Friday, July 19, 2013

Around Sitka

Today we had a couple things on the agenda we wanted to see and since we are leaving early in the morning for Ketchikan, we decided to move MinnieMee to the campground right next to the ferry terminal. So we planned a day out seeing the sights, then plan to go back near the ferry.

We started by taking the “only” road out of Sitka to the south as the exhibits we wanted to see were all on that road. Different maps showed those three places at different locations, so we weren't quite sure what we would find when we got out on the road.

As it was we saw the Whale Park first and we sailed right by it, not expecting it to come up first. So we kept driving and drove past the Fortress of the Bear. We were looking for the Alaska Raptor Rehabilitation Center and ended up driving out to the end of the road. We found a cannery there and lots of road construction, involving waiting for some time. We never did find the raptor center, so we turned around and headed back.

We stopped at the “Fortress of the Bear” which is a bear habitat for orphaned bears. Three bears in one enclosure are all siblings. There are two on the other side which I think are siblings as well. In Alaska, if a mother bear is destroyed for some reason or dies (as the mother of the three did) from eating trash, the cubs younger than three years old are normally destroyed. They do not believe these young bears would be able to survive on their own. It seems cruel to me and apparently to the man who found the three orphaned cubs because he took them and opened up this bear sanctuary. It is an ongoing project and it definitely needs work, but the bears are well cared for and interact with the employees of the park. They have a large space and there are plans in increase the space and provide a more natural habitat for them, but they will never be released to the wild. Also on the grounds were four sled dogs. They were orphaned as well when very young and the owner hand fed them all to save them. They are still very young and will be eventually trained to pull sleds.

We continued back toward town and stopped briefly at the Whale Park. This park has a couple viewing platforms down on the water where at certain times of the year you can watch whales, primarily humpbacks, in the bay. The viewing platforms were down some steps, at least a couple thousand, so I didn't venture down there. I didn't see any signs of whales out there anyway. If I had, I would have made the effort.

So then we were on a quest to find the raptor center. It was actually IN TOWN! There was no signage on the road, but if you looked down every road along the way, you could see the sign on the actual road to the center. Whew. I mentioned to the staff when we got there that there was no signage on the main road out of town and they looked at me like I had three horns. At any rate, we did find the center and it was pretty cool. This is a place where sick and injured raptors, primarily eagles but there are also hawks, owls, etc., are cared for. If they are sufficiently rehabilitated, they are released back into the wild, but many will not be able to and will spend their years in this center. This is not a bad place. They are well fed and have a variety of environments where they can live. In one area, it is actually an open woods which has screen around it, but open at the top. Birds that can no longer fly are placed in this very natural habitat where they can continue to experience life.

In the flight room are birds that have been treated and are starting to try to fly once again. Some had amputations due to gunshot wounds, others had broken bones set, etc. One had a severe head injury, but was now able to stand. . . not fly yet. . . but he is improving. One huge female had a nasty beak deformity which was genetic, but she would never be able to take game normally. They feed her very small bits of food which she can handle. About 40% of the birds they treat are released back to the wild. Others live their lives in dignity with whatever care they need. These birds were all beautiful and it is good to see that they are getting the care they need.

We drove on back to the grocery and shopped for my birthday dinner. I am a steak person and I wanted a nice steak. We have been unimpressed with the restaurant food. . . it is expensive and mostly fried, so I got a nice rib eye for dinner. We bought shrimp for an appetizer and salad. So we really had a feast back at the camp.

Before we settled in for the night, however, we took a tour of “Old Sitka” which is the originally site of the town. There was a struggle between the natives and the Russians and eventally the town was burned, so the town has relocated to its present location.

We need to check in for the ferry at 6:15 in the morning, so we set three alarms and went to bed early. LOL

Till next time. . .


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