We hiked 1,500 feet up Deer Mountain in the rainforest of Ketchikan, with the sound of dripping water in the background and moss hanging from the trees while we kept a close look out for bears on our climb—at the top we were rewarded with a misty view of the harbor below. We stopped by the Totem Heritage Center, Deer Mountain Salmon Hatchery, and Eagle Center run by Native Americans who are proud of their culture. The peoples of Southeast Alaska are the Tlingits, and when explorers first came upon the shores, they were spooked by the totem poles that rose from the ground like spectors. We enjoyed learning about the totem pole raisings and what the animal carvings represent. The story of the Raven is strong. While wandering the boardwalks of Creek Street, the old red light district (for the sailors and fisherman away from home), a river otter scrambled across our path.
We chose an itinerary that included Haines, and many ships are too large to dock at that port. Haines is reminiscent of Sicily, Alaska, in Northern Exposure, a small town with quirky residents who like to talk a bit. Formerly occupied by Fort Seward, the officer’s quarters are now occupied by restaurants, salmon retailers, B&B’s, and artists. We rode up the Chilkat River through the Bald Eagle Preserve and spotted the white-headed eagles and native clan houses around every bend from our rafts. Our river guide is the local writer and radio personality who could tell some amusing stories. The artist-mayor owns a pretty little house surrounded by the only picket fence in town where his wife works in the massive perennial garden and he sells his art. Just up from the docks is the log cabin gallery occupied by an architecture graduate of Stanford whose talent is displayed in every medium from wood carvings to T-shirts; native dances take place in front of the place in the afternoon. We tried the beer produced by the Haines Brewery, which was served in a Mexican restaurant who used to have a restaurant at the Grand Canyon.