The first day

Apr 22, 2014 | 0 comments

Saturday, 19 April 2014

This morning I awoke ready to go play outside. I don’t remember waking up this motivated in a long time, but after a quick breakfast and some coffee during which I inspected a map of town, I took off down the road. Although I didn’t end up walking where I intended to go, I found myself on a back residential road lined with cute little houses. While these houses are old and weathered, unlike Nome, they don’t appear to be rundown shacks. Sitka is quite a bit wealthier and has a much “whiter” demographic, which unfortunately translates to a slightly more upscale community. But I do feel safer here.

I eventually find my way to a lake full of quacking mallards, and then remember which way to go for the town center. I wander down the sidewalk and it seems everyone I pass greets me with a smile or a nod. I walk through what must be the main tourist drag in the summer and stop in a couple shops, but everything seems mostly dead, even on a Saturday. When I get to the harbor, it’s a bit more active, and the sounds of gulls laughing and the ding-dinging of boat sails carries over the wind. I climb to the top of a historic site known as Baranof’s Castle, which offers great views of town and the surrounding mountains.

View from Baranof’s Castle

View from Baranof’s Castle

It becomes increasingly windier the closer I get to the harbor. I walk along its edge until I reach Sitka National Historical Site, the visitor center where I’ll be working this summer. I wander through its exhibits and the totem hall, and then meet the other interp rangers with whom I’ll be working. They’re all very friendly and give me a cup of hot chocolate and a bunch of brochures. I think I’m going to like it here.  With my hot cocoa in hand, I wander down the nature trail, which is scattered with totem poles that almost blend into the forest. I walk out onto the tidal flats where several people are also strolling, collecting shells, gumboots, and other various ocean treasures.

The tidal flats

I hike about 2 miles through the spruce rain forests of the park. There are remnants of the Tlingit fort that was occupied during the Battle of 1804 when the Russians and Aleuts attacked the Tlingits, and then across the mouth of the Indian River is the Russian memorial. I am somewhat amazed by the serenity of this place; I feel like I’m out in the middle of nowhere, and yet when I come to a less dense part of the forest, I can see houses and boats and harbors through the trees, not even a quarter mile away. I’m really right in the middle of town.

Mt. Edgecumbe, the local volcano

I can’t believe I live here

Even this time of year, the park is moderately busy. I pass at least 4 people walking their dogs on the trail, and others hiking with cameras or binoculars. Migration season is just beginning and the tidal flats are teeming with gulls, shorebirds, ravens, and bald eagles. The eagles are as common as pigeons around here! As I’m hiking, I keep hearing crashing in the trees above me, only to look up and see an eagle taking off. When I stop at an overlook to see across the cove, I see pairs of eagles courting high in the sky against a backdrop of snowcapped mountains.

The distant building on the right is my office
Indian River

The totem trail

On day 1, Sitka is a dream. I don’t know how it will be later in the summer, but right now I feel like I could enjoy this place for a long time to come. Tomorrow I think I will try to hike some of the trails, and then Monday work and training begins. So much to look forward to!


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