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After spending the day in Sitka, we woke up the next morning in Juneau, Alaska! Juneau was our longest day; we were in town until 8 pm, so that allowed us to see a lot!
We had originally booked a full-day excursion through Royal Caribbean for our day in Juneau that included whale watching, Mendenhall Glacier, and a salmon bake, but about a week before embarkation, they canceled it. Probably the most frustrating thing about this was that they credited the amount back to our debit card but we were told we wouldn’t have it for 10 days, which was after we boarded the ship. I really don’t understand why with it being so close to sailing, they didn’t just credit our onboard account and allow us to book another excursion through them. Excursions in Alaska are much more expensive than in the Caribbean so we really didn’t want to dish out hundreds of more dollars for something to do this day. We ended up going with a third-party excursion company that I found on Viator that didn’t charge us until 48 hours in advance, by which time we had the refund in our account for the original excursion. It ended up working out because the new excursion I found was $150 per person cheaper than the one through Royal Caribbean.
The excursion we ended up booking was with a small company called Alaska Tales and they offered a tour that took us to Mendenhall Glacier and Whale Watching. Afterward, we got lunch at the iconic Tracy’s King Crab and we took a ride on the Goldbelt Tram (AKA Mt. Roberts Tramway). Then, we explored the city for a while before heading back to the ship.
Chris was able to pick up the new battery for our camera while we were in Juneau, so pictures from the second half of this day were taken on our Fuji. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do this before our whale watching, which was disappointing, especially because I rented a big telephoto lens to catch some whale action shots. I guess that’s just another reason why we’ll have to make another trip up to Alaska sometime!
Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week when I get into the details of our time exploring Mendenhall Glacier! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.
After learning about bears and raptors, we headed to Sitka National Historic Park. The National Park Service Site is located a short walk from the Alaska Raptor Center. The park preserves the site of the battle between the Russian settlers and the native Tlingit people. The park was Federally protected back in 1890 and was the first federally preserved piece of land in Alaska.
Sitka was home to one of the first European settlements in Alaska being settled by Russian fur traders in 1799. In 1802, the native Tlingit destroyed the original settlement killing many of the settlers. In 1804 Russian forces returned and bombarded the Tlingit during a bloody battle that the Tlingit would have won had they not run out of gunpowder. Instead, they were forced to leave the fort under cover of darkness. The park sits on the site of this battle.
One of the highlights of the park is the mile-long Totem Trail. The park is even known to some as the Totem Park. 18 Tlingit and Haida totems can be found along the trail conveying ancestry, history, folklore, and memorials. There are three main types of totem poles: house posts, which were carved as support poles for a home; frontal poles, which were placed against or near the front of a home; and detached poles which were placed anywere in or near villages. The Yaadaas Crest pole (left) was re-carved in 1982 and the figures on the pole represent the lineage of the family that owned it. The village watchman sits on top to symbolize that the people are being watched over and protected.
The totem pole featured at the top of the page is the K’alyaan Pole which represents the Battle of Sitka. The figure on the bottom of the pole represents the raven helmet of the Tlingit warrior who led the battle. The rest of the pole depicts the clans of the raven moiety. The pole was carved in 1999 and stands on the site of the Kiks.adi fort.
There is much more to see in this 112-acre park than we had time to explore. So, like many of the places we have been lately, Sitka is on our list of places fo us to return.
Thanks for stopping by! To learn more about the Sitka Historic Park and the significance of its Totem Poles, visit NPS.gov. To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.
After our time at Fortress of the Bear, we headed to another wildlife rehabilitation center in Sitka, the Alaska Raptor Center. Where Fortress of the Bear takes in orphaned bear cubs, the Raptor Center focuses on rehabilitating birds of prey: eagles, owls, and falcons. Many of the birds in their care eventually are able to be released into the wild, but some have injuries that are too severe and they get to live out their lives in the center, educating guests about these magnificent creatures and the work of the raptor center.
We started our visit at a raptor talk where we met Owlison (left), a great horned owl, and Hannah, an avian care specialist. Owlison came to the Raptor Center with a fractured wrist bone and possibly some damage to her wing. Through Owlison’s rehabilitation, she is now capable of flight but not well enough to hunt on her own, so she is now a permanent resident at the Raptor Center.
After the raptor talk, we got to see the Flight Training Center where rehabilitated birds are able to practice flying from perch to perch as they would do in the wild. Rehabilitators watch the birds in the training center to determine if they are able to fly well enough to survive in the wild and be released. When we visited the birds weren’t very active but it was very good to see the steps the experts at the Raptor Center take to make sure the birds will be able to survive on their own once they are well enough to leave the center.
While many of the birds at the Raptor Center have sad stories, it is good to know they have a place to live out the rest of their lives (many of which are longer in captivity than if they were still hunting for themselves in the wild). Volta (right) has one of those sad stories. He was found electrocuted, most likely from stretching his wings between two power lines. His carocoid bone was fractured in his fall and without that, he is not able to take flight.
Thanks for stopping by! To read more about their raptors in residence, plan your visit, or donate to their cause, visit AlaskaRaptor.org. To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.
When planning a visit to Alaska, a bear sighting is usually high on the list of things people want to experience. But, any wildlife sighting is hard to plan, and seeing a bear in the wild can be dangerous. Fortress of the Bear in Sitka, Alaska is a bear rescue that allows visitors to view native brown and black bears from a safe distance while giving orphaned bears a second chance at life.
The state of Alaska has no rehabilitation program for orphaned bears so for years, when a mother bear was killed, fish and game rangers had to kill the cubs because without the mother they would starve to death. One ranger got really sick of having to shoot baby bears, so in 2007, he opened Fortress of the Bear to take in orphaned cubs. Since then, they have sent bears the zoos around the country and is currently home to 7 brown and black bears. Fortress of the Bear is currently working with the state of Alaska to change the law and allow bears to be rehabilitated and released.
I was surprised to learn that the trainers at Fortress of the Bear taught the bears to sign. Just like people have taught monkeys to do, the bears put their paws together in front of their chest to signal they want more food. It was fun to watch the bears at feeding time! You can watch the video above!
Fortress of the Bear is a nonprofit that does important work in Alaska! The money for their mission comes from admissions and additional donations. If you are in Sitka, I highly recommend a stop. It is not a big place, the hour they gave us on our tour was more than enough time. It was fun to see the bears and it was good knowing the admission supports Alaskan wildlife. If you want to know more about Fortress of the Bear, read about the bears, or donate to their cause, check out fortressofthebear.org.
Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.
After our day in Vancouver, we got up the next morning and boarded the Serenade of the Seas, and headed to Alaska. Sailing out of Vancouver Harbor was beautiful and I was excited to snap some photos as we headed up the Inside Passage but at that moment I realized I left my camera batteries at the Airbnb in Vancouver. Since our first two ports were islands (Sitka and Juneau) with no road connections to the mainland and lithium batteries cannot be shipped by air, there was no way to order a replacement and get it by the time we were in Alaska. If we were still Nikon shooters, the pharmacy in Sitka sold Nikon batteries, but that was no help as we had our Fuji camera with us. While we still had cell signal we did some internet sleuthing and found a Fuji photographer who used to have a store in Juneau. We sent him an email and were able to meet up with him and buy a battery when we were in Juneau. All that to say that my photos from Sitka and the first half of our day in Juneau were all taken on my phone as we had a camera and an expensive rented telephoto lens, but we had no way to turn it on.
So, after all that stress, we arrived in Sitka. After doing all my research before we left, it seemed that Sitka is a pretty easy port to explore on your own without an excursion. Our ship docked at what is known as the Old Sitka Dock and is a few miles outside town, but they offer a free shuttle to take you downtown. Once we were dropped off at Centennial Hall, we booked a $10 per person shuttle that would take us to Fortress of the Bear, the Alaska Raptor Center, and from there we could walk to the Sitka National Historic Park and back to downtown.
I quickly fell in love with Sitka. Sitka is located on the west side of Baranof Island on the Gulf of Alaska. Because of its location, the island is a temperate rain forest with the temperature varying between 33 and 62 degrees throughout the year with the temperature rarely dropping below 22 degrees. I don’t know about you, but that’s not really what I think of when I hear Alaska weather.
Sitka was home to one of the first European settlements in Alaska being settled by Russian explorers in 1799. In 1802, the native Tlingit destroyed the original settlement killing many of the settlers. In 1804 Russian forces returned and bombarded the Tlingit fort causing the Tlingit people to leave under cover of darkness. The Russian influence in Sitka can still be seen today with the Russian Bishop’s house and St. Michael’s Cathedral still standing in downtown Sitka.
In August of 2015, heavy rains triggered a series of 60 landslides in Sitka, one of which killed three people. The US Geological survey did a landslide assessment of Sitka and determined that the entire island is a landslide risk. Now, the USGS has installed a first-of-its-kind landslide warning system to notify residents of landslide conditions so evacuations can occur.
Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop back next week to read about our time at Fortress of the Bear in Sitka! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.