We had a nice post-hike meal at The Pub in the Bayview Inn. The food was good, and they had a nice selection of beers from the local brewery. We enjoyed wings, fish tacos, beer and wine while celebrating our successful hike up Mount Edgecumbe.
While eating we contemplated our options. My guidebook described an appealing 9 mile round trip hike to Indian River Falls. The trailhead was on the edge of town, about a mile away. According to the book, there are numerous campsites along the trail. We weren’t crazy about camping in the rain, but we didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a hotel. The local Super 8 was $250 per night! I did a bit of research and found a bed and breakfast in town for $100. That sounded like a great deal. The hostel would have been $25 per person, per night. So, $100 for two nights. We would get much better accommodations and a free breakfast for the same cost. The only catch was that we had to camp one night in the rain.
Well, we were used to that. We’d already eaten dinner, so we would simply pitch the tent and go to bed. It was well into evening, and we were exhausted anyway. Plus, due to the rainy weather, Indian River Falls was on the agenda for Sunday. By camping up there we would already be on our way to that destination.
We walked out of town through heavy rain. Lots of cars passed us, and the people of Sitka are so friendly that we probably could’ve waived someone down and bummed a place to sleep that night. In fact, we talked to someone later on that did exactly that. We soldiered on though, and the rain tapered off by the time we reached the trailhead. We followed good trail for a mile or so and found an acceptable place to camp near the river. It wasn’t an official campsite, but it was adequate. The river was nearby, and we were deep in old-growth rain forest under a canopy of immense trees. That canopy kept most of the rain off. In fact, we were able to pitch the tent without getting anything wet.
We set up camp at 9pm and went straight to bed. We slept great despite nearly constant rain that night.
We were up a 7 on Sunday morning feeling great. The morning was overcast, but the rain had stopped. I made oatmeal and coffee and packed up. We then stashed our packs and food (in a bear canister) behind some giant trees. We only carried light day packs for the hike to Indian River Falls.
The hike to the falls is 9 miles round trip, but we’d already covered 1 mile. The hike was mostly easy as we followed the river and passed through massive trees and lush vegetation. The final half mile was more difficult as we climbed a ridge. It was then that I realized that my legs were still tired from Mount Edgecumbe. After crossing the ridge we descended back to the river and continued to view of the falls. Indian River Falls is a beauty! This had been our backup plan for the day, but it worked out great. We took a long break there, and I took photos from both the initial overlook and from the base.
We saw a couple of people that morning, but many more that afternoon. We returned to our campsite, retrieved our packs, and headed back into town. The rain resumed, but we would be under a roof soon. We walked to Ann’s Gavin Hill, our B&B for the night. Ann was very friendly and the place was nice. She didn’t seem to mind our wet, muddy gear, though I suppose she is used to it. We left most of it on the porch while we showered and changed into warm, dry clothes.
That evening we walked down to the Sitka National Historical Park, which features one of the largest collections of Tlingit totem poles in the world. The visitor’s center was closed, but we had the trails mostly to ourselves, and the rain had eased. We wandered among the totem poles, trying to figure out what they represented. They were fascinating. My favorites had what looked like leprechauns or wizards on top. Wildlife was well represented too, with eagles, snakes, whales, and turtles prominently featured.
The rain resumed, so we skipped part of the park, which features a historic Russian fort. Sitka was the Russian Capital of Alaska before they sold Alaska to the U.S.
We walked back into town for dinner. We headed for the Larkspur, but it is closed on Sundays. We ended up back at the Pub, where we had another nice meal. We had burgers and lots of beer and hard cider. Then we walked back to the B&B and crashed.
We enjoyed a leisurely morning with a wonderful breakfast. The bus picked us up at 10:15 and took us straight to the ferry terminal. The ferry arrived an hour late, and departed 30 minutes late. The ride back to Juneau was uneventful, and it was still raining when we arrived.
Sitka was wonderful. It and Glacier Bay were our favorite parts of the trip. I would definitely return there. We missed out on a lot, including Harbor Mountain and Gavin Hill, which form part of the alpine country above town. There is also a hot spring outside of town, and a recreation area with a trail network near the ferry terminal. Aside from that, there are many great destinations that are accessible by boat or float plane. We definitely want to return to Kruzof Island and camp on the bay on the western shore that we spotted from Mount Edgecumbe. That looks like paradise.
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