Saturday, May 31, 2008

Cheers for Sitka

Sitka might have a huge influx of people on a daily basis from the cruise ships but they strive to keep the town feeling and being real. The small downtown area can get pretty congested with people but stepping off the main strip finds immediate relief from the tour boat crowd. Small coffee shops and a terrific bookstore and TONS of parks with really well maintained hiking trails make Sitka a joy to visit.

We throughly explored the Sitka National Historical Park which was established in 1910 to commemorate the Battle of Sitka of 1804. The park is also known as Totem Park because the main trail is decorated by many large and colorful totems. Another path will take you to the Sitka Raptor Center which gives you the opportunity to see Golden and Bald Eagles, Hawks and Owls up close and personal.

On the North end of the city (there are 12 miles of road in Sitka) is the Halibut Point State Recreation Area with three terrific hiking trails. The Mosquito Cove trail is a 1.25 mile loop through the forest with excellently maintained stairs and steps leading you to a mosquito shaped cove where we watched harbor seals and eagles frolic. On the inland side is a 0.5 mile boardwalk called the Estuary Life Trail which was perfect for watching birds and I'm sure salmon once they begin to travel upstream to spawn.

The South end of the city has an area called Whale Park. There are lots of viewing areas, both at the parking lot level and down several flights of stairs, for people to watch for whales,
sea lions and seals in the sound. The stairs also provide access to the rocky shore below where anemones and star fish can be seen in the tide pools formed by lower tides. Renting bikes or a car to get out of the main area is definitely worthwhile in Sitka.

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