Alaska's First City

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May 22nd 2012
Published: May 23rd 2012
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As you cruise north from Vancouver the landscape gives way to miles and miles of wilderness. Vancouver is a very densely populated city, but British Columbia as a whole is not. Except for the occasional tugboat pulling a raft of logs or a Ferry transporting passengers and their vehicles the horizon before us is clear. Clear, clean and beautiful. Snow-capped peaks fringe the narrow passage ahead and the shores are an immense forest of lush green trees.

Alaska's first city is our destination. Ketchikan is billed as the salmon capital of the world and the whole city is waiting for us to arrive. We are the on the first cruise to Alaska of the season for Princess and the first to arrive at the dock on this Monday morning. We are the first of four ships that will eventually tie up on this day. So, the streets are sparkling clean, the shop keepers bright and friendly and the shelves stocked to the brim. It is all there, Bars, Old Bordellos and lots of stuffed Bears. What could easily have been to much in another place, does not seem really over the top here. No one is hawking wares on the street or goading you into their shops. Yes, it is obvious that the local economy hinges on the cruise ship visitors, but it is not really in-your-face pushy. Plenty of golden nuggets are on display and the restored houses, shops and cafes along Creek Street are really cool. The scenery that surrounds the town is awe-inspiring and everyone is friendly and helpful. It is a very walkable town and we spent the first couple of hours just walking around and getting oriented to all the sights and sounds. Then, we caught the local bus for one dollar each and got a nice, if somewhat crowded, tour of the harbor and surrounding area. Outside of downtown the economy did not look as robust. Several closed down cannery's, an old paper mill that was being dismantled and ramshackle houses lined the main road along the harbor. The locals on the bus complained about the loss of logging jobs when Bill Clinton closed the 16 million acre National Forest and made any harvest of timber illegal. The fact that they were still complaining about something that happened in the 90's was surprising.

But, overall Ketchikan was lovely.


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