Food Exploring :: Ziplines & Salmon Running in Ketchikan

I’m out all week at the Association of the U.S. Army annual event for work, so what better time to go do a little food exploring? The Food Exploring series is a way to revisit adventures I’ve been on around the world that have opened my eyes, inspired me to think in different ways, and often left a serious food impression! This week, let’s talk Alaska!


Ketchikan was our last port of call on our Alaska Disney Cruise. It’s the southeastern most city in Alaska, and while it only has a population of about 13,000 people, it surges during the summer for tourist season.

And the people population isn’t the only thing that surges – the salmon population does, too! The town was a summer fish camp for Tlingit natives before a general store and saltery were established and the town itself was incorporated in 1885.

We’ll get to that, but first, we had to take advantage of Ketchikan’s version of one of our favorite hobbies – ziplining!

Scott and I will rarely turn down the chance to tour around on a zipline, so when the opportunity came to sail through the forests around Ketchikan and see some of the inhabitants of the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary, we jumped at it.

We met up with Alaska Canopy Adventures, now Kawanti Adventures, and they trucked us up to their equipment shed at the top of the forest. We were fitted with our gear – harnesses, carabiners, helmets, gloves, the works.

This course was a little more hands on than others we’ve been on, so we had to climb up and do a test run on a very short line to show that we could brake appropriately before the guides would take us out on the main course.

Scott demonstrates.

Training done, we set off on an adventure through the forest canopy, 40-70 feet off the ground, watching for local wildlife – bears, moose, eagles – and enjoying the hell out of an absolutely gorgeous day!

Most of the time, the trees were so thick, we couldn’t really tell just how far we were up off the ground. You could only see patches of the forest floor.

And then we saw a moose about the size of an ant moving around on the forest floor below us and that put the height into perspective.

Still, the whole time, we were secured either to the ziplines or to one of the multitude of guide lines running the length of the course, and there were always guides nearby. I’m not a fan of heights {I know, oddly enough I spent a huge amount of my life climbing mountains and recreationally skydiving and I don’t like heights}, but I always felt safe.

We finished the trip and then decided to go and explore Ketchikan a little, starting with one of the many giant totems throughout town. Ketchikan has one of the world’s largest collection of standing carved totem poles. Some are recarvings of older poles, but some are preserved displays rescued from abandoned villages near Ketchikan.

The rest of the city still has a little bit of Gold Rush flair, which you see as you head into town.

Yes, we even took a walk down the notorious Creek Street, which was once Ketchikan’s red light district. It was a running joke in town that Ketchikan was where both salmon and men went to spawn. Now it’s all mocked up for tourists, with costumed “ladies of the evening” inviting passers-by for tours.

But they weren’t kidding about the salmon. Look over the edge of the wooden sidewalk in any part of town into Ketchikan Creek, and it was full!

We saw salmon swimming in the creeks outside Skagway when we went horseback riding up there, but never anything like this.

Salmon fishing is still a notable industry in town. Charter boats leave regularly to go catch salmon. And the locals simply hang off the docks with their fishing lines.

The salmon are so plentiful that you can see them jumping in the harbor and in the creek. One need only put out a net.

And that’s the perfect lead in to Friday’s entry into this month’s Food Exploring series. We’re going to talk about one of my favorite ways to prepare this hearty fish. See you then!

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