A long overdue visit to see my cousins, I took my youngest son to Ketchikan for the weekend. An easy overnight trip to Alaska's first city by way of maritime navigation. My family history dates back to 1876 to my Great Great Uncle Arvid Moe who immegrated from Norway after my Great Grandmother Olga had written him talking about Alaska's prosperous fishing grounds. He found work in mining and construction. In my family it's the women who make the big moves ;)
In addition to the Norwegian side, I also came across an old leather suitcase filled with love letters to my Great Grandmother Janette from another bloodline. It was surrounding WWII. She had at least four men writing her, calling her Princess, and promising eternal love. Some read, "It's been awhile since I've heard back from you." I laugh because she must have been busy trying to juggle all these potential suitors. The nostalgia of telegrams, letters, and cursive writing was enough to fill a novel. Not to mention the drama of the man who gave her a son, and the man she actually spent the rest of her life with. Quite juicy haha.
Today, I have multiple cousins there, I unintentionally met two of them for the first time on this trip! I stayed at my Grandmother's condo that overlooks the Harbor and Tongass Narrows near the city center. I'm not sure why it has taken me over a decade to go back for a visit, perhaps my Aunt's death there created a wound I wasn't up for unloading. Either way it was a much more meaningful trip than I was prepared for, and I'll definitely be going back to explore those feelings and roots when I can. There's a lot of magic left in the back alleys and mountains I've yet to explore.
The City itself was how I'd remembered it, but this time it felt much more built up. Colorful houses sprawled on staircase streets and boardwalk dead ends you can barely drive a car through. The pandemic has shifted the City in similar ways to other tour destinations. The downtown cruise ship district is papered up with vacancies. I believe the locals enjoyed a summer without the crowds as Ketchikan doesn't put restrictions on daily passenger limits. In fact, they're currently building another Mega Ship dock on the north side of town to accommodate more. While the City enjoys the monetary gains, I'm not sure the locals want to keep adding more to the scene. It's no secret that outside investors own much of the town and have created a monopoly.
If you're looking for an escape, entertain Ketchikan. It's very walkable, a lot of wild history, and endless views to keep you bewildered for the duration of your stay. Highly recommend it, you might just find some kindred spirits pulling you in and wrapping you with warmth and wonder.
Here's a quick weekend guide to Ketchikan, Alaska!
Like any southeast community, a good seaside coffee shop and a history book is all you need to escape your own mind. The best time to visit would be on the swing season, either in early spring, or late fall through winter.
- Captain's Lady - A little story right on Creek Street! Filled with gifts, home goods and bodyworks.
- Out to Sea Expedition Company - An outdoor gear shop to gather essentials for outdoor adventures. Plus in summer months you can book them for zodiac tours!
- Bawden Street Brewery - Always go find yourself the local brewery and support the longstanding mission of alcoholic beverages in Alaska!
- Alaska Crepe Company - Sweet and savory combinations. I loved their smoked sockeye and spinach crepe.
- New York Cafe - live here. Espresso, brunch, mimosas, like how could you go wrong?! Delicious food, great view, awesome staff and owner. Do not leave Ketchikan without stopping here!
What to Wear
I packed the morning of which is never a good idea. I underestimated the weather by about 10 degrees and a wind chill. Desperate to be south and out of the snow for a weekend, I "thought I would be warm enough."I was inclined to raid my Grandmother's closet which didn't disappoint. Her closest are filled with jackets and western shirts from the 80's and 90's!
November - Plan for 30-40 degrees,
- Warm socks
- Sweaters and other layers
- A good hat that covers your ears
- Light gloves
All for now,
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