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  Ketchikan Travel Tale

by Lorry Patton . . .

Cruising through the breathtaking Inside Passage is an exciting way to experience even a tiny bit of the vast, rugged state of Alaska. The ships glide between islands by cool waterfalls, sheer cliffs and wooded islands sometimes so close to shore passengers spot deer and bears.

Include some land travel in your itinerary to further appreciate Alaska's beauty, power and grandeur. Colorful seaside towns like Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, still have one foot rooted in the past.

Maps for walking tours are available from the visitors bureau on the dock in Ketchikan. Creek Street and its infamous Molly's House give visitors an insight into the town's shady past, when bootlegging and prostitution were prevalent. Another stop on the walking tour is the Totem Heritage Center, where original totem poles from different tribes are displayed.

In the 1930's Ketchikan was known for its salmon catch, and more than a dozen canneries were in production. Today, a banner proclaiming the town as the Salmon Capital of the World still swings over head near the dock.

Juneau's history, meanwhile, is rooted in the discovery of gold. Richard Harries and Joseph Juneau found the precious metal under the guidance of Chief Kowee of the Tlingit tribe.

Despite the fortune they uncovered along the Gastineau Channel, the two prospectors died penniless.

Today, it's not the gold, it's the snowswept, dazzling Juneau Icefields and the Mendenhall Glacier that attract crowds. Both can be seen as part of side trips arranged on the ship.

Skagway, known as the Gateway to Yukon, might not be as picturesque as Juneau, but it has an equally adventurous past.

A powerful magnet, gold drew people by the hundreds to Skagway as a point of entry to Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896. But first they had to conquer the treacherous coast mountains that separate Canada and the US. It says something for man's tenacity and spirit that many succeeded. The town museum chronicles the period.

Ships pass among huge chunks of ice on the blue-green seas of Glacier Bay, the largest national park in southeast Alaska. Enormous glaciers, constantly giving birth to new ones, fill the air with earsplitting cracking sounds, like so many gunshots.

It's a sound you'll long remember.


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