Story 5
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Ketchikan, Alaska, was our final destination before heading back to Vancouver.

Ketchikan is similar to Juneau in many ways. It is surrounded by wilderness. There are no highways connecting it to the outside world.

Instead of buying a new car, the residents prefer to buy a new bush plane or a new kayak.

There is a good reason for this - the main street of the city is built right to the edge of the sea to make it easy to move around by kayak.  The homes are built into the bluff just off Main Street.  Or should it be called Main Bayou?

Ketchikan is one of the rainiest cities in the world. This explains the lush foliage which can be seen everywhere.

Like the Indians before them, many of the townspeople make their living catching fish. The salmon are plentiful in this area.  A

nd where there is salmon, there is prosperity.  Ketchikan has been called the "Salmon Capital of the World".

Not surprisingly, a good way to describe Ketchikan would be "fishing village".  

Ketchikan is a rugged little community populated by many men who make a living as "lumberjacks".  In addition to the plentiful fish, Ketchikan has long been a logging community.

In homage to its rich tradition as a logging town, Ketchikan is home to a terrific lumberjack show which several of our group was fortunate to see.

While Juneau is considered home to Alaska's "Elite", Ketchikan is a working man's community. Rich people aren't welcome here, but hard-working men are.


The Creek Street Hookers


There is no other way to put this delicately so I will just blurt it out.

Ketchikan is the place where "Real Men" come to live. It is such a tough town that when the travel guide got to the part where it had to discuss Ketchikan's cultural heritage, the pamphlet didn't bother discussing the museums or historical monuments. Instead the travel guide spoke about "Creek Street", better known as Katchaman's Red Light District.

Indeed, Katchaman is so proud of its heritage, they have actually restored many of the former houses of ill-repute to pristine condition and now trumpet them as a major tourist attraction.


Even more impressive, Katchaman created a Hall of Fame dedicated to its most talented ladies of the night.  Most places might prefer to call it a 'House of Shame', but not Katchaman.  Like the infamous Mustang Ranch in Nevada, Katchaman was no place for modesty when it came to bragging about its brothels. 

They even had Brothel celebrities!  In particular, the most famous madam, a lady named Dolly, had her house restored and turned into a historic museum.  I listened to a local bus driver tell one story after another about this woman.   Apparently Dolly was still in business up to just a few years ago.  The guy went on and on about special paths to her door plus special rates for certain customers. His favorite story was how she continued her "service" for free after the authorities shut her down. She was worried what would happen to her various men if they got cut off. 

I could almost feel the awe in his voice when he said she was still working into her late fifties!  Then she retired and put herself in a Retirement Home, but she was "never lonely" because people came to see her all the time...

I was curious enough about Dolly to check her out on the Internet. Sure enough, two words "dolly" and "ketchikan" brought me right to her doorstep.

"Dolly Arthur, nee Thelma Copeland of rural Idaho mining country, was a Ketchikan resident from 1919 until her death in July 1975. She is probably Ketchikan's most famous person today. Dolly said her attraction for men was one of her best traits. "I just liked men and they liked me, too!"

My trip to Alaska was without a doubt a marvelous adventure filled with joy and elation at all times. But if I had one regret other than being deceived by Alaska's abundant wildlife promise, that regret would be that no one from our group would admit to visiting the Red Light District at Creek Street or produce any incriminating pictures. Who knows what kind of story I could have written with just a little support from my group?

But it wouldn't hurt to speculate, now would it?  After all, I have never in my life come across a town so proud of its Scarlet Women.  Since I am cursed with a fatal curiosity, I would have found a particularly informative guide and asked a few innocent questions.

  • How did the women cope with the fish smell?
  • Did they keep any statistics?
  • If so, were there any records set that Guinness might be interested in?
  • Did they vote on a "Hooker of the year"?
  • Since Katchaman is so famous for lumberjack competitions, were there also friendly competitions between teams from the different brothels?
  • Did they have an All-star team?
  • Did the lumberjacks and the hookers ever combine their particular skills to have special events?
  • Any climbing contests or things done from the top of poles?
  • Any exhibitions done while log rolling?
  • What did Dolly do to become the most prolific lady of the night in history?
  • Who were the judges and what qualified them to pick?

I had a few other questions in mind, but I wouldn't want anyone to think this web site is in any way tawdry or prurient so I guess I will have to stop here.

Too bad. I was just get warmed up.

The Lumberjacks

While no one would admit visiting Creek Street, several members of our group did visit the Lumberjack exhibition. 

This is a subject that I feel uncomfortable writing about, but the truth was that our women were pretty starved for male attention on this trip. 

We had lots of men in our group, but the majority of them were with their wives and girlfriends.  And one of the few available bachelors on the trip, Kevin Lee, got engaged to the lovely Michelle Spiris just one day before the trip started.  Cross another cute guy off the list!

As a result, the few remaining available men such as Don Juan Schmidt and Mr. Hat (Gary Schweinle) were forced to work themselves to exhaustion trying to keep the single girls happy.  It could not have been easy.  Sad to say, Mr. Hat suffered a serious injury in a private area.  I have been too embarrassed to pry, but it seems possible that he incurred his injury trying to help out. Perhaps he should get a "Purple Heart" or maybe some other kind of medal?  Good sport that he is, Mr. Hat claimed it had something to do with lifting luggage, but on the other hand what else would a perfect gentleman like Gary say??

The bottom line was that some of our ladies were, shall we say, a bit lonely.  Perhaps it was no coincidence that practically every one of our single girls purchased expensive Front Row seats for the lumberjack exhibition.  After all, these guys were cute!

Frankly, I was a little worried that the girls might have a "Katchaman" Competition of their very own and end up missing the boat.  That pole climbing competition had to be tough to watch. And watching those huge biceps chopping down those trees, well, let's just say it's a testimony to the inner strength of our SSQQ women that they made it back on board in time to sail. 

The competition that made our girls drool was the log-rolling competition. I know this is a delicate topic,  but different woman have unusual weaknesses they prefer not to make public. Another way to say this is that certain women are turned on by certain things that men do. 

Our women in particular go nuts over fast feet.  You ever see women screaming at River Dance?  Same thing here.  Why else would they be so attracted to men who can dance?  The moment they get on the floor and see those shuffle ball changes, it is a wonder that they can continue to breathe or stand up when they get so flushed.  Watching those big tall husky men in suspenders and flannel shirts doing their version of River Dance up on top of those big long thick log shaft had to drive them practically out of their minds.  It is a wonder we didn't lose any of them.

The Totem Poles

Another popular stop in Katchaman was the Totem Pole Village.  Katchaman is noted for the world's largest collection of totem poles. 

As you can see from the pictures, there is an entire park filled with totem poles.  I found it curious that the travel guide listed the Red Light District in Ketchikan before the Totem Pole Village and devoted twice as much copy to "Creek Street" as to its Indian heritage, but it really isn't my place to comment on the implications.

I thought the pictures of the totem poles were fabulous.  As you can see, the carvings were intricate and very beautiful.  This was definitely a popular destination with our group.

Misty Fjords

I spent the day with my family visiting the Misty Fjords National Park.  Situated 30 miles east of Katchaman, the Misty Fjords comprise a stunning array of the most beautiful scenery I have ever witnessed.

All day long I was inundated with facts about Katchaman being the Lumberjack Capital of the World, the Salmon Capital of the World, the Totem Pole Capital of the World, the Rainiest City in the World, and the Red Light Capital of the World, but I attributed all of that to hype created by an over-imaginative publicist.

If anyone had thought about it, I think a case could be made for Katchaman being the "Waterfall Capital of the World".   With all that rain, the water has to go somewhere, right? 

Everywhere I looked, I spotted another waterfall. There isn't that much elevation around Katchaman, but once you get to the Misty Fjords, there are spectacular water drops that take your breath away.

Actually the entire place took my breath away.  Marla, Marissa, Sam, and I took a bush plane flight into the area.  Words simply cannot do justice to how beautiful this area is.

Since the bush plane is pretty noisy, our pilot gave us headphones to tune the noise out.  This made conversation difficult, so he played music instead. While we flew over the Misty Fjords, we listened to the New Age music of Enya and other Celtic artists.  With the music casting a spell over me and the scenery so magnificent, I felt like Odysseus tied to the masts as his ship passed through the maddeningly beautiful music of the Sirens.

I went into a deep trance that I can honestly say was one of the happiest moments of my life.

Created by receding glaciers, the Misty Fjords are a vast, endless wilderness collection of thick forests, dark blue mountain lakes, channels, islands, bays, rivers, streams, and waterfalls.  There are steep granite cliffs that rise thousands of feet above the narrow waterways below that were carved out of the rock by glaciers during the ice age.  Adding to the mystical nature of the event were ever-present mists and clouds that made you feel like you were entering the Norwegian Fjords of the Vikings. 

Our bush pilot added to the drama by flying low through gaps between the granite cliffs.  We literally cut through canyons and bowls. None of us were totally okay with how close he flew to the sides of these gigantic mountains, but it definitely ratcheted up the excitement.

It was truly the experience of a lifetime. I was in ecstasy.  And I definitely did NOT want to return to civilization.

When Andy, our pilot, landed the plane in the middle of a mountain lake, I wanted to jump off the plane, swim to shore, build a log cabin and live happily ever after.  I could spend my life catching salmon, watching waterfalls, kayaking through streams, hiking over meadows, and meditating on the meaning of life. 

Then it dawned on me how lonely I would be without Marla. It wouldn't be any fun without her to share it with.

As she and I stood on the pontoons of the plane craning our eyes fruitlessly for signs of abundant wildlife, I casually asked, "How would you like to build a log house on that island over there and live happily ever after with me?"

She furrowed her brows and frowned. "Are you out of your mind?  It gets cold up here!  Get on the plane."

Back to reality.


On the flight back to Katchaman, I couldn't shake my haunting desire to escape civilization for the Alaskan solitude. The Misty Fjords were calling to me.

When the plane landed, Andy asked me to help him tie it up to dock. Marla, Sam, and Marissa went on ahead. 

I decided to ask Andy a question. "Do you ever get tired of seeing the same sights all the time?  Does it ever get old?"

"Never. I see something new every day. I love my job."

"Do you ever dream of living somewhere else?"

"No way. I love living here."

"Do you ever get any hermits, you know, people who come up here and go live in a cabin?"

Andy smiled at me. "I know exactly what you are thinking. You want to go live on one of those islands."

I blushed. Was this guy a mind-reader? 

He continued, "I get people who fall in love with this place and want to leave everything to come live here.

What you don't realize is just how brutal the winters are.  Right now this place is paradise, but during a blizzard I guarantee anywhere in the world is better than Alaska.  But the worst part is the loneliness.

Sometime when you are stuck in your cabin for days or weeks on end till the snow clears, the loneliness will absolutely eat you up."

Andy could see I was mulling over what he had said. He watched me for a moment, then decided to continue.

"People go utterly mad during the winter. Let me tell you a story about how crazy people get up here when they are lonely."

As Andy spoke, I had a flashback to Bulldog Bob.  Was this what they mean by deja vu??

"I have a distant cousin named Kevin.  He had been in business down in the Lower 48 selling car insurance and life insurance.  His girlfriend met some guy on a cruise and ditched him. 

Kevin was sick of women, sick of the stress, and needed a change. Kevin had visited this place a couple times and really loved what he saw. He figured this was the right place. He had always been an outdoors kind of guy, so he sold his business and came up here to Ketchikan.

Kevin bought 50 acres a few miles up Ketchikan Creek near the Deer Mountain Fish Hatchery.  Now he was about as far from humanity as possible.

He came into town about once a month to pick up his mail and buy some groceries. Otherwise it's total peace and quiet.

But back in January, I got a cell phone call from Kevin. He said he needed to talk to somebody about something that had happened.  It sounded to me like something was bothering him.

It seems that after six months or so of almost total isolation, one day someone knocked on his door.

He opened it and there was a big, bearded man standing there. Kevin had to take a step back 'cause the guy stunk to high heaven.

"Name's Lars ...Your neighbor from four miles away.... Having a Christmas party Tuesday ... Thought you might like to come. About 5..."

"Great," says Kevin, "after six months out here I'm ready to meet some local folks. Thank you."

As Lars is leaving, he stops. "Gotta warn you... There's gonna be some drinkin'."

"Not a problem... after 25 years in business, I can drink with the best of 'em."

Again, as he starts to leave, Lars stops. "More'n' likely gonna be some fightin' too."

Kevin says, "Well, I generally get along with people, but I can hold my own in wrestling match.  I'm not worried. I'll be there. Thanks again."

Once again Lars turns from the door. "I've seen some wild sex at these parties, too.  Hope you don't mind."

"Now that's really not a problem," says Sam. "After all I've been alone for six months!  I'll definitely be there. By the way, what should I bring?"

Lars stops in the door again and says, "Bring whatever you want, don't matter, just gonna be the two of us".

I hope you enjoyed my story about our cruise to Alaska.  Thank you for reading.

Rick Archer
September 1, 2005

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