Welcome to Sitka, Alaska, day 7 of our June 2018 Alaskan Cruise.
No excursions planned for us this fine drizzly day. We didn’t have much time since the last shuttle back to the ship left at 1:00 p.m., so we decided to tour the town on our own. This strategy was probably a mistake on our part, though.
After checking my cell phone for service and seeing I had none, I put it back on airplane mode and stuffed it in my backpack. Then we proceeded on our leisurely walk around the city to see the downtown area and historic sites. The Old Harbor Bookstore looked inviting, perhaps we would come back and browse around.
The Sitka Hotel seemed popular. I wondered if they had good food.
The Alaska Pioneers Home promised a historical story. We wandered inside to check out the gift shop and had a nice conversation with the volunteer who watched over the cash box. Residents of the home had made all of the gift shop items.
The Alaska Pioneers Home housed indigent single men beginning in 1912 after the United States Marines abandoned old barracks and officers’ quarters. When the military facility became dilapidated, the current building was constructed in 1934 from funds appropriated by the federal government and the territorial legislature. A north wing was added to the main building in 1956, and the structure has since undergone extensive remodeling and renovations in order to house both men and women, single and married.
What a lovely old building it would be to call home. Outdoor seating areas occupied space behind the windows on either side of the main entrance. I could imagine myself sitting out on the porch with a cup of tea and looking out over Totem Square and the suspension bridge.
The United States Post Office seemed like an enormous building for the population of approximately 8,700. On further inspection, we learned the post office also housed a courthouse and municipal offices for the city and borough.
St. Michael’s Orthodox Cathedral with the clock tower was noted as a must see in Sitka. Unfortunately, the historic building was undergoing renovations, so no tours for us.
The Sizzling Chow might be a good place to get a bite to eat after we toured around. Perhaps we would come back if we had time.
On our way to the Sitka National Historic Park (Totem Park), we passed the Sitka Rose Gallery, which advertised the finest in Alaskan art from sculptures, paintings, native art, and jewelry. Maybe we could stop in on our way back to town.
Or we could tour the Russian Bishop’s House at the Sitka National Historical Park. First, I wanted to see the totem poles, especially after watching Kelly White working on the initial carving of one on the ship.
The bayside walk of our tour also held interesting views and with a name like Lady Linda, the fishing boat was truly beautiful with her blue paint.
As soon as we arrived at the visitor center, I walked around and took photos of the totem poles in front. When I finished and spun around to find Jon, he was not in the vicinity. I waited outside for a few minutes then went into the bathroom. When I came out, still no Jon. Maybe he went inside. I needed to get my passport stamp anyway so in I went. But no Jon.
Okay, I’ll wait outside. This happened once before when we were in Canada with no cell service. We had made a plan that if we were separated again, we would return to the last place we had seen each other and wait. So I waited, and waited, and waited. I watched the minutes tick by, five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen, then twenty. Should I stay and hope Jon will eventually turn up? Or, should I head back to the shuttle? The last shuttle was in an hour and I still had to walk back to town. He could be there waiting for me.
I bet he went back to that little restaurant we passed to get a bowl of chowder. I peeked into the tiny space, no sign of Jon. I scanned the crowds in front of me and behind for a sign of him as I walked back to the shuttle bus.
While I stood in the long line of passengers, thoughts that Jon may be hurt, sick, or at the emergency room popped in my head. Since I didn’t hear any sirens, I dismissed those reasons for my missing husband. He must have gone back to the ship. I shouldn’t have waited so long for him. He’ll be there when I board.
As I waited in line for the shuttle, I bounced from one foot to another and stood on tiptoes, searching all around for a sign of Jon. Oh, wait, a navy blue jacket. No that’s not him, he wasn’t wearing a hat.
Worrying occupied my time while I waited. What if I boarded the ship and Jon was sitting in the hospital in Sitka somewhere. What would we do? How would I get back to Sitka? We’ve got another day at sea. How far is it from Victoria to Sitka? I wasn’t sure I wanted to fly in one of those seaplanes to come back if I had to. They looked scary.
I finally boarded a bus, grabbed a window seat, and peered out hoping Jon would pass by. All the passengers loaded, the door shut, and I scanned the crowd one more time, but no Jon.
Back on the ship, I rushed to the cabin. No Jon and no note. I used the ship’s app and sent him a message. It was another 30-40 minutes of waiting before I heard back. So where was Jon all that time? He saw a trail where more totem poles were and assumed I had gone down the trail to photograph them. When he didn’t find me, he went back to the visitor center and waited, then left to board the last shuttle. I saw the trail, too, but I would never have gone without him, not after the Canadian separation fiasco.
After eating lunch and sharing our stories, we walked around the ship while it shoved off and watched Sitka fade into the horizon as we sailed out to sea. There was much more we would have liked to experience in Sitka had we not spent so much time waiting on each other. What we did see we enjoyed and would love to return in the future.
Next time perhaps we’ll book an excursion. A tour guide would surely prevent us from wandering off alone. Or we could keep in touch with walkie-talkies for those times when we don’t have cell service, that is if we remembered to pack them.
Wishing you Safe Travels and Not Getting Lost.