The natural beauty of Alaska is stunning, a postcard perfect setting at nearly every turn… as advertised and expected. What we weren’t expecting was the incredible hospitality we’ve experienced since we entered the state. It’s not that we thought locals would be other than friendly, but we didn’t anticipate the openness and generosity we’ve been shown throughout the trip.
In Ketchikan, we were assigned a slip next to a purse seiner, a type of fishing boat that deploys a large wall of netting around an entire area or school of fish. . Her owners, Jim and Debbie, have both been commercial fisherman for 40 years. They welcomed us to Ketchikan, shared some great stories, and gave us recommendations on where to eat (and not to eat) in town.
In Wrangell, we chatted with a man and his daughter after they stopped us with a “Boomer Sooner!” when they saw Wags’ Oklahoma Sooners shirt. They are local to Wrangell but have spent a considerable amount of time in the Seattle area (as have most Alaskans, it seems) so we spent some time comparing notes on our favorite haunts.
In Petersburg, the town known as “Little Norway,” where commercial fishing rules the roost, we were lucky enough to have a local connection through our friend Paul. We met Paul’s brother, Pete, earlier this year in Anacortes and he told us to look him up if we came to Petersburg. Fortunately he had just returned from a trip on the fishing vessel Providence the day we arrived. During our visit, Pete was a fabulous tour guide and host. He invited us to dinner with his family and his good friend, Andy, who owns a commercial crabbing operation. Besides a home-cooked meal, we were treated to fishing stories and local knowledge, recommendations and things not to do, all of which we took to heart. Andy even offered to take us on a day trip to Le Conte Glacier in his aluminum-hulled boat (unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate). On our last day in town, we walked to the airport, an easy mile walk from the harbor, to greet some arriving friends who would be traveling with us to Juneau. On the way back we stopped at the grocery store to provision for the next ten days. While at the store, we ran into Pete’s in-laws, whom we had not yet met. After a few minutes of chit-chat, Brian offered his vehicle for us to use to take our groceries back to the boat. “Just leave it at the harbor when you’re done,” he said. That evening, as we headed out the channel on our way north, a fishing boat came along our starboard side. It was Andy wishing us farewell, a wonderful gesture that perfectly captures the Alaskan hospitality we’ve seen so far on this trip.