A sampling of Sitka

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I went to Alaska last week. More precisely, I went to Sitka with my daughter, who was there for work. I had never been to either place and quickly learned to love them both. Sitka has a population of about 4,500 and it felt good to be back in a small town again, where traffic was minimal and the pace was easy.

Sitka relies on fishing and tourism for its livelihood and we heard a fair number of complaints about the fishing this year. On the other hand, several cruise ships sailed in and out of port, unloading hundreds of tourists to roam the town's main street and eat, drink, and buy. (The speed of the town's wifi would drop precipitously.)

While Jennifer was in meetings I wandered the streets, walking from one end of town to the other, visiting historical monuments and doing my share of eating, etc. Sitka was once the heart of the Russian fur trade and the Russian influence remains, mostly in the startling variety of matryoshka dolls for sale, but also manifest in the old St. Michael's Orthodox Church and the Bishop's House. It was a touch of old Russia that I hadn't realized I missed. Equally at home were the Alaskan natives and their remarkable art. This cultural variance keeps the little town vital and interesting in ways most homogenous places aren't.

The highlight of the trip for both of us was the three-hour private tour of the bay and its beautiful islands. Besides the scenery, which would have been enough, we saw a humpback, a minke, otters, seals and sea lions, and probably more than fifty bald eagles, though we had ceased counting them days before. They were everywhere.

We talked a lot about what it would be like to live in such a place and agreed that we would love it except for the weather, which consists mostly of rain and even in the summer doesn't get above 60 or 65. But there is peace in the landscape, and wonder in the wildlife and the call of Alaska is real. As our plane rose over Baranof island I waved goodbye to the fishes and pledged to return again one day.