After visiting Ketchikan and Wrangell, our Alaskan cruise moved on to Sitka. This is another city many cruise ships bypass. Too bad, as it’s a great place to explore. The day we arrived, only one other ship was in port. We docked about 5 miles outside of town and took the free shuttle into the city. From there it was an easy walk to everything we wanted to do. Unlike the previous stops, we did not book any shore excursions in Sitka, preferring to wander around the city at our own pace. Our first destination was the Alaska Raptor Center. The center’s goal is to heal, rehabilitate, and release the birds in its care. Those unable to survive in the wild become part of the Raptors-in-Residence team, remaining at the center as part of the education and outreach programs. Naturally there are several bald eagles at the center. When we visited, there were a dozen eagles which would eventually be released after being treated.
Alaska is home to roughly half the world’s population of bald eagles. It’s said that in Alaska, eagles are as common as pigeons. I’m not sure if that says more about how many eagles reside in the state or how few pigeons there are, but it is an interesting tidbit. At one point in the trip, we spotted over a dozen eagles flying overhead. I’ll say this—if you want to see bald eagles, Alaska is a great place to go. While at the Raptor Center, we also saw a raven, several species of owls, a couple hawks, a peregrine falcon, and a kestrel.
After the visit to the Raptor Center, we strolled over to the Sitka National Historic Park to view more totem poles. It seems no matter how many times you see them, you never get tired of them. At least I didn’t. There is a great walking trail in the 112 acre park with totem poles placed at various points along the way. There is even an audio guide that can be accessed from your mobile phone providing more detail about the history and significance of each pole.
Okay, that’s probably enough totem pole pictures for this trip. After exploring the totem trail, we wandered back into the center of town where we passed perhaps the most significant building in Sitka—Saint Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral. Built in 1966 after the original cathedral from the 1840s burned to the ground, it’s an easy landmark to find when exploring Sitka. If you look carefully, you might be able to spot the steeple in the banner photo a the top of this post.
The on-and-off rain sent us back to the ship for a late lunch. Having seen what we wanted combined with a departure time of 5pm, we spent a relaxing couple hours on the ship enjoying a few rounds at the bar followed by a well-deserved nap. Having visited Sitka, I marked off another county, the third in as many days. From here, our next stop would be Juneau. I was looking forward to that for a few reasons. One, it’s another borough seat. Two, it’s a state capital which I hadn’t visited yet. And three, we booked a dog-sledding excursion on the Mendenhall glacier. Oh yes, Juneau is going to be fun.