We started off our Alaska cruise with a short (far too short, if you ask me) port call in Ketchikan. Since we were eager to get out and see the real Alaska, we decided to make our first excursion a walk through the rainforest, guided by a naturalist.
We were in the Tongass National Forest--the largest temperate rainforest in the world. And, true to form, it was raining in the rainforest.
As we headed down the trail, we learned that in this entire rainforest, there are only three types of trees: spruce, hemlock, and cedar. That's it. Just three kinds of trees. In the largest rainforest of its type in the whole world. Go figure.
We also encountered our first critter--a banana slug. Our guide told us about how the slugs were critical to the ecosystem because they helped decompose the dead plant material. We also learned that legend was that if you licked a banana slug, you'd have seven years good luck.
No one on our walk licked a slug, but another group of Huckleberry Travelers took a later walk along the same trail, and Stuart took a big wet lick of a slug. We'll report back about how the luck may or may not have resulted.
Further down the trail, we saw our first bald eagle. Then another pair of bald eagles on the railing of an elevated walkway. Then several other bald eagles in a tree. And in another tree. And in more trees. It may have had something to do with a nearby salmon hatchery.
Speaking of salmon hatcheries, did you know that it's illegal to farm salmon in Alaska? Yep. Any salmon you order in Alaska is guaranteed to be wild-caught. So, if you want the real deal, you know where to go!
We also spotted a pair of deer along the trail. Just a few feet from where we were standing! And later, as we were on the elevated walk, the deer made it across the stream where we could see them in the open.
We didn't manage to see any bear on our walk (which might have been a good thing), but our friends on the later walk got a great view of a couple of bear cubs, and then, later, a black bear foraging around just below them a few feet.
After the nature walk, we got to meet Wayne Hewsen, a native totem pole carver, who showed us the pole that he was currently working on, and demonstrated his craft.
From there, we went to the raptor center, to meet a couple of hawks, but also a bald eagle that had been rescued after being hit by a car.
All in all, it was a fantastic day. I only wish that we'd been able to spend more time in Ketchikan. For a small town, we still felt like we weren't able to fit everything in on a short port-of-call stop. Oh well. We'll just have to do another Alaska cruise soon. Maybe you should to? If you'd like to book it, let us know!