The Ketchikan, Alaska, area is loaded with many photography opportunities. Plus, I found the people to be VERY generous. This is episode 151 of The Great Outdoors Photography Podcast for September 2, 2022.
The day started early. Before 3:30 a.m.
I got to the airport at about 4:15 for my 5:30 a.m. flight. The kiosks were broken so I had to go to the counter to check in. I paid cash for my checked bag and the lady looked at me like I’d handed her a slice of vegemeat. She just didn’t know what to do with it. But she accepted it anyway.
Being that I arrived so early, I was nearly the first person to check in. At an airport as small as Walla Walla, you don’t need to be there 2 hours ahead of time like a regular airport. Often times 30 minutes will be fine, especially if you don’t have a bag to check.
There was a family trying to fly to Denver. But their flight from SEA to DEN was cancelled due to staffing shortages. So they were routed from Seattle to Spokane to Phoenix to Denver. What a headache.
Airports and airplanes are always cold so I’m glad I decided to wear my long sleeve shirt and long pants. This allowed me to be comfortable the whole trip. There was a gal wearing very short shorts. I don’t see how that makes any sense especially since she was all hunched up like she was very cold.
By 4:44 the line had really died down. But a little girl, maybe 5 or 6 years old, got flagged for a “random check.” This is just ridiculous.
They made the first announcement at 4:47. Just the standard stuff. I’m noticing just about EVERYONE on their cell phones. I use an older phone with a broken charge port. I’m just used to not always being on it since charging is often a challenge. I have about an hour in SEA and then off to Ketchikan.
By 4:53 they finally called my group. Since I’m using air miles for this flight I’m in the last group. Group E.
We landed in Seattle at about 6:30 and I headed straight to Q-Doba for breakfast. Always, without fail, I order an “egg and potato” burrito. It’s a specific menu item too, not just something special. And they ask, “What meat do you want?” NONE! That’s why I said “egg and potato!”
Anyway, by 7:32 I’m boarding the flight to KTN. The flight time is just 1.5 hours, not long at all.
When we landed we ended up sitting on the tarmac for about 30 minutes because we needed a gate to clear. There’s only a few gates available and they were all taken.
Drizzling. That’s all the weather report needed to say for today. Just a constant drizzle.
I took the ferry across the small channel to the main island where town is. Cost: $6.00
I went to wait for a bus at the bus stop. I then realized that I didn’t have exact change, $2.00, so I decided to download the bus app and purchase a day pass. $5.00. I figured I was going to use it more than once today, so this would probably be a good deal. And that’s when a local longshoreman stopped and offered me a ride. I thought it odd at first, but figured, why not? I’m here to have a good experience, this will certainly add to the story. So I agreed.
He took me to the Tongass Trading Company. I needed fuel for my stove, bear spray and insect repellent. I never did use the bear spray and I only used the insect repellent once. There were no bugs!
The store is right long the docks where all the cruise ships come to port. Since he works on the docks he has special parking privileges. Didn’t have far to walk at all since we were able to park just outside the store.
He then offered to take me out to my campsite which is about 13 miles out of town. I wanted to get a meal first so we went to Subway, closed. Walmart with a Subway, closed. Then to a different grocery store with a deli, we were told that it was open, but they were wrong, also closed. So I told him I’d just find some food and then be on my way. He left me there to eat my blue corn chips and guacamole. Not the best meal, but at least it was a few calories that I’d need for the hike ahead.
After eating I went to the bus stop which was just out on the corner. I took the bus to the end of the line which is still six miles shy of where I wanted to be. I was heading for Settler’s Cove campground.
I started walking and decided to hitch a ride. My pack had grown in weight since I had bought a few items. At least 45 pounds.
After about a mile and a half another gentleman picked me up. His name is Gary. He operates fishing trips for injured veterans. I told him that if I didn’t use my bear spray I’d be happy to give it to him when I was done on Friday. He was very appreciative and gave me his phone number so I could text him when I was heading out.
We arrived at camp at 3:53 p.m. Just over 12 hours after waking up earlier that morning. I chose site 9. It has a great platform to set up a tent and it was a fairly large site as well. Given all the rain that was happening I really appreciated the platform which helped keep things a bit dryer than they would have otherwise been.
The cost was only $20/night and I was scheduled to be here just two nights.
They have water at the campground, but nothing potable. That’s alright, I thought. I have my filter. I’ll get creek water for drinking after I filter it, and I’ll use the other water on site for cooking since it’ll be boiled.
Finally got all settled by 3:58 and I took a waypoint with my watch at the picnic table. Time to go exploring a bit.
The lunch creek waterfall (really more of a cascading set of small falls) is only about 1/4 mile from the campground parking lot. A very easy walk. I got side tracked with a stairway that leads down to the rocks and to the sea. The creek comes into the inside passage right there and it was a great place to explore. I got my first photo in a little nook up against the small cliff’s edge. It’s only about 20 feet up to the trail, but it made for a nice little protected area to photograph some delicate leaves.
I continued to the loop trail and got a lot of great shots, a few of which will be shown at the end of this post.
I went to fill up my water bottle to start filtering some creek water and that’s when I discovered that my filter was clogged. I was not happy at all. Felt rather dumb for not checking that before I left.
I messaged the first guy that picked me up, Kirk, at 7:54 p.m. I asked if he could take me to Walmart to get another filter or to at least get some drinking water to last me until I would be at the next camp site. He agreed to come pick me up the following morning.
I would have been happy to boil my water if I’d had a place to store it. But I only had my Jet Boil and it was impossible to pour it into my narrow mouth water bottle, plus, it shriveled it all up since it was, you know, boiling.
Kirk said he’d be there to get me shortly after 7:00.
I woke up at about 3:00 with a slight sore throat and a runny nose. I figured I needed more sleep, turned off my alarm and snoozed some more.
Awoke again at about 6:45, got dressed and wondered if Kirk was going to make it. He never messaged back confirming he was on the way, but just as I was done getting dressed he was there.
So we went to Walmart and I was able to get the water I needed, though I only had one more day there, you just have to have water!
Kirk offered to come back and get me tomorrow to take me to my next site. I couldn’t believe it. He was certainly a God-send. I’m convinced that our meeting was divinely planned. I’m always looking for ways to encourage people and to be a good witness for God, but in this case, I’m starting to think I was the one who needed witnessing too. Kirk was so generous. And expected nothing in return. He was such a blessing and I was certainly humbled. 🙂
When I got back to camp I ate breakfast, oatmeal with craisins cooked in. Then I got up the trail. I didn’t know how far I’d get with my new found cold coming on, but I decided I needed to do something. I wasn’t just going to sit there all day because of a little bit of a cold. Due to the constant drizzle there wasn’t much of a chance that the light would change. So I was in no rush.
At about four miles up there’s supposed to be another waterfall, or at least a lake. I started the GPS at camp and then got 1.42 miles up before I had to turn around. I was going kinda slow and figured I needed some energy to get back. I had lunch on the trail at a beautiful spot. Lunch was Chinese style hot and sour ramen. Quite good! I added a few extra dehydrated vegetables to make it more of a meal and enjoyed it by an opening in the creek with a little waterfall.
Walked back a bit more and wanted to climb down an embankment but was feeling rather low on energy.
Got back to camp and cooked another ramen packet and then took a nap. When I woke a few hours later my sinuses were really starting to let me know they were there. It’s actually more painful to lay down than sit up, so I got up and took a bit of medicine. I chose to really drink up the water as that always helps in these situations and tomorrow I’d be at a camp that has an unlimited source of drinking water so I’d be in a much better water situation.
The light had actually gotten rather harsh and my sinuses were causing pain and my energy was rather low so I decided to start a fire. There was plenty of wood over in site 14 and a few other sites. I just love a camp fire so it was nice to relax and stoke the flames.
The wood was rather moist with all the recent rain but I was able to get it going. I had some matches with me that I know I wasn’t supposed to bring since I was flying, but they were in a jacket pocket and it was packed in my checked bag. It’s just a book of matches, so virtually no chance of them igniting, but still, you’re not supposed to fly with matches. I used some paper from the back of my journal to help get it started. After a few attempts I got it going and had a nice fire.
Supper was at about 5:00 p.m. It was shredded potatoes (dehydrated) and a vegan taco mix. After preparing them I put them into small “street taco” shells. They were good!
After supper some thick clouds rolled in so I decided to go back down to where the creek comes into the ocean and get a few shots. The rocks were quite slick and I was wishing I’d just worn my Muck Boots but I just had my regular hiking books and flip flops. Not the best for going through a cascading creek as it leads to the ocean, but I managed.
My favorite shots were the panoramas. Shot at about 24mm and three or four frames wide. I think they’ll make great B&W images.
Sunset was at 8:54, and I finished shooting at about 8:00 so I headed back to camp. I was beat. Before I went out shooting I had dumped a bunch of water on the fire. But it had revived in my absence! So I let it burn some more and enjoyed the flames once again.
I messaged Kirk to see if he was still able to get me for the transfer to the other camp site and then took a pill for the sinus pressure and it was finally starting go take effect by bed time. Hopefully I can get some sleep!
Kirk had messaged me sometime during the night and I saw it at about 4:00 a.m. He’d be here by 9:00. Nice.
I crawled out of bed at about 6:15, had breakfast of blueberry and strawberry oatmeal and then started packing.
It rained most of the night. I took out my boot insoles to try and dry them by the fire, they’re now completely soaked. But with these boots I have two insoles so I just went with the single thickness for most of the day, to try and get the second layer to dry some more.
Packing was done by 7:45 and I decided to sit and wait for Kirk. I had a book to read and I was out of energy still from this cold.
This is also the last journal entry for reasons that will be related in a bit. It’s unfortunate, but at least I had a journal up to this point.
Kirk showed up a bit late, but that’s fine I had my book to read. He had a friend with him this time. He drove me to Signal Creek campground near Ward Lake.
After setting up camp I decided to walk to the bus stop and go see Carlanna Lake. It’s about a mile from camp to the bus stop. But with just the camera it’s an easy mile.
The bus stop is really just a wide spot in the road. At a turn off for an industrial park area. After checking Google Maps to see when the next bus is supposed to come by I waited. And waited.
Finally a bus came, not too far of the posted schedule, and I flagged it down. I decided to use the bus pass I had previously purchased since I knew I’d likely use it a few times today.
I decided to ride it all the way into town first, get a sandwich at Subway, and then go back to the trail. I did a bit of shopping too, but didn’t actually buy anything. I was looking for that perfect tourist T-shirt and didn’t find it.
Took the bus back up the road to where I needed to be in order to walk to the trailhead for Carlanna Lake. The trail is located at the end of a residential street. After walking several blocks uphill I finally got to the trailhead and continued uphill some more. I started the GPS again in hopes of accurately tagging my photos later with GPS coordinates.
The lake is very peaceful and gorgeous. The sky was quite clear with a few puffy clouds, but mostly clear. I’d left my things out at camp was was glad they’d be getting dried today.
Shooting commenced and I was having a great time. The cold and sinus pressure were very minimal today so not much of a bother at all. Still there, but my energy was starting to return. Maybe it was the fully packed sandwich I’d eaten at Subway.
After getting a few shots and a few videos for The Great Outdoors Photography School, it started to rain again. Out of nowhere came the clouds and rain. And did it rain!
I started heading back earlier than I’d anticipated. I’d been concerned about being able to get the last bus of the day and I had about an hour left. But with all the rain I decided to bail and stop at Walmart and buy a tarp. I’d had enough of this rain and needed some relief. Plus, my stuff was all set out. I was getting rather frustrated, but what can you do? Except not leave your stuff out!!!
So I got the tarp and an extra fleece blanket thinking that maybe my sleeping quilt might be wet too. Thankfully it wasn’t. I didn’t shoot anything more today.
Today’s goal was to walk from my camp at Ward Lake up the hill to Connell Lake.
Most of the trail was along Ward Creek. It was a very pleasant hike. Made lots of images. I mostly focused on details of various subjects. This isn’t my normal “go-to” type of photography, but after a few days I was really in the groove and things were really working well.
The cold was even less of an issue, so that was very nice. It was also very nice to prepare a meal under the tarp and not worry about being rained on all the time.
There were a few focus stacks for the images, and in general, just a very peaceful hike.
I had hoped to see some bear. There were a few salmon in the creeks around Ward Lake and I’d hoped that would mean that some hungry bears were nearby. They only have black bears on the island, but still, it would have been great to see.
After the hike I was resting at a parking lot, letting my feet rest and dry out, and an older gentleman asked if I needed a ride. I accepted and he said he was waiting for some teenagers to catch up to him. They’d be along soon.
When they got back they expressed their disappointment in not seeing any bears. So that made me feel better in that I wasn’t too far off base in thinking I’d be able to see some bear this early in the season.
In total I hiked about four miles since I was driven back to camp.
I was a bit tuckered out and didn’t shoot anymore that day.
Today was a big day. I was planning to head to Lake Perseverance.
My cold was still there, but my energy was just about 100%. I was up for a big hike.
The distance of the hike was about the same as yesterday’s hike, but yesterday I didn’t hike back, and today the trail is a bit steeper.
I got a lot of exposure blend shots, a few focus stacks and a lot of details of leaves and such.
I’d also found a great area to shoot that required the descent of about 40–45 feet down a very steep embankment. The lighting was terrible by the time I got down to the bottom, so I waited. And waited. It was worth it. The shoots were cool and the experience was so over the top. When you’re so far out from civilization, or at least it feels like it, and you’re completely surrounded by nature, not even the trail was in site anymore, it’s simply wonderful and rejuvenating.
My hike ended after about four miles at the northern edge of the lake. Everything is rather muddy and there’s no clearing in site, so the forest service installed a platform for backpackers. I was tempted to try and use this spot for a night, but decided against it during my planning due to the fact that I knew my bag was be very heavy and I wouldn’t want to make that hike. In hind sight I’m glad I didn’t do it since I had that cold, but I am wishing I’d done it from an adventure stand point. Maybe next time…
I returned to camp and had a nice and relaxing time reading a bit and just enjoying Ward Lake.
Time to go home. The flight leaves at about 3:30 p.m. though, so I’ve got plenty of time.
I decided to walk around Ward Lake and get a few more shots, I hadn’t walked all the way around it yet and wanted to see the other side. So I got a few shots and then after about an hour got back to camp to pack up. I needed to really pack well since I was flying home today.
I was feeling really good. My energy was back to 100% and the cold was nearly a distant memory.
With everything packed and in my bag I trudged off towards the bus stop once again. $2 later I’m on my way to the airport.
$6 for the ferry ticket across and I’m in line to get checked in. I had to do a bit of repacking though so I stepped to the side so I could put my backpack into a large duffel bag. I don’t like checking the backpack with all the straps an what-not, so I put it in a duffle bag to keep it from getting damaged in the plane.
When I got to the ticket counter the agent informed me that my flight was delayed. They have a policy that you can’t check your bags in more than four hours prior to the flight, but as I was within that timeframe for my originally scheduled departure they allowed me to check it anyways.
So I decided to take the ferry back in to town and get another fully packed sandwich at Subway. I kept checking the flight in the airline app and it got delayed again so I was so glad I left the airport and went to town.
I returned with about an hour to spare and then flew on home. I would have had about a five hour layover in Seattle, but with the delay my layover was only about 2 hours. That was nice 🙂 I’d rather spend extra time just about anywhere other than in an airport!
I landed in Walla Walla at about midnight and was fast asleep by, well, later that night 🙂
From the get-go, I was wanting to do this trip “on the cheap.” I’d hoped to do it for less than $500. But then my filter didn’t work and I bought more food while there than originally planned. Still, I didn’t buy any souvenirs so that’s nice. And the airfare was ultra cheap since I was using my airmiles. So that was nice.
In total I spent $567.09
Not bad for a six day trip to Alaska. Of course, without the massive generosity from Kirk and Gary my total would have been much higher.
Today's Dose of Inspiration
Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade.
That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed.
—Ecclesiastes 10:10, NLT
I used to envy the father of our race, dwelling as he did in contact with the new-made fields and plants of Eden; but I do so no more, because I have discovered that I also live in “creation’s dawn.” The morning stars still sing together, and the world, not yet half made, becomes more beautiful every day.
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