Small town, Alaska style: An unplanned bonus day in Sitka

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sitka-parade1-july4.jpg
Sitka’s Fourth of July parade followed Lincoln Street, with the Russian Orthodox cathedral as a backdrop.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_7955.jpg

WOOPS, HERE WE ARE, still in Sitka. Because Barbara M. was feeling punky yesterday, with a sore throat and mild cold symptoms (do-it-yourself COVID test: negative), we’ve decided to stay a fifth night in Sitka. I’m taking the opportunity to post once more to the blog, shop for more socks (less need for laundromats!) and find a thrift shop with cheap DVDs (we’ve run low on evening entertainment). Back to the wild seas tomorrow, heading south to Baranof Warm Springs, Red Bluff Bay and beyond.

In the marina here we met a friendly Canadian couple off a boat named Tsonokwa, meaning “wild woman of the woods” in West Coast native legends. (Parents with naughty offspring threaten them with Tsonokwa, an ogress who steals children and carries them home in her basket to eat.) The two boaters are both wildlife biologists who live in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. With their two young teen children (who better behave, on that boat), each summer they explore more of Alaska’s waters from their boat, moored in Skagway. They hope to reach Puget Sound someday. This is the second port where we’ve encountered them, one of the serendipitous treats of a cruising summer.

Meanwhile, here’s an update on our holiday.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sitka-apt-house-july4.jpg
A charming old Sitka apartment house, with multiple entry doors and a wooden sidewalk out front.

Monday, July 4

Three good things:

Another sweet example of historical Sitka housing.

(1) Found a good laundromat and toddled back to the boat with a pillowcase full of the freshly washed and tumble dried. On this Independence Day, what celebrates America more than a tidy little business where you can get $10 worth of quarters from a change machine and improve your lot in life with 10 days worth of freshly laundered underwear and socks?

(2) Along with hundreds of others, I watched Sitka’s Fourth of July parade on Lincoln Street, with the Russian cathedral as a backdrop for the marching Coast Guard men and women (and an exciting Coastie rescue-chopper flyover — two at once! — that threatened to take out the three-beam cross atop the church). Also parading were the local offroad-vehicle club, the Forest Service’s Smoky Bear and Woodsy Owl, the local fire brigade and more. While most parade participants tossed candy to the kids, two local supermarkets gave away bananas. Bananas were everywhere!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sitka-parade2-july4.jpg
“God. Apple Pie. Trucks.” For some in Sitka’s parade, that’s what Alaska is all about.

(3) Climbed a long, curving flight of steps to Castle Hill, the highest point in downtown Sitka. The hill was at one time an island at high tide before tidelands were filled in. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, this was a Tlingit stronghold, seized by the Russians after an 1804 battle. The Russians built a small castle there for Alexander Baranov, head of the Russian American Company and functional governor of Russian Alaska. This was where the Russians formally ceded ownership of Alaska to the United States for $7 million in 1867, and where the 49-star American flag was first raised when Alaska became a state in 1959. Now empty of structures, Castle Hill on this sunny and warm Fourth of July offered me sweeping views and an intriguing history lesson.

High hopes for smooth sailing. See you soon.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is baranof-castle-site-sitka-july4.jpg
Sitka’s Castle Hill, where the Russians handed over ownership of Alaska to the United States in 1867. Of course, the Tlingit and other native Alaskan tribes question whether their ancestral home was the Russians’ to sell.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is anchor-jpg.jpg