Some of my favorite things in Sitka, AK
After spending 2 years going absolutely nowhere, this summer I visited in Northern CA with two college friends I hadn’t seen in 40 years. They are brilliant & I had a fabulous time. Then I flew north to Alaska to visit a friend I haven’t seen in 20 years. More brilliance & excellence. Many have been to CA, so I’m focusing on Alaska. I had the privilege of living in Southeastern AK for 3 years on Prince of Wales Island in Hydaburg while in my 20s. Extraordinary experience. Now I was back to play.
AK is huge. More than twice as big as TX. Flying over it, you see land, land, land, little group of people, land, land, land, little group of people, seemingly ad infinitum.
Southeast AK is water, water, islands, little group of people, and so on.
And It Is Gorgeous.
Tongass National Forest, channels of water, and 85 mountains run through it.
Sitka sits on the shore of Baranof Island, an island slightly larger than the state of Delaware. The Tlingit people have lived there for at least 10,000 years, establishing a rich culture based around the abundant natural resources of the region. The ocean is rich in fish and shellfish, the forest grows massive Sitka spruce and other trees, suppling wood for homes, canoes and other materials. The forest is rich in wildlife, providing another source of food and hides for clothing and shelter. Because of the stable and beneficent resources, the Tlingit people established strong families and communities, with traditional music, dance and art.
The abundant resources also attracted European settlers beginning in the late 1700s. Russians in search of fur pelts dominated the region for much of the century, establishing the city of Archangel (later Sitka) as their primary trading and administrative hub. The Tlingits fought back against this colonization, notably in two battles, in 1802 and 1804, that the national park commemorates. Although the U.S. bought Alaska from Russia in 1867, the Russia heritage of the region continued—and Sitka now contains two of only four Russian-built structures in the Western hemisphere, one in the national park.
The combination of rich Tlingit, Russian and American heritage led early Alaskan leaders to create a local historic park dedicated both to the individual cultures and their fusion. todayinconservation.com/…
Remembering history and honoring cultures–
Sitka National Historical Park
“Sitka National Historical Park is Alaska’s smallest national historical park, but it’s big on Alaska history and scenic beauty.
The 113-acre park was established in 1890 and is the oldest federally designated park in Alaska.
Located within easy walking distance of downtown Sitka, the park is an important site for Tlingit and Russian history and is home to authentic Tlingit and Haida totem poles nestled in a rainforest of giant Sitka spruce trees.” www.travelalaska.com/…
For more on Tlingit Master Carver Tommy Joseph, Naal’xák’w, here are two great interviews.
Part 1- Becoming a Traditional Wood Carver
In Part 2, Tommy Joseph talks about how it has been carving the Waasgo Legend Pole so far, as well as the legend behind the pole and some of its history.
During the summer, the visitor center hosts the Demonstrating Artists Program, housing three art studios where Alaska Native artists demonstrate woodworking, beading, weaving, and metal engraving.
From a footbridge over the Indian River, the trail connects to the Russian Memorial Trail, leading to the historic grounds of the Battle of Sitka, where Russian colonists fought with local Tlingit peoples, eventually leading to the establishment of Russia’s settlement in Alaska.
Visitors can explore the trails as a self-guided tour or join a ranger-led walk.” www.travelalaska.com/…
Signs also remind you that “Bears Happen” and to be mindful of your surroundings.
Fortress of the Bear
“Bears ruled Alaska long before fishermen, gold miners, or cruise ships arrived. As their territory
has diminished, more and more bear cubs have become orphaned and sick. The state of Alaska has no bear rehabilitation program in place, and unfortunately orphaned cubs are routinely shot by the Department of Fish and Game for lack of an alternative. Until now. At Fortress of the Bear, our mission is to rescue cubs, bring them back to health and provide a long life full of enrichment.
Our rescue center opened in 2007, and now houses 8 bears. More than 20,000 visitors per year come to experience the majesty of these amazing creatures. We’ve sent bears to the Bronx Zoo, Montana Grizzly Encounter and the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Boyd, Texas. Our goal is to work with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game to someday release rehabbed bears back into the wild.” www.fortressofthebear.org/…
Stories behind some of the bears—
“Toby is our lone female brown bear, also known as a sow. Toby and her brothers found us when they were 1½ years old after their mother died from ingesting plastic bags found in a garbage can.
Although Toby will never have children of her own, since there is no captive breeding allowed in Alaska, she has taken on the role of mother when it comes to her brothers, Balloo & Lucky…
Toby was our first bear to pick up the concept of signing for more food, by putting her paws together in front of her chest…
We noticed that Lucky had an injured rear paw and a severe limp. We’re not sure what caused this; perhaps he had a fight with a big bear, or he may have been hit by a car. Regardless of the cause of his injuries, we don’t feel he would have survived on his own considering his inability to keep up with his siblings…
Now that has all changed! After some physiotherapy training with his keepers, such as getting him to stretch up tall, he is strong with no visible signs of his injured back paw… www.fortressofthebear.org/…
Eagles at the Alaska Raptor Center
“The Alaska Raptor Center provides medical treatment to over 200 injured birds each year.
Although we specialize in raptors, we will aid any wild bird in need. We strive to heal, rehabilitate and release all of our avian patients, however, some are injured too severely to fully recover and survive in the wild.
These non-releasable birds may join our Raptors-in-Residence team, helping us teach the public and schoolchildren about the wonders of raptor natural history and the habitats in which they live!
The mission of the Alaska Raptor Center is to promote and enhance wild populations of raptors and other avian species through rehabilitation, education, and research. “ alaskaraptor.org/…
The Sitka Sound Science Center
–Pro Fish & Fish Hatchery (Not Farmed Fish)
“The Sitka Sound Science Center is uniquely qualified to provide unparalleled access for research and education programs in the Gulf of Alaska, Eastern Pacific Ocean, and North American Coastal Temperate Rainforests.
The Science Center builds upon Sitka’s legacy as a research and educational community. Sitka has a maritime tradition and commercial, charter, sport, and subsistence fishing all still play vital roles in the economy and culture of the community. Sitka also has ample opportunities for outreach and education. In addition to offering local K-12 and university education, Sitka is visited by approximately
200,000 tourists every summer. “ sitkascience.org/…
“In 1972, Sheldon Jackson College formed a two year program to train people in aquaculture, fisheries science and fisheries management. The school received the first state-issued salmon hatchery permit in Alaska and the students built a hatchery.
Over the years the hatchery reared all five species of salmon and trained hundreds of students that went on to become leaders in natural resource management in Alaska. The Sage Building was the scientific classrooms and laboratories for the school…
[In 2007 ] The Sheldon Jackson College closed its doors. Volunteers from the community helped keep the hatchery operational. Once that was stabilized, the University of Alaska organized a meeting in Sitka of state and federal agencies such as the Department of Fish and Game, NOAA, University of Alaska, representatives from aquaculture and science education and researchers from across the State. The meeting was held to determine how Sheldon Jackson College’s legacy of providing science education and quality research for the state could be maintained. The Sitka Sound Science Center was formed as a nonprofit with the goal of improving understanding of the marine and terrestrial ecosystems in Alaska through scientific education and research.” sitkascience.org/…
Find the Seals (Easy)
Find the Eagle (Medium)
Find the Bear (Harder)