Sitka was our first of four ports visited on our current seven-day tour. It is a beautiful island, surrounded by the Alaska Coastal Range. The water and air currents flow in from the west, and bump into the mountains. While this collision produces lots of mist, fog, and rain, it also offers a warming trend. Sitka rarely experiences snow, very unlike the rest of the country. The pics above are the coastal islands on the way into port, taken from our cabin balcony.
Sitka was the capital of the Russian expansion in not Alaska prior to its sale to the USA in 1867. I don’t recall the year, but Sitka was once larger than San Francisco. When the Russians left, the population fell from 15K to about 9,000. It remains at that level today. The only ways into Sitka are air and sea. They regard the Alaskan Ferry system as their highway, and have lamented that it only runs a couple times per week now…When asked about the cuts, our two guides, both about 20, said the State is broke, and a decision was made to reduce the runs. Sitkans argue that they should then cut the main highway between Anchorage and Fairbanks. When the interior dwellers react with horror, Sitkans point out that the Ferry is their highway. People used to put their vehicle on the Ferry to Juneau, load up at Costco, and ferry back the next day. Now, this takes a week. The pic above is the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in central Sitka.
A few more tidbits about Sitka. There are 2.5 boats for every person here. The saying is that if you don’t have a boat, you can borrow one of the three your neighbor owns. Boating is a way of life. Our younger guide spoke glowingly about finally buying a car to ride the 15 mile paved road system, but he owns a boat. There are two dogs for every Sitkan. Sitka is very isolated. There is no real summer migration of people to the island. And all of their power is from a hydroelectric dam on the island.
Mrs Bear and I were on different outings today. She chose an advanced biking option of about 30 off-road miles. I chose a shorter four mile bike ride with an associated nature hike into the rain forest. This entry will focus on my adventure.
The photos above look through the trees into the sound. Unseen in these photos were thousands of spawning salmon. The females were constantly jumping out of the water. This loosens up membranes which makes it easier for them to lay their eggs.
A couple more pics from the trail. The landscape above shows the tree line at 3000 feet. This is the height of the extinct glacier that carved this valley during the ice age. At the valley floor lies volcanic ash. While this soil makes it hard to grow the forest, it also impedes the mosquito breeding cycle…So Sitka is one area in Alaska almost totally free of mosquitos
Overall, Sitka is an isolated city where boys grow up near the girls they will marry. Lots of generations have lived here. It doesn’t seem to be an easy life, but it doesn’t seem too stressful or neurotic either.