September has always been our favorite month for traveling. For three years in a row, we found ourselves in a time of transition during September, and we used that extra time to travel. Each of those trips ended up being our favorite adventures — going from the Northeast to Southwest via Colorado in 2015, exploring New England and Canada’s Atlantic provinces in 2016, and driving coast to coast while moving to Hawaii in 2017. Each of these trips lasted at least 3 weeks, and now whenever September rolls around we like to compare where we were each year every day.
Since Curtis is now stationed with an active boat, we don’t have the freedom to take that much time off anymore. We were blessed just to have 2 days together in Alaska. However, the two days we spent together in Ketchikan will forever be ranked as high in our minds as every other September adventure. With such little time to spend there, and with so few hours together, there was no time to grow tired of the area or for the excitement of being together to fade. There were so many occasions during that short period of time when we would exclaim, “I can’t believe we’re in Alaska!” That feeling just never got old!
We each had a little less than 48 hours there, with 38 of those hours overlapping. Curtis arrived before I did, and spent his time going out to lunch with some fellow officers from his boat, hiking the Rainbird Trail, and doing a quick grocery run to get snacks and lunch for our hike the next day. When my ferry arrived, we went to check in to our hotel. The hotel provided complimentary taxi rides to and from the ferry, and our driver was very friendly and gave us a warm welcome to Ketchikan. He stopped along the way to show us the river, completely packed with salmon!
I had chosen the Gilmore hotel just based on their low prices, but we were very pleased with our stay there. It’s run by Wyndham in a historic building right near where the cruise ships dock, with beautiful views of the bay and very walkable between many attractions and restaurants.
On our first afternoon/evening, we mostly just took it easy and walked around town in the rain, enjoying the totem poles and Creek street. It was the perfect weather to enjoy some warm chowder in a bread bowl from Annabelle’s Keg and Chowder House, a restaurant on the ground floor of our hotel. It had a warm, cozy atmosphere and delicious food.
The next morning began with our hike. Afterwards, we walked around town some more and Curtis attempted a few missing letterboxes. It seemed as though the only one close to us was in a graveyard about a mile down the main highway. Curtis debated whether to get it or not, but I convinced him to because who knows when he’d be able to find another Alaskan letterbox, much less in this county? We walked down the highway, found the box, then made our way back.
It had started to really warm up at this point, so we stopped back at our hotel room to shed some layers. We decided we wanted to do one more hike, so we took a bus a few miles North and made our way up to the Carlana Lake Trail. The path was wide and in good condition as it gained steady elevation up to the lake. After enjoying the initial lake views, we decided to continue following a more narrow trail around the lake. The trail eventually would go up the mountain to a ridge between two peaks, but we were just content to wander on the trail through the rain forest. We felt we could have gone all the way up if we wanted, but since the bus only operated for another 2 hours, we decided to play it safe and not attempt it.
We rode the bus back to our hotel, and walked around town some more. We enjoyed savory crepes for dinner at Alaska Crepe Co, then went back to Annabelle’s for drinks and dessert, which we enjoyed for free thanks to a gift card the hotel had given us. We walked along the dock, now quiet thanks to the cruise ships leaving, and enjoyed a beautiful sunset behind the mountains.
Curtis left the next morning at 4am, so I took it easy that morning and took my time getting packed and ready to go. I went for one last walk around town, soaking up the cool air and dreaming of when we could make a return visit. We’ve already talked about going back over Christmas break — are we crazy?! Obviously I would’ve been happy to visit Curtis anywhere, but I honestly can’t think of a better town to spend a few days in together.
I checked out of my hotel around 11 and took a taxi back to the ferry, and the ferry to the airport. I boarded my flight, the same one that goes between Anchorage and Seattle every day, and was able to claim the exact same seat I had enjoyed 2 days prior. While my last morning in Ketchikan had been overcast, the clouds cleared that afternoon giving me a perfect view of the little town that now holds so many fond memories.
Flying over British Columbia was breathtaking, and as we flew over Washington I was able to spot significant peaks in the Cascades and the Olympics. I wondered if I’d be able to see Mt. Rainier and started to squint to see out over the horizon, but then the plane started to turn and there it was — no squinting required! I had a 2 hour layover in Seattle, then boarded my last flight back to Hawaii. Returning home was much easier than I expected thanks to having my good friend pick me up from the airport, and my sister Sarah at home with dinner and freshly baked cookies ready for me!
And just like that, exactly 3 days after the trip began, it was over. The whole thing felt like a dream — a dream that I’ve relived over and over in my mind as I count down the days to when I can see Curtis again… and to the day that we can return to Alaska together.