Geographically speaking, Alaska beats any part of the Lower 48. With only so many roads connecting Alaska, the attempt to see it all seems futile. We obviously hope to get to a few far-reaching corners during our lifetime, but we’ve probably only covered 6.4 percent of the state so far!
This is why we were excited to visit the island of Sitka in early September! The main reason we went there was to witness our two friends get hitched. The fact that it’s a lovely place for a vacation was a bonus!
For reference, Sitka is located in Southeastern Alaska facing the Pacific Ocean. In the days of cruising, Sitka is one of those potential ports within the Inside Passage (although our ship did not stop there when we cruised Alaska in 2006).
The Tinglit people originally occupied Sitka dating as far back as 10,000 years ago, but Russian explorers settled it in 1799. It was the capital of “Russian Alaska.” Did you all know US purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867? The Russians were losing money on their colonies in Alaska, so decided to sell it off. The official day of transfer was Oct. 18, 1867 (known as Alaska Day). President Andrew Johnson paid $7.2 million for the whole state! That’s 2 pennies per acre!! I’m not sure why, but Alaska didn’t become the 49th state, however, until 92 years later in January 1959.
We planned 3 full days in Sitka. We flew from Anchorage, with a stop in Juneau first. Our flight was annoyingly expensive, with only two options per day—none of which are nonstop—all unsurprising in Alaska. And actually, our departing flight was canceled, also unsurprising. The hilarious part was that everyone on the flight seemed to be from Sitka, so they just gathered their stuff and went home to await the next flight, like it was no biggie.
Anyway, back to the details of what we saw, what we did. We didn’t rent a car for the trip because the wedding was walking distance from our AirBnb rental, and pretty much everything within Sitka can be within walking distance. There are actually only 24 miles of paved roads around Sitka! With that being said, we connected really well with one of the wedding guests, Charissa, and she insisted we borrow her car while she was at work so we could do more exploring outside of the “downtown.”
We took Charissa’s car out to Halibut Point Road for some hiking. The 1.3-mile Mosquito Cove Loop Trail passes through Sitka spruce-hemlock forest along the shoreline. I didn’t take as many photos of the forest as I should have, but really the coastal rainforest-y setting is quite dreamy.
We also visited Fortress of the Bear, a nonprofit established to take care of orphaned bears. For most of these cubs, their mom died and they’ve never been taught how to survive in the wild. So this rescue center with a naturalized setting becomes their home. I didn’t get to see any brown bears this summer in the wild, so this was the next best thing!
Jay & Deanna hosted a wildlife-watching cruise for wedding guests, giving us more of a look-around of the island. We got to see a “colony” of sea lions, a “raft” of otters, a “smack” of jellyfish and, best of all, a “pod” of WHALES! Like dozens of humpback whales. It was so fun to watch them surfacing, blowing air out and slapping their tail before diving back under.
I’m glad we finally got to experience Sitka, and with friends living there, I’m sure we’ll be back!