Alaska – In Search of the Great North

The ArrivalArrival – Ketchikan, Alaska : August 24


It’s hard to make out, I know, but the picture here is of the float plane I skillfully flew up from Seattle just as I was landing in the mouth of the Inside Passage in Ketchikan. Our arrival.

Oh, of course not. Our arrival had Jayne and I sitting in the back of a 737 (700 series), with me peering out the little window. But if anyone wanted to ever actually learn to fly a float plane, from what I’ve seen so far, Ketchikan is the place to do it.

The truth is, if it hadn’t been for a talkative and thoroughly charming 8-year-old named Zoe, our arrival wouldn’t have been quite as smooth as it was.

I don’t know how it began. I had gone off in search of facilities while waiting for our connection in Seattle and upon my return, my seat had been taken by Zoe, and she and Jayne were discussing their life histories. After a few minutes of my attentive hovering, listening to the intense dialog, Zoe finally asked Jayne, “Do you know that man?”

“Yes I do”

Whew” I thought.

In any case, Zoe is adopted, her mother is her Aunt (a long story, I am sure, and none of our business), they were going home, and we parted ways while boarding the plane. But so it happened that we all met up again while waiting for the ferry to get us across the sound from the airport to Ketchikan, a town that is several miles long but at no point more than 10 blocks wide – usually less, sometimes barely a block – as it clings to the side of a steep forested ridge (there’s no putting down a 737 in Ketchikan proper – think float plane).

The short ferry ride gave Zoe the opportunity to ask us how we were getting to our hotel, and for her Aunt (mother) to offer us a lift. That was very nice of Zoe’s mom, a women that struck me as friendly, yet sad. Perhaps something to do with only 15 days of sun that Ketchikan gets, by her native account.

And this wasn’t one of them.

Or perhaps I felt a sadness from the women because she is both Zoe’s Aunt and Mother, and the details of what made that so, all of which is, of course, none of our business

In any case, our arrival at the – and believe me, I am embarrassed by this – Super 8 motel was without a hitch. Not that the without a hitch part, but that we’re staying at the Super 8 motel.

Evening sun in KetchikanI complain about sitting here in this cheap motel instead of in our cabin aboard the M/V Columbia sailing up from Washington; as I would have been had the Columbia’s starboard engine not thrown a rod forcing the Alaska Marine Highway Authority (or whatever they’re called) to pull the ferry from service last week for the rest of the season. 

But if that hadn’t happend, we’d have never met Zoe, nor been shown a simple act of kindness by Zoe’s mom, or had the opportunity to see the sun  shine on Ketchikan later that evening as we walked through the nicer part of town. It’s funny how things work out.

And besides, tomorrow night, we’ll get on another ferry for a sail up the Inside Passage. The Great North awaits.

Next: More about Ketchikan


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