October 17, 2012

Red Ribbon Week - Ketchikan, Alaska

Not only is October the anniversary date of the opening of the Dick Beardsley Foundation, but it is also the month which brings millions of people together to raise awareness of the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, and encourage prevention, early intervention, and treatment services. It is the largest, most visible prevention awareness campaign observed annually in the United States, also known as Red Ribbon Week.  The Ketchikan Police Department invited me to be their keynote speaker at their kickoff event for the community. 

Myself along with my wife Jilly, and friends Beth and Stacey flew from Austin to Salt Lake to Seattle to Ketchikan. Whew.  And, every flight was timely, thank you Delta and the weather!

Salmon Capital of the World "in season" 

The girls had goals for this trip.  A) to see a bear B) to see the Northern Lights C) to see a bald eagle D) to see a whale E) to see salmon F) to see seals G) to see a Moose.

We were met by our host, Detective Mike Purcell, from the Ketchikan Police Department.  The Ketchikan International Airport sits out on an island so we loaded up our gear in Mike's car and then made the very short trip across the bay on a ferry to the mainland and downtown Ketchikan.

Ketchikan is a city of around 8,000 people and is actually the 5th biggest city in Alaska. We were given a car to use while there and the funny story about the car is that it is property of the KPD and was a “seized” vehicle.  We had our fingers crossed that no one saw us and thought we were the original owners and then chaos ensued and this blog would have a very different ending.  

We headed for Chinook Shores, our home for the next 5 days.  The lodge is about 12 miles north of Ketchikan.  Man, talk about a beautiful place!  Jeff owns Chinook Shores but since the salmon fishing season was over he was visiting friends in Seattle, so his dad, Jerry, took over as host.  Jerry was great and it was fun to spend some time with him.  

I was hoping to have done some fishing but will have to go back during the main season and I know when we do we will be staying at Chinook Shores!  


Morning out on the dock
Morning out on the dock

View from our deck
Afternoon...the 5 minutes of sun we saw all week

Thursday I got up and went out for a 10 mile run on the Tongass Highway.  I headed north and got 5 miles out and never before have I ever run any place where when I got to the end of the road, I was literally at the end of the road! Nothing but wilderness after that, I loved it! I turned around and went back to the lodge, and boy, let me tell you, there are some hills in Ketchikan! 

Ketchikan receives about 185 inches of rain a year and October is the rainiest month and it proved so while we were there. It rained virtually nonstop our entire time but we loved it!   

Jilly rocks her Frogg Toggs

That afternoon we went for a long 4 (felt like at least 10, or at least that is what Jilly keeps saying) hour hike in the forest, absolutely beautiful! If you've never been in a rain forest before, it needs to be on your bucket list, it’s incredible! This was no ordinary hike on a well maintained trail! It was that way the first half mile or so but then it got very rugged with lots of hills, creeks, bogs, rivers, and mud! We all took a fall a time or two, Stacey got her shoe stuck in the mud, but no sprained ankles, broken bones or the need for a helicopter to come find us, just lots and lots of fun!    

Being silly pretending a bear was in the tree

This was growing out of a tree

We kept our eyes peeled for bears and moose and eagles but the only wildlife sighting so far and in the forest was a slug.  At this point, Ketchikan was going to have to change their postcards of glamorous wildlife to a slug. 

Ketchikan wildlife

We had planned to go out to dinner for fresh fish and all during the hike we talked about how amazing salmon dinner was going to be.  We got to the restaurant and nary a fish was on the menu.  Nada.  We settled for lamb, prime rib, and pasta.  A fantastic alternative for sure!  It’s all about being in town during the prime time of the season.

Windows open, fresh air, sound of the ocean lulled us all to have one of the best night’s sleep ever! 

Friday morning I drove over to Ward Lake to run on the trail.  I've been fortunate to have run in a lot of neat places around the world but I honestly think that the run I had along Ward Lake may have been the most beautiful place ever!   It was pouring rain but I was having a ball! I came around a turn on the trail and there was Mr. Black Bear going potty right in the middle of the trail! By the time I got my iPhone out of my SPIbelt to take a picture he had taken off but I was able to get a nice picture of his "pile"!

See....bear poo.

I told the story to the girls, but they were disbelieving of the Mr. Black Bear sighting. 

That afternoon I was a guest on a local radio show to promote my talk to the community.  I initially thought was going to be a 5 or 10 minute interview, but we talked for at least an hour.  Not sure if that was the original intent, or I just can't stop talking.  :-)

Flyers on the door promoting my visit and Jilly looking amused!

After another short run close to the lodge we headed into the Ketchikan High School for my talk.  We had a nice turnout and my talk went very well.  Afterwards I signed lots of Duel in the Sun and my autobiography Staying the Course and chatted with folks, it was a fun time had by all!

Detective Mike Purcell with Jilly and I

Saturday morning I got in a 15 miler. I left the lodge around 7AM and headed for Ward Lake, the girls were going to meet me there and do their own run around the lake. My run started off dry but very windy, but a few miles into the run it started raining hard but it was so much fun and the scenery was second to none!   The girls ran around the trail were Mr. Black Bear was the day before but no sign of him.  Just poop. 

Part of Ward Lake
Ward Lake
Bald Eagle at Ward Lake

That afternoon we drove south through town on the Tongass Highway to the other end of the road. We saw some gorgeous waterfalls along our drive. 

This is along the side of the road, hidden in the trees

The mist and breeze from the waterfall was chilly!

We then stopped at the fish hatchery that is located on a river that flows into the ocean. In the river there were a bunch of seals that were feeding on a few wild salmon still in the river, talk about fun to watch! Also cleaning up the scraps were lots of seagulls and a half dozen bald eagles.  

Bald Eagle sighting!  I had binoculars and could confirm it was not a seagull.

Seal sighting

Super Serious Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle Number 1 is devouring what remains of a Salmon

A Seagull attempting to taunt an Eagle.  Good luck with that.


We stopped at Saxman Native Village, to see native Totem Pole Art. So gorgeous!

That evening friends of mine, Bill and Laurie invited us all over for supper. What a wonderful time we had! Personally caught halibut and fresh caught Alaskan King Crabs for dinner, my goodness was it good!   Apparently we didn’t need to go to a restaurant for the finest seafood in Ketchikan!

Bill and Laurie are two of the nicest people you could ever know, thanks you two for the great time we had!  And shout out to Cody and Trig, two of the cutest rescue dogs ever!

Growing up and living in Minnesota for 51 years I've seen some spectacular Northern Lights over the years, but the girls had never seen them before. We talked with some locals and they said they were out the night before and there was a small break in the clouds and they said the lights were incredible.  Unfortunately with all the clouds and rain the chance for us to see them was pretty limited. I give Beth and Stacey a lot of credit, our last night they got up numerous times to check and see if the clouds had cleared.  And when I say “got up” I mean, got up, put on their coats, and headed out on the dark out to the end of the fishing dock.  Impressive, given that Jilly was sleeping with one ear open listening for them to shout out so she could scramble down to see them if they were out.  The clouds never cleared but it now makes for a good excuse to come back! (no excuse needed for me to go back, I'd go back in a heartbeat!)

**this is where a glorious picture of Northern Lights would be, if we had seen any**  

Sunday morning I got up really early to get a run in, and I had to wear my headlamp as it is really dark up there, especially when it’s raining!  Detective Mike met us at the Lodge and took us to the Ferry back over to the airport our trip now over and time to head back home. I can't begin to thank Detective Purcell and the entire Ketchikan Police Department for all the hard work they did to promote drug awareness in the Ketchikan area! Their hard work is a wonderful gift they are giving to all their citizens!

Here is part of the article that Danelle Landis of the Ketchikan Daily News wrote.  I have to giggle, it looks like I'm trying to touch my toes, which I haven't been able to do that in years! I admit, I move around *alot* when I speak and I am photographers' nightmare/challenge. 

Goals C) to see a bald eagle, E) to see salmon and F) to see seals, were met, not too bad! 

Making friends with the bears
Could this be any cuter?

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Rachel Matteson said...
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