Thursday, September 14, 2017

Stroll Sitka, Alaska, "Paris of the Pacific"

Sitka Sound from Castle Hill. (Julianne G. Crane)
Sitka, Alaska, is a beautiful quaint small seaside city. Like most southeast Alaska communities, part of its charm is that it is only reachable by sea or by air.  Settled on Baranof Island, Sitka is located on the outer coast of Alaska's Inside Passage. It is a popular destination with RVers because it is a year-round port-of-call for the Alaska Marine Highway System (1-800-642-0066,

"These state-operated ferries provide an extraordinary opportunity to navigate the Inside Passage at a leisurely pace. Passengers can embark - with or without their vehicle - at Bellingham, Wash. (just north of Seattle), and Prince Rupert, B.C., from the south, and in Skagway or Haines, Alaska from the north," according to Sitka's website. 

Jimmy Smith canoe (Julianne G. Crane)
"Sitka was the cultural and political hub of Russian America in the early 19th century. While San Francisco was only a sleepy cow town, Sitka's opulence had already earned it the distinction as the "Paris of the Pacific."

The downtown area is centrally located and many points of interest are within walking distance of one another. We stopped by the Harrigan Centennial Hall on Harbor Drive to view the large hand-carved Tlingit canoe made from one log (see above).  The Tlingit have lived continuously in Sitka for more than 50 centuries.

St. Michael's Cathedral
Within a hundred feet of Harrigan Hall is the public library with free wifi / computer usage for visitors, just ask at the front desk.

 A casual two block stroll downtown is St. Michael's Cathedral, an active Russian Orthodox Church whose onion-shaped domes have graced Sitka's skyline for nearly two centuries," according to the city's website.

The first "Orthodox Cathedral was established in North America in 1848 by St.Innocent first bishop of Alaska. Russian explorers, hunters, trappers, and eventually missionaries, brought the Orthodox Faith to the shores of Alaska."
Inside St. Michael's (Julianne G. Crane)
Inside is "an important collection of Russian Orthodox art and rare church treasures. Built in 1844-48, the cathedral was totally destroyed by fire in January 1966. Many of the precious icons and religious objects were salvaged and are in the rebuilt structure."
Located at 240 Lincoln St., $2 donation.

Old Harbor Books (Julianne G. Crane)
Just down the street from St. Michael's is Old Harbor Books, an independent book store established in 1976 by a group of three book-loving local families. 

"Old Harbor Books offers everything from stationery and 'librarian candles' to local artistic postcards and classic novels," writes Brittany S on "My favorite part about the shop was the clever handwritten labels on several of the books explaining why it's a good read and what to expect (staff's picks, etc.).  I highly recommend popping in during your visit for a dose of feel good vibes and literacy."

Inside Old Harbor Books (Julianne G. Crane)
The warm interior, rich selection of local writers and nostalgic feel invites the visitor to browse the aisles and pick up a book or two about Alaska. Jimmy purchased a map on the Alaska Inside Passage.

Immediately behind the Old Harbor Books is a must-stop for any coffee lover--The Backdoor Cafe. (This is especially true on cool, damp mornings when you are strolling around town before the book store opens.)

For your coffee fix in downtown Sitka. (Julianne G. Crane)
If you need your coffee before 10 a.m., head down the side street on the left of the book store to The Backdoor Cafe where an amazing latte and tasty homemade muffins await.

A favorite hangout for the locals (we asked at the local bike shop), this is a perfect spot to get off your feet for a few minutes and read the local Daily Sitka Sentinel, the only newspaper you can buy in Sitka.
Jimmy Smith sipping a latte in corner.

Sitka RV Parks

Sealing Cove RV Parking operated by the City and Borough of Sitka is adjacent to Sealing Cove Boat Harbor, 7 miles south of the ferry terminal, and a short distance from downtown Sitka (at the beginning of Airport Road).  Space available for 26 RV's.  Water & electrical hook-ups.
Open May 1 to October 1.  For information, contact the Sitka Harbor Master, (907) 747-3439.

Sitka Sportsman's Association RV Park
Sitka Sportsman's Association RV Park, adjacent to the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry terminal at 5211 Halibut Point Road, located approximately 7 miles from downtown.  Space for 16 RV's.  Water, electric hookups; showers, restrooms, Indoor Shooting Range, a Trap and Skeet Range, and, an Archery Range.
Open year round.

For fees and reservations call (907) 747-4712 or toll free 1-800-750-4712. Online booking is available at

- Julianne G. Crane
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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

An afternoon in historic downtown Juneau

It's getting toward the end of the RV travel season in Alaska; however, many visitors still crowd the streets of Juneau's historic district. (RVers end up in Juneau because it is a year-round port-of-call for the Alaska Marine Highway System (1-800-642-0066,

Downtown Juneau from Mt. Roberts Tramway
Juneau has its roots in the Tlingit people, who for centuries hunted and fished along the shores of Gastineau Channel. Gold was discovered in the early 1880s and soon boatloads of prospectors arrived.

Juneau became the state capital in 1959 when Alaska was granted statehood. Today around 32,000 folks call Juneau home.

Along with museums, memorials and heritage centers, two popular attractions we took in one afternoon were the Mount Roberts Tramway and the Red Dog Saloon.
2000' above Gastineau Channel

The aerial tramway lifts riders almost 2,000 feet above the downtown, delivering them into Sitka spruce forests. There are amazing views of the surrounding mountains and waterways. (One of the frequent ferries or cruise ships that dock in Juneau can be spotted on Gastineau Channel.) Tickets run around $33 a person and can be used all day long.

View along Franklin Street
toward the Red Dog Saloon
in historic downtown Juneau
Ask anyone who visits Juneau the 'one place' not to miss and the majority of those over 21 will say: The Red Dog Saloon.

Jimmy Smith in Red Dog Saloon, Juneau
With roots dating to Juneau's gold rush heyday, the Red Dog Saloon is a classic 'raucous' spot that is popular with old geezers and history buffs.

The walls of the saloon are adorned with an elaborate collection of animal heads and memorabilia, including hundreds of $1 bills.

-- Julianne G. Crane

All photos by Julianne G. Crane 

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