Saturday, August 25, 2012

Filipek Family Visit

My mom and brother came to Sitka to visit us at the end of June, staying over the 4th of July holiday.  We spent most of the time being tourists and seeing all the local attractions, including a bunch Nicole and I hadn't visited even after living here for almost a year.  We also spent a lot of time eating, sampling from the majority of restaurants in Sitka.  The touristy spots we visited included:

Sheldon Jackson Museum
Alaska Raptor Center
Sitka Native Dancers
Sitka National Historic Park/Totem Park
Russian Bishops House
Starrigavan Recreation Area
Castle Hill
Sitka Sound Science Center
Harrigan Centennial Hall

We had planned on doing a whale watch trip through the company I work for, Allen Marine, but ended up getting a better offer.  I was worried about my mom getting sea sick on the trip, since at least a portion of each trip is out on the open ocean and it can get rough, and when I mentioned it to the head of the day tours division, he suggested that he could take us out on one of our smaller tour boats.  This turned out to be a great solution, not only did we get great personal attention, but we could dictate where we went to avoid any rough weather.  Turns out it wasn't an issue, and we got to go for a boat ride on one of the nicest days of the summer.
The boat we took is one of our 28' aluminum catamarans with twin outboard motors.  These are fast boats which meant we could cover a lot of area.  We started out by heading to Redoubt Bay to look at Sea Otters.  We saw quite a few otters including a large raft of males.  After exploring the shoreline in an unsuccessful attempt to see bears, we decided the weather was so nice we should take advantage and headed across to St. Lazaria National Wildlife Refuge.  This is a small island near Cape Edgecombe that is a nesting area for a lot of seabirds, including puffins.  Because it is open to the Gulf of Alaska it is usually very rough but we lucked out with almost glass calm conditions.
After drifting around watching the puffins, murres, gulls, and other sea birds, we headed back to town, but not before spotting a humpback whale and getting some good gawking while it fed nearby.

Another highlight of the trip was a visit to Fortress of the Bear.  If you remember from a past post, this is where Nicole had been working for the summer, so we not only got the normal tourist tour, but also some behind the scenes information.  The bears were in fine form as usual.

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