The impossibly picturesque town of Ketchikan is good at the “warm welcome.” Your first step from Crystal Serenity positions you directly in the town’s bustling market district, chalk full of wonderfully competing aromas – freshly popped sweet corn, handmade fudge, and the mingling flavors of the diverse array of international restaurants that line the walkways. Upon entry into any of the many shops or eateries will earn you a quick “hello and welcome!” and an easy conversation. You’ll meander along the waterfront, where fishermen will happily talk to you about their daily catch, then wave at the kayakers as they pass under bridge (they’ll wave back, of course).
During our final visit to Alaska’s first town for 2016, we followed these friendly encounters with a venture beyond the town center of Revillagigedo Island (where Ketchikan is located). A brief waterside drive took us to Tongass National Forest, the largest national forest in North America, where the locals waiting to greet us included more black bears, sea otters, bald eagles and spawning salmon than the human residents. This is fitting, since Ketchikan is the “salmon capital of the world” and black bears outnumber people on the island three-to-one.
Our exploration of the rainforest animal sanctuary presented endless opportunities to discover the Alaskan wildlife. And while the rainforest is the second largest in the world, just behind the Amazon’s expanse, it only took a few hundred yards of trekking through lush greenery to be greeted by one of the resident black bears, who had ambled into the stream for a fishing expedition. As the summer winds down, the bears are doubling down on their consumption of the spawning salmon before they prepare for hibernation, when they’ll lose more than 20 percent of their body weight.
Also observing the massive creature’s meal time was a family of sea otters, recently expanded by one pup, according to the impressively knowledgeable expert guide. While it might prove difficult to tear your eyes away from rare meetings like these, but we do encourage you to look upward occasionally, as you’ll likely be greeted by the Alaskan sky’s most majestic inhabitant, the bald eagle.
Explore Ketchikan and the Tongass National Forest on specially crafted Crystal Adventures in 2017 luxury Alaska voyages.