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Cruise: Day 6 – Sitka

September 13, 2010

Or: the lame leading the lame.

We’re in Sitka for pretty much the whole day today, and haven’t planned any excursions. We’re just two gals flying by the seats of our pants. The Rotterdam is the only ship in Sitka, which is a blessed, welcome relief after the hordes in Juneau.

Once again, I’m up early and spend some time on the balcony. We have breakfast in the room, and watch as we enter the Sitka area. It actually looks very much like some of the shots from The Proposal, which was filmed in Massachusetts or somewhere. Maybe they took some water shots in Sitka.

This is the only port at which we don’t dock, but instead tender. The tenders are the lifeboats, and are reached by going down a flight of steps and into the ship. Mom does great getting down, albeit slowly. We’re tendering to a point further outside downtown than I had hoped; often ships tender right at the downtown visitor’s center. We’re about half a mile from there.

We make our way towards downtown, and stop to see the Russian Orthodox church, St. Michael’s. It was destroyed by a fire in the ’70s, but many of the icons and relics were saved, and the tiny church is chock-a-block with artwork, chalices and mitres. It seems rather incongruous to find a Russian Orthodox church is tiny Sitka, Alaska, even though I know that it was the Russian foothold in America during part of the 1800s.

We then go to Harrigan Hall, the visitor’s center, and I get my bearings. I want to go to the National Historic Park, and learn it’s a mile away, but a flat mile with sidewalks. The woman at the desk tells us about the local bus service, and we head out to the stop, but as usual, I’m impatient and take off. It’s only a mile. She also gives us the schedule for the Indian tribal dance performance and the Russian dance performance; turns out we can make neither, given our plans to go to the park, unless we strap jetpacks to our backs. I had really wanted to see both. Oh, well.

Meanwhile, it starts to rain. I pull our rain ponchos from the pack, and we continue along the waterfront. We pass some cute sculptures, the Russian Bishop’s House, a defunct college. The rain alternates between quick downpour, light sprinkle, and just a mist. Finally, we arrive at the park. It preserves the site of an Tlingit fort, and their battle with the Russians in early 1800s. They also have a native artisan carving a totem, and a totem painter working inside.

We wait for a tour of the totems with a park ranger. The trails in the park are mostly packed mulch, so pushing a wheelchair on them is doable, but not necessarily fun.

Meanwhile, I become hobbled with the mother of all charley-horses. Seriously, my calf feels like someone yanked out about four inches of tendon. Good times, good times.

The ranger is good, and I think she’s surprised at how quickly I start pushing each time she finishes at each totem. I’m just thinking about keeping some momentum going, so I don’t quiver to a stop in the middle of the forest, to be found decades from now. The totems are awesome in their size and detail, and we learn some of their stories, though the tribes have kept other stories secret, known only to tribe members.

Something that make you wonder how it was discovered: the paint used on the totems was made from copper oxide and some other metals, mixed with – get this – chewed-up salmon eggs. Turns out the eggs mixed with saliva formed an oil base that allowed the paint to adhere.

Once we complete the tour, it’s probably been another mile of trails in the park. I decide we’re going to wait for the bus, as my leg is still howling. While we wait, I try to brush the pine needles and bark from Mom’s wheelchair and from our ponchos. It’s a lost cause.

We eat lunch at a restaurant close to where the bus lets us off, near the waterfront. It’s overpriced, with incredibly slow service. Oh well. Then it’s up to Lincoln Street, where the shops are. One good thing about Sitka is that it doesn’t have the jewelry stores that other ports do, and much fewer souvenirs shops. Another good thing is that it’s September 1, which seems to be the magic day when merchandise begins to get marked down, since the cruise season will be ending in a couple of weeks. Since I don’t have thousands of people in my space this time, the shopping with Mom isn’t nearly as painful as it was in Juneau.

We limpingly make our way back to the tender dock, with a stop in a drugstore for a heat patch for my calf, and some Vick’s for Mom, given that she’s been outside all day in cool, rainy weather. I’m wiped by this point. As I’m looking at the fairly steep ramp down to the tender, wondering where I’m going to summon the energy from, a knight in shining armor swoops in and takes Mom down the ramp. It’s good karma, he tells me when I thank him. Whatever, crunchy dude, I still really appreciate it.

For the trip back to the Rotterdam, we’re crammed in with some of the ship’s entertainers, who are appalled that we haven’t seen any shows, and thrilled to point of squealing when I tell them we saw orcas in Juneau. We wait until every else gets off the tender, then Mom makes her way up the stairs without problem, probably less of a problem than I had!

We must have made quite a sight heading to the cabin: covered in the glamorous ponchos, bedraggled, loaded down with bags and me limping like Quasimodo while pushing the wheelchair.

When we get back to the cabin, I take the wheelchair onto the balcony and wreck a HAL washcloth cleaning off the wheels. I think we brought the entire forest back with us. Dinner is again in the Lido, minus Agus, and this evening’s movie is Rudy. I massage my calf repeatedly. Mom’s threatening to cancel tomorrow’s plans if I’m still in pain.


From → Alaska, Elder travel

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