August 23, 2016
Catch it if you can!
Catch what? Why, salmon, of course! Ketchikan, Alaska proclaims itself to be the world capital of salmon.
Dale and I both signed up for a shore excursion. His was salmon fishing! At the end of the day, I was delighted to find out that he had actually caught one, the type known as “pink!” Pinks are the smallest type of salmon and have a milder flavor than the popular “coho.” On the fishing boat were five people, including him. Although 15 salmon took the bait, only three were actually caught. All the others managed to get off the hook before they could be reeled in!
Another man on the boat caught a coho, and since he didn’t want to pay the processing and shipping costs, the boat captain gave it to Dale, since he had elected to have his shipped. So both fish were deboned, filleted, fresh-frozen, and packaged and sent to us, a total of about 15 lbs.! Here is one of the delicious meals we’ve made from it so far:
Catch it if you can! Downtown Ketchikan
Meanwhile, I was on my own quest in Ketchikan. My excursion (to Misty Fjords National Monument – see separate post) got back in early afternoon, so I decided to look around the town. The tour guide on the excursion had given us all maps as we stepped onto the pier.
Looking at the map, I saw that there were two historical walking tours, one of downtown and the other the western part of town. Our tour guide had suggested visiting the former red light district, but I sort of forgot about that in my quest for totem poles.
I looked at the map and started the downtown walking tour. I decided to just see what I wanted and not worry about following the numbers. First was a sculpture with statues of various figures that represented the people who settled this area. A Tlingit woman tells the story of these settlers, which include explorers, gold seekers, native tribes, missionaries, etc.
Then I walked up the street with a sign arched over it that read, “Welcome to Alaska’s 1st City, Ketchikan, the Salmon Capital of the World.”
I came to the historical Episcopalian church, a simple white structure with nice, but not elaborate stained glass windows. Built in 1904, it was the first church established here. Since I had no $1 bills, I emptied out all my change as a donation to the church.
I followed that street up to a small park with a totem pole at one end and a historical clock at the other.
There were other totem poles, each with a sign telling its meaning. The native peoples did not have a written language and used these carved poles to tell the stories of a person or family.
I then headed up Steadman, where there were a couple more totem poles, then headed up Deermount to find the Totem Heritage Center.
Catch it if you can: Totem Heritage Center
For anyone interested in totem poles planning a trip to Alaska, make time to visit the Totem Heritage Center in Ketchikan. You can spend half an hour up to two hours there. It’s not very big – only three rooms.
Admission was $5.00, which got me a guide to the exhibits, but I found it more useful simply to read the placards next to the displays.
A group of people has been collecting old totem poles, many of them in pieces, partially destroyed and all lacking their original paint. A docent there, Margaret, told me that the native peoples used three basic colors derived from materials used to make the colors. These poles told the story of a family, she said, or an individual, because they had no written language. Each carved figure represented something: raven, bear, wolf, fish, whale; and many had human faces carved on them also.
Once the poles were erected, they were left to deteriorate gradually and naturally. Western red cedar weathers the moist climate fairly well. The poles on display were carved in the mid-19th century. They provide examples of traditional carving for inspiration and teaching.
In an adjoining room were displays of masks and rattles.
I had limited time – less than an hour – to see the entire exhibit before I had to return to the ship. I would have liked to spend more time talking to the docent. The other people in the museum were a couple of young people who were there to learn about carving traditions, and they had many questions.