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Alaska’s Travel Diary

Monday, 06 Jul 2009

Location: The Columbia, Ketchikan, Wrang, USA

MapFor Sunday July 5th
The Columbia Ferry, Ketchikan, & Wrangell:
Some rolling and shakin’ going on last night….woke me several times….but couldn’t see out. The deck hands latch shutters over our windows as the night draws near. The light from the cabins affect the captain’s navigation, at least on the bow that is. So, I would have to get dressed and go to the nearest exit outside to see what all the movement was about. I chose to try to go back to sleep each time. Coffee was on by 7:00 a.m. in our cabin and we were to dock in Ketchikan, Alaska at 8:15. This port we would have 4 hours to visit the town and venture out on our own (no tours available from the ferry, but MANY available for the several cruise ships anchored in town as we would see later). Tracy, Joe, Tony, Sam, and I walked two miles into town after disembarking the ferry. There we went by a Visitor’s Center, several souveneir shops, the Discovery Center where we would learn much of the information needed for Sam to earn his Junior Ranger patch, and then walked back to the ferry two more miles. I opted to skip having lunch at the McDonald’s in the Safeway there as I knew it would take me the 40 or so minutes to walk the 2 miles and get back by the required 12:00 deadline, while the ‘fit’ Irizarry’s proceeded to lunch & walk afterwards. As it turns out, they almost needed to ‘jog’ back because they were running late. The ferries in Alaska WILL leave you behind. Their schedules depend solely on the tides and they cannot afford to wait for anyone who has not made it back to the boat in time. We had another ‘short’ talk by our Ranger “Constancio” about our next stop, Wrangell. There we would see children selling garnets in the parking lot of the ferry terminal. The owner of the mine willed it to the Boy Scouts of Wrangell and so……they sell these rocks with the garnets in order to afford supplies for school. Well, you know we had to take a look…..so we got off in Wrangell, only a 30 minute stop this time, took a few pictures, looked at the rocks & garnets, and got back on the boat. Sam & I spent the next hour working on his Junior Ranger booklet, trying to tie up loose ends. We really wanted him to get his patch from Constancio and NOT the new person who would take his place tomorrow when he gets off in Juneau. The idea of having a Tlingit ranger award Sam his patch seemed to have more meaning than anyone else. So he worked VERY hard for the next couple of hours which included listening to a second Ranger talk about the Wrangell Narrows. The Wrangell Narrows are the main reason we must have such a ‘perfect’ schedule on the boats going in and out of the inside passage, those that choose to save 200 miles of travel on the outer banks of the islands. This 21-mile stretch of water is so tight that at low tide it can get as shallow as 16 ft. The boat needs a minimum of 21 feet for the propeller to clear underneath. Just to give you an idea, the waters on the ‘outside’ of the Narrows can be over 2000 ft. The Wrangell Narrows are guided by over 40 colored buoyed lights with widths between land on each side of 300 ft. at some points and the captains of these boats have been praised by other captains from the Navy as well as from around the world. Our other trips have taken us through here during nighttime hours, the wee hours of the morning. The Captain makes a point to wake you up, if you choose to watch him traverse the Narrows. At night, it is nicknamed “Christmas Tree Alley”. We were able to see it, this time, in the daylight. After the talk and a short dice game with his dad as part of one activity, Sam was sworn in for his 7th (?) Junior Ranger badge….this one for the Tongass National Forest. Because he completed the whole booklet, he received a pencil, a badge, AND a patch….all which had Tongass National Forest printed on them. I think he was very proud of himself, and we were all proud too! Everyone did something different for supper, but Sam & I enjoyed a nice big bowl of cereal in the rooms. Today was a good day…I’m pooped!