Tag Archives: Clouds

Catch As Ketchikan

Wednesday 17 August 2022 – Long read alert! Grab yourself a cuppa or a glass of something cold and settle in for a spell.

This is the last post about the cruise, for today we are At Sea, having departed our final port of call, Ketchikan, yesterday. From the decks of the ship, it looked an attractive place.

and we got prime parking position bang in the middle of the downtown waterfront. It was also clear what a major role tourism plays in its economy.

As ever it was an action-packed day, but for once our luck with the weather deserted us.

Ketchikan measures its annual rainfall in feet, and gets somewhere between 12 and 15 feet of rain every year.  If you check out this average climate page, you’ll see that “A lot of rain (rainy season) falls in the months: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December.” Yesterday proudly performed in line with the averages.

No matter. We disembarked promptly for our excursion, a “photo safari”.  Whilst we awaited the start, we took a couple of photos from the quayside

The statue above is called “The Rock” and depicts the various influences in the development of the place – Tlingit, loggers, fishermen and airmen.

Our tour was led by Theresa

who was very friendly and helpful, but garrulous to the point of gabbling. It was only her second or third time of leading the tour, I think, and maybe she was a little nervous.  However, she had a few tips of particular value to iPhone users, but some of which could also apply to Android phones, and she took us to some nearby locations we might not have found by ourselves and some more remote ones, too.

We started at Ketchikan Creek, which runs through the downtown area.

You can see the downtown/old town buildings in the photo above, and we headed over to them. They surround a street sensibly called Creek Street and are very charming, even in the pissing rain.

I caught a glimpse of a raven slyly feeding on some scraps it had found.

Ketchikan styles itself “The Salmon Capital of Alaska”, and, since the salmon were running, we could see why.  On the positive side, one can see a salmon ladder beside the creek, where the salmon make their way upstream to spawn

but one can also see (and often smell) the carcases of those that didn’t make it – the creek waters are littered with dead salmon.

There’s a salmon sculpture by the banks of the creek, carved by Terry Pyles

and named in honour of the native carver Jones Yeltatzie, who had originally put a painted wooden salmon there.  Salmon dominate as a wildlife specimen, but there are plenty of other animals in the area, and these are celebrated in an artwork on the side of a Creek Street building.

Theresa took us to another area by the creek, where we could also see salmon working their way upstream; nearby houses were attractively coloured but a little run down.

After that we took to the road to cover a variety of different locations: a viewpoint which shows that Ketchikan has its working side as well as the quaint downtown area;

the library, which normally has a great view but today was struck by the Walker curse – “would have been better if it were clearer!” –


but which offered a nice close-up;

the harbour, which has a very extensive marina;

a floatplane mooring;

Ward Cove;

and, finally, Totem Bight State Historical park, also called Potlatch Park.  This features a replica native village, laid out as closely as possible to the traditional manner and constructed using traditional materials and hand-made tools. Construction started in the 1930s.

and, somewhat bizarrely to my mind, a small vintage motor museum.

The place had the most amazing gift shop. You really don’t expect to find life-size cars in a gift shop, do you?

The gift shop also featured a museum of older artifacts (e.g. guns)

and Jane found an exquisite advert.

Our time ran out at this point and we had to hasten back for the second adventure of the day, something which was surely to be the cultural zenith of the entire cruise – the Great Lumberjack Show!

We blundered about trying to find it at first, but succeeded in the end. There was a Lumberjill outside it as we went in

to seating by an arena which was clearly set out as a competition between USA and Canada.

The host was “Lasagne Joe”, who asserted that he was a chef,

and who was the MC for a variety of different “Timber Sports” set pieces with each team of two guys trying to beat the other.

It was as staged as WWF wrestling, but massively entertaining; and the athleticism, strength and skill of the guys was very impressive indeed.  Of course, it ended in a draw which meant that a tie breaker in the shape of log rolling was needed to settle the score.

The whole thing was ridiculously good fun and the athletes posed for photos afterwards as we filed out.

It was then not long before our ship departed, so we spent a few minutes looking round at the downtown, which has its fair share of attractive buildings and quirky bits

Jane pointed out, as we walked along, that up ahead wasn’t an apartment block we had to skirt, it was our ship!

It being my birthday, we treated ourselves to champagne and nibbles – the treat was the nibbles, as the champagne was available at no extra charge – and then went to The Grill for a hot rock meal – massive prawns for Jane and steak and sweet potato fries for me.  It was a nice end to a very entertaining day.

This morning, we awoke to very different weather.

and the sun combined with a patch of fog as we had a (latish) breakfast to give us the sight of our very first fogbow!

The rest of the day passed in relative indolence, interrupted only by starting the process of getting packed up ready to be kicked off the boat tomorrow morning. Oh, and lunch, which we took at the pizza place at the far end of the deck as shown below.

I must say that it was great to see the sun.  Ketchikan excepted, we’ve been extraordinarily lucky with the weather in Alaska, but in most cases “lucky” translates as “not raining”.

As we passed Vancouver Island (and, indeed, the place we’ll be in next week in an attempt to see grizzly bears in the wild), we got some nice views from our cabin.

And thus ends a week of sybaritic self-indulgence, Silversea style.  I’m very impressed with the Silversea offering. The food has been excellent, the service has been pretty much faultless, the excursions have been interesting and varied, and our butler, Francis, has done a really superb job of looking after us all week. I would expect us to be future customers of Silversea, but we’ll probably aim for their expedition-style boats, which are rather smaller and we think that’s probably more our style.  It’ll be 2024 before we find out and there’s a lot of, erm, water to flow under the bridge in the meantime,

We still have the practicalities of getting off the ship in good order, a process which is at once both convenient and a nuisance.  Silversea demand that we have our suitcases packed and ready by 2300 today, and we must leave the cabin by 0800 tomorrow.  This relieves us of faffing about with last-minute packing, but also means that we don’t have access to things that we might normally use overnight. I’m not sure whether this is a good arrangement or not;  I guess we’ll find out in due course.

If you’ve read this far, then congratulations on your patience and staying power and thank you for sticking with it.  We reach Vancouver early tomorrow and so will have the day to wander about gawping at things and moaning about the heat (29°C, with the sun threatening to split the paving stones).  So do come back and see how we got on, won’t you?


Torres del Paine – scenery by the bucketload

14th March 2018

First, a word about the weather. We were based very near Puerto Natales, a small town which is about as far south of the equator as my home town in Surrey is north of it. However, there’s no gulf stream to temper the weather, so it’s pretty extreme, with temperatures varying from -15°C in Winter through to over 20°C in Summer, and strong winds driving very changeable conditions. By the end of the day, I have to say I was pretty pissed off with the ceaseless gale-force winds. But they did mean that the grey, misty, wet weather, such as we saw at the start of the day

Patagonia Autumn Weather

was eventually blown away and replaced by sunnier and less rainy conditions. But the wind didn’t let up for an instant.

Puerto Natales is a great place to use as a base for exploring a major tourist attraction, but also a significant conservation effort – the Torres del Paine National Park, a “paradise of 227,298 hectares and exceptional geography of imposing massifs, virgin forests and turquoise lakes.”

At this point, I think a word is in order about the roads. I would rate driving in the national park as something best left to experts, as the roads don’t have a tarmac surface – they are rough, rutted and pot-holed. Apart from possibily damaging tyres and/or suspension by driving yourself around, you’ll end up having to wipe the windows clean very frequently to get the mud off them.

“Torres” means towers, and Paine is the name of the principal river that is fed by the run off from the snow and ice that is a permanent feature of the towering rocks. “Paine”, by the way, is an aboriginal word meaning “blue”, and you’ll see how appropriate that is later on in this post.

However, this central massif is not the only attraction of the area. En route to the southern park entrance (yes, you have to pay to get in), you can visit the Mylodon Cave, a “natural monument” which is geologically very interesting, spanning 20,000 years of eolution of rock formations and native animals.

The animal that the caves are named after is, you guessed it, the Mylodon, a species of giant, ground-based sloth which went extinct some 5,000 years ago. At a viewpoint in the cave, the organisers obligingly have placed a life-sized model:

Mylodon life-size model
The cave is a substantial hole gouged out by glacial and water activity.

Inside the Mylodon Cave

Once having entered the Park, our next stop was the Grey Lake (so-called because of the colour of the sediment it carries), which debouches from the Grey Glacier.

The first hurdle on the walk to the shore of the lake is a suspension bridge, which is quite fun, albeit slightly alarming, to cross.

A post shared by Steve Walker (@spwalker2016) on

And then it’s a short walk to the shore of the lake. We were in luck, as near the shore there was an actual, real and beautifully blue iceberg which had broken off from the glacier.

Glacier in the Grey Lake

Glacier in the Grey Lake

From there, we moved on to the main course of the feast. Well, lunch, actually, but its situation, by the shores of Lake Pehoe (pronounced “pay-o-way”, meaning “hidden” in the aboriginal language), gave us the first taste of the magnificence of the central massif, the Torres del Paine.

Torres del Paine

The blue colour of the water is what lends the name “Paine” to the region. You were paying attention earlier, weren’t you?

The rest of the day was spent being blown away by the magnificent views in other parts of the national park and blown away by the ceaseless winds, which was quite wearisome by the end of the day. Unsurprisingly many of the views featured the central massif from various angles

Scenery in Torres del Paine National Park

but also of other areas. A friend of mine, Sue Foster, remarked once, about a visit she paid to the highlands of Scotland, that it was a “Wild And Lonely Place”. Sue invented the WALP Factor and so many areas of the national park are definitely WALP Factor 8!

A wild and lonely place

As well as dead wildlife such as the Mylodon mentioned earlier, there was a good selection of local fauna which were very much alive:


Guanaco – this one a young one standing sentinel to look out for predators such as puma or fox,


Rhea (this is a rhea view of one),

Eagles (this is a black-chested eagle), and

Souther Crested Caracara

a Southern Crested Caracara (there are other varieties).

All in all the Torres del Paine is an excellent place to visit. I have friends who have hiked around the central massif, a process which takes several days, and so I suppose we only scratched the surface of what’s available. But we were lucky with the weather and it was a day well spent.