I got out

Perhaps you travel to exotic regions regularly. To France, if you live in Cincinnati, or to Cincinnati if you live in France. Or to Russia. Or outer space.

This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image presents the Arches Cluster, the densest known star cluster in the Milky Way. It is located about 25 000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer), close to the heart of our galaxy, the Milky Way.  Hubble Space Telescope image of the Arches Cluster, located about 25,000 light years from Earth. (One carry-on allowed. Free pretzels when you’re half-way there.)

Personally I tend to enjoy vast internal travels and only limited travels in what you might call The Real World. But recently I left Oregon and flew south 900 miles for a few days in La Jolla (San Diego) California, and then, four days later, north almost 1000 miles to Sitka, Alaska. (In airplanes, like other people.)

It turns out that San Diego and Sitka are quite different from each other, and also from Oregon.

I liked Sitka.

It’s a little city (about 9000 people) on an island with dramatic close mountains. In summer giant cruise ships, like five story hotels, arrive and briefly double the population of the town. Here is a photo of one, expertly captured through a screened hotel window which I didn’t notice was screened until later.


Sitka has a rustic and wild character, unpretentious and hardworking, a town with the wilderness and sea woven around and through it. Eagles fly overhead and all the trash barrels have big heavy lids to discourage bears.

Enormous black ravens are everywhere, smart and busy.

I watched a group of these birds systematically unpack a box that someone left in the back of an open pickup. They tore open the top, threw out a lot of packaging material, concluded there was none of whatever ravens eat, then left the scene. The local public radio station is called Raven Radio, and raven images occur in native culture and art.

Fishing and tourism seem to be the main things that keep people busy in Sitka. Shops open at 8:00 when the cruise ships are in, and some don’t open at all other days. The harbor is full of boats. Some are home to their owners.

Sitka harbor

A long time ago Russians arrived and fought the Tlingit natives, took the land and imposed Christianity.

The thing I liked best about the historic Russians is their cemetery.

Russian cemetery in Sitka

It’s up on a hill in a deep forest full of native plants, most of which I recognized from Oregon. The unsteady headstones are varied and many, with always more to be found up the paths ahead, mixed in with the trees and ferns.

Sitka Russian cemetery Broken crosses and finials rest where they fall, left undisturbed. There is a lot of mossy concrete, and ghosts.

Russian cemetery2

The native plants were glorious, and I wonder why gardeners don’t use them more in the town.

Sitka is so far north that the days included almost two more hours of light than at home, although the growing season is short. I was told there was no plant nursery here but you can buy plants in season at the hardware store. There is a farmer’s market in summer (later) and I’ve read that some people garden in tunnel greenhouses but I didn’t get to wherever that is happening.

There is concern for growing food locally but still it appears most everything is brought in except for fish. There’s at least one good local brewery (Baranof, same as the name of the island) and a coffee roaster too.

Sitka clematis

Clematis having a house party.

stones, Sitka

Cool rocks are everywhere. I wanted to bring some home but they were too big to fit under the airplane seats or even into the overhead thing.

Totem pole, Sitka

Same problem with bringing the totem poles. They are magnificent.

But back to San Diego: a lot of sun, and nice beaches and good food.


Mostly it was great visiting with the Royals. I learned that the little princess tends to misplace her crown, but it doesn’t bother her sister the queen. (The queen plans a visit north soon, by way of her flying dragon.)

Back home I found the native mock orange all alight…

Philadelphus lewisii

…and the dog exhausted from the dog boarding place. (We missed  him.)

tired Westie

About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
This entry was posted in actual plants, Clematis, Pacific Northwest native plants, weather and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to I got out

  1. Hi Linnie, Nice to see you back in cyberspace. I enjoyed your experiences and the photos. While I know San Diego well, I’ve never been to Sitka and I’d really like to go. But NOT on one of those huge cruising monsters. Make mine a National Geo vessel with kayaks for exploring or even via the Alaska Highway. Did you drive by chance? I ask because I wonder what that is like.

    • linniew says:

      Hi Susan
      I flew, in a plane. PDX to Seattle then another plane to Sitka. If you are into kayaks and hiking and fishing you will love Alaska. I liked the bookstore, Old Harbor Books.

      I watched the surfers in La Jolla– I don’t know Dana Point but hope you got better waves there!

      • Dana Point and “The Trestles” in San Clemente are good for surfing, but that was in another universe. All of southern CA is too crowded these days, even in the water! Thank you for the book store recommendation. I don’t fish or even hike all that much, but I love exploring old, interesting towns and I do love to get out in a kayak (in fairly still waters-:)

  2. Oh, I meant to tell you. As a kid, I learned to surf in La Jolla, particularly Dana Point. It was great for that. However, when my parents told me that it was a place for lots of “retired admirals”, I went around telling all my friends that we had been visiting the place where all the retarded admirals go….ah innocence.

  3. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Sounds like you had a great time. Interesting and very different destinations! I grew up in Alaska and lived in Sitka for a year while doing a teaching internship. It’s quite a place, that former capital of Russian America, and I’m glad you enjoyed your visit! Glad that you got out and that you’re safely back home!

    • linniew says:

      What? You lived in Sitka? Well that explains a few things Peter… Oh really it’s a beautiful place, rough and natural and honest. Like you I guess. But, where did you get that gardening habit? Nice to hear from you!

  4. kininvie says:

    Sitka? Only famous for the spruce – picea sitchenenis – (which we have too many of in Scotland). Probably the most boring tree in the universe.

    • linniew says:

      Well Kininvie. If I hadn’t missed you I would not put up with that comment. I hope all is well there in Scotland among the picea sitchenenises.

  5. Glad to see you got out for a bit Linnie. How interesting, the Russians imposing Christianity on the Tlingit natives, kind of changed their minds themselves for a number of decades.
    My brother who is crazy on fishing went to Alaska a number of years ago with a few friends. He loved it, although he almost came a cropper when a brown bear took a liking to him and gave chase, he was very lucky to escape.
    Any idea how Kininvie is getting on these days?

    • linniew says:

      Good heavens Alistair, what a story about your brother and the Alaskan bear! I will deduce that “came a cropper” is like “bought the farm” or “bit the dust”? Alaska is a wild place.

      Except for his negative comment above about Sitka spruce trees I don’t have much to report about Kininvie.

  6. Bought the farm, had to look it up, but yes, that’s exactly what came a cropper means. Ah, didnt notice Kininvies comment, still as droll as ever.

  7. I would have been SO tempted to “rescue” (my justification) those finals and such that dropped off the Russian gravestones. Those rocks are so beautiful as are the little royals. Sounds like a wonderful trip.

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