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Friday, July 24, 2009

Sights of Sitka

Our first full day in Alaska was spent exploring the city. And this was the first thing we saw out the door: the cruise ship. The walk into town was about two miles. The first place we located (and visited most throughout the day) was the public bathroom. The visitor center did not offer the information we sought about public transportation. Every Community Ride vehicle we saw was going the other direction. Across the street we found the bike rental shop. We decided $20 for two hours per person was too expensive.

The shop owner talked to us about hiking trails. From him we learned that one of the trail heads had been closed, because a bear had just killed a deer and cached it nearby. With the bear guarding his kill, the area was considered especially dangerous. There were three other areas higher in the mountains where he said bears had recently been spotted.

All we saw today were berries. Along the road and throughout the state park we found wild salmon berries. We were told they are especially abundant this season. The one we ate was slightly tart. We also sampled a chocolate chip cookie from two local children who had a dockside table displaying their goods.

After an expensive lunch in one of the two downtown hotels, we strolled the main streets and visited a few shops. Though Sitka has only about twenty miles of roads, and a single traffic light, it has the second largest total area of any incorporated area in the United States, nearly six times the size of the largest city in the lower states, Jacksonville, Florida.

Of course, a book fancier can not resist a visit to the local bookshop. This one offered a small assortment of new books, including a lovely selection of local interest, as well as a small cafe in the rear.

We ventured next down to the docks. All the bays are fully stocked with boats. Here we saw the cruise ship shuttle loading and unloading tourists. Also a family bringing their groceries down from town to their docked houseboat. A different route home led us into the national park. We followed the trails and found lots of berries, dense forest, and a memorial to Russian soldiers who died fighting natives in the early 1800s.
Now, at 7:00pm, the sun has finally emerged from the clouds. We are headed out to the bay again to look for bald eagles.

They are everywhere. Four of them in the trees above our head. Three of them across the bay on the tree tops. A man in the bay caught a fish about fourteen inches long. The eagles are huge and amazing.

Until tomorrow, goodnight from Alaska!

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