The Knitting Nurse

Rambles and Travels

Alaska Continues – Playing Favorites – Sitka Part One

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Sitka was my favorite stop in SE AK.  When I revisit the area I’ll spend more time here.  8800+ people call Sitka home.  The heart of  Sitka lies on the west side of Baranof Island with air/ferry access only.

Sitka is a hotbed of well-preserved Russian settlement history, who  may have landed here as early as  1741.  The Russians settled Old Sitka in 1799.  Bloody battles between native Tlingit and the Russians ensued.  Russia kept its grip on Sitka until 1867 when AK was purchased by the US.

“Sitka” is derived from a contraction of the Tlinggit “Shee At’ika” which means “People on the Outside of Baranof Island.”

Looking towards downtown Sitka from a harbor.  St. Michael’s Cathedral is the steeple in the middle:

The Cathedral of St. Michael sits in the center of  downtown.  Built in 1848,  it burnt to the ground in 1966. Fortunately, most precious icons from within were saved.  It was restored to its original appearance.

Another view towards downtown from a fish hatchery close to the hostel I stayed at:

Houses varied from charming and old to battered and weathered.

What would a tourist trinket shop be without fur bikinis? Remember the red one I spotted in Skagway?

Another downtown sight, the Sitka Pioneer Home, is an Assisted Living Facility for the elderly. It was surrounded by pretty gardens.

A peek down Katlian St, a waterfront st. draped from above with innumerable lines.  One the waterside were rows of shipping and fish warehouses.  Funky homes, some old and boarded up lined the uphill side.  It was a fascinating stroll.

Wikipedia told me 18% of Sitka’s population earns a living through the fishing industry.  Many natives there practice subsistence living through fishing, hunting, and gathering.

In contrast, the end of town near the Sitka Int’l Youth Hostel and former Sheldon Jackson College were more upkept neighborhoods with homes like this pretty number:

It’s wet in Sitka.  86″ of averageyearly precipitation falls, 30″ in snow over an average 250 days. Monthly temps average 35 degrees in January and 57 in August.  I remember light rain to drizzle most of my three days there.

Vegetation is lush and vivid green there, bright in contrast to the gray sky and blue-gray water.  I found it beautiful and see how Sitka’s earned the nickname ‘Jewel of the SE.’  It’s rich with cultural history and visual appeal.


Saw a performance at the Tlingit Clan House by the Sheet’ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Dancers.  People of all generations (including babies strapped to mothers’ chests) performed storytelling through dance and song.  It was exceptional. I recommend visiting them if you travel there.  They also sell local crafts in their giftshop.

I walked for miles and miles on that stop, welcomed from all the time on a boat, seeing cultural sights.  There are innumerable options for travelers interested in kayaking, flying to remote cabins, hiking as well to trips to really out-of-the-way places.

A visit to and walk around the Sitka National Historic Park  (and it’s collection of totems displayed outside) as well as special finds in the local harbors will  be the focus of my next post on Sitka.

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