Into the Wild—Ketchikan: Day 6 Aboard Holland America’s Oosterdam

Tongass National Forest’s Deer Mountain trail in Ketchikan, Alaska. photo by Andrea Guthmann

My favorite thing about an Alaska cruise? The great outdoors is brought right up to my doorstep every day. Passing so close to forests in the Inside Passage you can almost smell the pine and touch the glaciers, pulling into small mountain communities that welcome nature lovers.

We pull into the lively town of Ketchikan, population 14,000, and cruise right past the tourist shops, heading directly for the Deer Mountain trailhead. As in every port, we’d rather take a walk on the wild side, than through a mall or shopping district. Apparently not everyone feels this way though. Many Oosterdam passengers seem to prefer the treasures found in the approximately 70 jewelry shops in Ketchikan, to the treasures found in nature. I guess that’s the joy of cruising— something for everyone.

Interested in taking the road less traveled? You’re in luck— America’s largest national forest, Tongass, is spread throughout the towns of Southeast Alaska, making hiking a breeze.

The Deer Mountain trailhead is a 45 minute walk uphill from the Ketchikan cruise-ship dock. We decide to hop in a cab for the 5 minute ride, costing us $10. The hike takes us through a dense old growth rainforest where plants are sprouting from every direction. It’s a magical experience for this scenery starved city girl, and I hope a life-changing one for my 12-year-old son.

Hiking Tongass National Forest’s Deer Mountain trail. photo by Andrea Guthmann

We hike for almost 2 hours, seeing almost noone, then start heading back down the hill to the harbor. Along the way we pass by a couple popular tourists stops. Ketchikan is both the salmon capital and the totem pole capital and there are some great places to learn about both.

Learn about the craft of Northwest Coast Native artists at the Totem Heritage Center, which houses a priceless collection of 19th Century totem poles. photo by Andrea Guthmann
Ketchikan, Alaska is considered the totem pole capital. photo by Andrea Guthmann
The Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery & Eagle Center is a good place to learn about salmon and see rescued eagles. photo by Andrea Guthmann
Ketchikan is Alaska’s salmon capital. photo by Andrea Guthmann
Salmon is big business in Alaska, not just for fishermen, but tourism as well. photo by Andrea Guthmann
Salmonberry jelly? Only in Alaska. photo by Andrea Guthmann
The pretty purple fireweed is found throughout Southeast Alaska. photo by Andrea Guthmann
Ketchikan’s average rainfall of 160 inches means flowers are found everywhere in the summer months. photo by Andrea Guthmann
Don’t want to take the road less traveled? Ketchikan’s lumberjack show is a popular attraction. photo by Andrea Guthmann

Join us tomorrow as Oosterdam sails to Victoria, capital of British Colombia.

Andrea Guthmann is a Midwest Emmy Award-winning broadcast, print and digital journalist. She spent many years as a TV producer for WTTW, the PBS station in Chicago. Her writing’s been published in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Parent and on-line travel sites. She’s also the Midwest blogger for TravelingMom.com.

A native Floridian, Andrea’s now a big (windy) city mom of 3, who range in age from tot to teen. She loves sailing Lake Michigan and visiting the world class museums and restaurants in her sweet home Chicago. Being a scenery starved city girl, she loves escaping to the outdoors during vacations. She’s thrilled to be sharing tales of her Alaskan adventure aboard Holland America’s Oosterdam through August 5th, 2012, through daily reports on AvidCruiser.com.

Disclosure: Holland America Line is hosting the author and her guest for purposes of this review.

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