Alaska Adventures: Turning 30 and (not drowning) kayaking in Ketchikan

Although I am well aware that the universe maintains a keen sense of humor, I couldn’t help but joke about the kayak trip scheduled on my 30th birthday. With statements like, “If I get eaten by an orca on my 30th, I’ll surely make national news,” I tried to mask my nerves with mildly funny jokes. I should have known better.

Saturday, June 23, a bright, sunny day heading into Ketchikan, Alaska.
I found the dilapidated homes intriguing.
Storm damage?
Seeing tractors float by was straight up weird!
Funny view from our balcony.
In particular, T enjoyed watching the float planes.
To quote Mr. T: “Radial engine Beavers make me happy.” Now you know.
We worried about rain as Ketchikan catches a lot.
I always want to know the stories behind these shacks.
Ketchikan gets an average of 152 inches of rain per year and typical summer temperatures stay in the 60s. During our visit, we enjoyed bright, full sun and more than 80 degrees. People wore shorts and tank tops.
In addition to being the salmon capital of the world, Ketchikan boasts the largest collection of totem poles in the world. More than 80 types are displayed throughout the city.
Ketchikan is home to 7,000 people.
And lots and lots of tourist shops.
Ha!
I could wear this proudly some days.
I wish I enjoyed the “Christmas in Alaska” store more, but on my favorite holiday of the year, I just wasn’t thinking Christmas.
Every other store seemed to be hocking diamonds, but I never found out why.
Purdy.
I do wonder who buys these monstrosities. (Besides aunties who like to buy their nieces and nephews oversized stuffies, ahem)
Well…
I meant to teach myself to like salmon while visiting Alaska and I failed. I blame the smoked salmon quiche from our first morning in the Moose Pass bed and breakfast. Blech!
Somehow, I abstained from buying chocolates. (I say “somehow” as if I didn’t buy fudge in one port and truffles in another.)
Cute name! (Bad photo.)
In case you wonder what I’d buy from a fur shop if I had a few thousand dollars lying around and lost my morals.
Instead of booking a kayaking trip that would keep us close to our cruise ship, our friend found Southeast Exposure, a tour that would drive us 25 minutes out of the city, boat us to an island and allow us to explore a lesser-ventured spot in the waters around Ketchikan. We would end up paddling the Tatoosh Islands in the upper left corner of the map.
The birthday girl pretending not to be terrified.
We kept our eyes peeled for wild life.
Found some!
Can you spot the itty bitty (because I used my point-and-shoot camera) eagle?
After taking a 10-15 minute boat ride, we landed at a staging area where a previous group of kayakers was returning.
We donned small life vests (smaller than the bulky ones from the boat) and received brief instructions on how to paddle from our guide, Jared.
Due to the calm winds, sunny skies, and relatively dry conditions of the previous kayakers, we opted not to wear the “skirts” that would keep water droplets out of the vessel.
Little did we know what a mistake that would be! (Although I did enjoy not being strapped into the thing.)
We mostly paddled in pairs, except for our guide and more experiences paddlers, Carolyn and Diana.
We got to maneuver around little islands, over shallow inlets and close by to shore where we saw this fellow.
They always look so stern. Lighten up, dude. It’s my birthday!
Looks like Tom is bashing Deb on the head. I thought she was doing a good job paddling myself.
I bought a waterproof camera, but kept my little Sony in a “dry bag” on my lap. I felt disappointed in our great weather for a minute because Jared said the whales and wildlife typically stay out of the sun.
After about 10 minutes on the water, I started to relax and catch the rhythm of paddling with Mr. T. Prior to that, I *might* have been a little uptight about the whole kayak thing.
Right about here, Mr. T and Jared started discussing flying and weather. Turns out Jared is also a pilot, and he shared that the forecast called for high winds later in the day. I swear, no sooner did Jared utter the word “wind” then clouds blocked the sun and our perfectly calm water turn to white caps. In an instant, it seemed, we were bucking 25 mile-an-hour winds and getting seriously soaked in the process. Behind me, a previously mellow T was shouting “ROW! ROW! ROW!” and we both pushed through the chopping water, not getting far. Although waves-in-the-face seemed fun for a minute (I’m ever the water baby, I guess), I was relieved when Jared called for us to turn around. Except that meant turning around and getting parallel with the waves that seemed intent on flipping us over. For a minute, we wondered when we could capsize and not if.
Thankfully, perhaps miraculously (?), no one tipped over, and we all paddled back to shore without incident.
I was particularly impressed with Harrison, who was also on his first kayaking trip.
Well, we may not have seen any orcas, but we sure left with a good story!
Carolyn demonstrates the lazy gal’s guide to kayaking in strong winds… get the wind to your back and use the paddle as a sail. It works surprisingly well as we found out!
Didn’t have time to explore the thick woods around us.
Despite the crazy weather, I’d go kayaking again.
Leeches! (Okay, pebbles.) Soaked from head-to-toe, we tried to bask on the warm stones and dry off. T harbored stowaways.
Happy people heading towards the hot tub! (Did I mention the water was freezing?)
White caps don’t make for the best kayaking.
So, Jared was hauling ass on the ride back to shore and much to our delight, Dan refused to move from his seat.
Rainforests grow things bigger!
Oh my.
Bear!
After boarding the ship, we spent an hour warming up in the hot tub and then cooling off on the fan tail watching the sun go down.
I bought a t-shirt. I wish it said “I survived paddling Tatoosh”
Not a bad way to commemorate 30 years on the planet.
After three port stops, we made tracks towards our final destination, Vancouver.
But first, a birthday dinner! Here, T takes a note from me, the Hallmark monster. Three cool cards!
LBD for the birthday.
We ate at Sabbatini’s, the second “fancy” restaurant on board.
Yummy Italian fare, and great friends!
My wonderful Mr. T.
And the best appetizer EVER. Mushroom tart. Sigh.
And one of the strangest main courses I’ve ever ordered–Langoustines. The dude on the far left seems to be saying “en garde!” don’t you think?
I don’t know what I expected with this dish, but it certainly wasn’t crawdad bodies. The wait staff noticed I got a little squeamish and removed the heads/claws. I don’t think that helped in the slightest!
If you can’t read my favorite card, third from left… One old lady to the other: “It’s a little too early in the day to wear your ‘do me’ sweater, don’t you think?” HA!

xoxo,
shawna

Alaska Adventures:
– Hello from Alaska! 
– Bumming around Moose Pass and Cooper Landing 
– Trail riding in Seward 
– Trouble takes a party bus Whittier
– Scenic cruising and the Hubbard Glacier 
– Incredible Glacier Bay National Park (plus, whales!) 
– Skagway, the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway, and bears, oh my!
– A helicopter ride and glacier walking in Juneau

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