then over to the showroom. Jeff Peterson is our entertainment tonight. He is billed as comedy/magic and really did put on a great show. He also played Vegas and now enjoys entertaining cruise passengers. The showroom was packed and I had a bad seat upstairs. The 8pm show is usually packed, the 10 pm show not so much. Because of our 7:45pm seating, we usually watched the 10pm show. Not tonight however. Jeff Peterson pulls off some excellent tricks and keeps you laughing at the same time. Well worth my time. After the show, I went into the casino, joined Reid & Eunice and started playing poker. Brian showed up again, but not as drunk as before. He is still a bad player and we again take his money and send him on his way. Fun way to spend a couple of hours. We all agreed midnight would be a good time to stop and that is what we did. We walked back to our cabins and called it a night. Day 5 was over.