The gift of time

Creek Street Row

Creek Street Row

This morning I was painting on Creek Street’s boardwalk, Ketchikan’s iconic historic district with lots of shops that cater to the cruise ships. A man, close to my age, watched me paint for a short time and frowning said, “So which store do you work for?” I explained my plein air odyssey and that I was also a visitor to Ketchikan – island hopping on the ferry system for 6 weeks.

Terry's photo of the cruise ships

Terry’s photo of the cruise ships

“Six weeks ferry hopping is gotta be pretty expensive! How much is that costing you?” “I’ll make a deal with you, you tell me how much your cruise cost and I’ll tell you how much all 6 of our ferries cost.” I replied. “My wife and I paid $12,000 for a 2 week cruise,” he smirked, confident that his was the better deal. “My husband & I paid $2,800 for our 6 weeks of ferry travel – of course that doesn’t cover our campgrounds, food and fuel (about another $900)”, I shared. ” %#&^# – I don’t believe it!”, he exclaimed, “Instead of spending just 5 hours here we could have saved money and had more time?”

Misty Fjords National Monument

Misty Fjords National Monument

Every day, 2 – 4 cruise ships are docked downtown. When a few leave in the early afternoon, others take their place. Visitors crowd the shops to buy items not necessarily from Ketchikan or even the USA. Some take short day trips, such as those who went with us on a 4 1/2 hour boat trip to Misty Fjords National Monument. But most cruise visitors have only 5 – 7 hours to explore before boarding the ship and heading to another port.

Stefan & Almarie with Dave

Stefan & Almarie with Dave

Nine months is a long time to be away from home – yet that gift of time is also what has made this journey so special. During this week in Ketchikan, we organized a potluck for the 6 couples camping here at Clover Pass, I got a much needed haircut and Dave had a dentist appointment, got the RV checked and did some cycling. We hiked some of the parks, delighted in the majesty of Misty Fjord and all the wildlife right at our doorstep, explored the town and drove the 35 miles of the major road called Tongass Highway. We’ve chatted with people about fishing, rain and Ketchikan. We’ve met people from other islands in the passage, Namibia, Russia, Norway, and all over the lower 48 states. We’ve talked to people excited to re-locate here due to job transfers and others that came looking for work.

What is most interesting, is the one population I haven’t been able to connect with here are the artists. The one who did respond to my phone/email inquiries indicated that this is such an incredibly busy time he was not going to be able to get together to paint. I’ve wondered about the impact of the cruise ships on the community – I think it must be a mixed blessing. Is it possible to dislike that which supports your lifestyle? If you are not a miner, or commercial fisherman, the chances are you have a job supporting tourism here.

Lookout Point

Lookout Point

Many locals have stopped to chat while I’m painting – at a viewpoint, on a path or in the middle of the city. One man even sent his wife to “see what I was doing because she always wanted to paint”. They all have stories about how they wound up in Ketchikan and what they love about living here. Not one has mentioned how they appreciate the business and growth that the cruise ships have brought.

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