Overnight in Ketchikan

Up here, it’s one of the sights

When present it cheers up the nights

I regretted quite loudly

That the sky was too cloudy

To see the great Northern Lights.


Synopsis: I’m a Family Practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. In 2010 I danced back from the brink of burnout, and honoring a 1 year non-compete clause, travelled and worked in out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. After three years working with a Community Health Center, I am back having adventures in temporary positions until they have an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system I can get along with. I spent last winter in Nome, Alaska, followed by assignments in rural Iowa. The summer and fall included a medical conference in Denver, working Urgent Care in suburban Pennsylvania, and Thanksgiving in Virginia. After 2 months in western Nebraska, then two months in coastal Alaska, I’m now in the Alaska Panhandle.  Any specific patient information has been included with permission.


After an overnight in Anchorage, we arrived in Ketchikan, Alaska’s first city and never Alaska’s capitol.

Contrast is the essence of meaning, and Alaska’s hugeness makes for a lot of contrasts. After overlooking an arm of the Bering Sea from a coastal plain with mountains 30 miles distant, mountains here rise abruptly from the salt water, with not a single swath of tundra to be seen.

Technically in the same time zone, we crossed 24 degrees of longitude to get here, as many as you cross getting from New York to Chicago.

Ketchikan built its airport on an island, and, I suspect, built the island for the airport. One takes a ferry to town.  Anticipating problems with luggage, transitions, and inadequate support for the profession of skycap, the airport offers free luggage carts.

We found Ketchikan’s mood much like other tourist towns in the off season. The gold rush over and the timber prices low, tourists won’t start arriving by the literal boatload till May.  The other industry, salmon canning, stays small to stay sustainable.

The town features large on cruises of Alaska’s Inside Passage, and last year more than a million tourists filtered through.

We stashed our cooler full of salmon in the Best Western’s freezer space. The hotel’s service amenities include a van that drives people around town.

We went grocery shopping, knowing the high prices found on any island, especially an Alaskan island. We walked back to the hotel because we needed the exercise, exploring the Marina and the parking lots off Tongass Avenue, the main drag.

On the advice of a ferry passenger, we went out to the Lodge at Cape Fox, a first class restaurant run by a Native Corporation.  We enjoyed a spectacular view of the harbor and Halibut Olympia, while we discussed a weight loss strategy for our upcoming stay.

The news predicted great Northern Lights. After dark, I went outside to look up and find dense cloud cover.


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