If you have seen the excellent chick flick The Proposal starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, you may recall that Ryan Reynold’s character was from the town of Sitka, Alaska. Fun fact: the movie was filmed nowhere near Sitka, and the movie’s representation of Sitka is a C- on the accuracy scale. (Still worth watching).
When we were planning our Tour de Alaska this spring, I suggested looking into Sitka. A lot of local Alaskans I know through work had suggested Sitka to me, and after finding a good deal on flights we decided to add Sitka in for our travels.
Sitka is a fishing town in Southeastern Alaska, and is also only accessible from Fairbanks/Anchorage via plane or ferry, which is why we flew. (We actually flew out of Anchorage, making the trip to Sitka a 6.5 hour drive AND a 3 hour plane ride. Alaska is huge, guys).
When the Russians came to Alaska they settled in Sitka and also in Kodiak Island. In Sitka there is a Russian Bishop’s home that was restored to be a replica of what it would have looked like in the time the Russians were settling. This was the most interesting thing we did. We took a tour and heard about the relationship that one bishop in particular, Father Innocent, developed with the Tlingit people. (In a pleasant turn of events, unlike most colonization stories, their relationship was mostly positive!) The house was beautiful and we really enjoyed seeing it.
The other highlight was Sitka National Park. They have a totem pole display with a lot of huge totem poles, and also beautiful trails to walk on. The ecosystem is Coastal Temperate Rainforest, which is completely different than Fairbanks. (Read: the winter average temps are in the low 30s. Above zero).
One other thing to note is that we went to the Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka. If you know me remotely well, you may have heard about a harrowing experience I had involving an owl the summer before my senior year of college. As a result, the Raptor Center was not my favorite thing, but it was cool/terrifying seeing bald eagles up close and personal.
One thing we considered doing, but decided against, was a whale watching tour. Sitka is known for having beautiful ocean views and the whale watching can be gorgeous. It’s also expensive, and we had already done a whale watching tour in Seward, so we decided not to. But if you ever do go, definitely try one out!
Sitka had a completely different feel than anywhere else I’ve ever been in Alaska. It honestly felt more like a posh Seattle suburb than Alaska to me, which was weird. (For example: everyone manicured their lawns immaculately. What is this, a country club?) I honestly found myself missing the authentic and rustic Alaskan feel while I was there! I am really glad we had the opportunity to go to Southeastern Alaska, especially because it’s not easy to access from where we live. It seems like there is always something new to learn about Alaska. It’s so big and mysterious and wonderful. With every new place we go I fall a little more in love with this state, and Sitka was no exception.
P.S. Take me anywhere, and I will find a bookstore. The bookstore in Sitka was incredible. Take all my money. Take all of it.