Every port has a unique identity. Ketchikan has rain; lots of rain, 13+ feet per year. It has wild life. It has history. Specifically, ‘Creek Street’. In the early years of the 1900’s this was the red-light district, the buildings hanging over the creek, supported by the stilt like pilings.
The coastline and rain forest in Ketchikan is a smorgasbord of wildlife, from thousands of Salmon swimming upstream to spawn this time of year; hundreds of Bald Eagles perched on tree branches and tops ever so regal, waiting to dive on unsuspecting meals; to Black Bears feasting on wild berries and Salmon.
This area is also home to the Tlingit native tribe, with the world’s largest display of totem poles at both Saxman Native Village and Totem Bight State Park. With so many options we had settled on attending one of the big attractions in Ketchikan, a lumberjack show.
Ketchikan, like so many other heavily wooded areas of our country, at one time had a bustling timber industry. The tradition of lumberjacks is alive and well in a fun and entertaining show, The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, a block from the docks where our ship was docked.
Before the show started, the announcer divided the audience in half, each half cheering for one of the teams of lumberjacks. Cheering and clapping for your team while booing and heckling the other is encouraged, making the competition very interactive. The two teams of two lumberjacks compete against the other team in various competitions.
Four different contest involving axes, two with chainsaws, one with a long conventional log saw, the pole climb, one involving blocks and tackle gear, and the popular log roll, are the components of the competition. The log cutting uses logs about 18” in diameter.
In the first axe contest, the lumberjack stands on a log and chops down at the log between his feet until he breaks through to the other side. In two different events he is swinging his axe horizontially and slightly up at a log, taking large chunks out of it with every swing. It doesn’t take more than a dozen or so swings and 30 seconds before the logs are split. It is amazing how accurate they can be at throwing a 16 lb axe at a target 20 feet away.
As a team, they cut through a log with a long, large tooth saw in what seemed only four or five strokes. The chainsaw events included cutting two discs from a log by cutting down and then up in a matter of seconds as well. All these events require a tremendous amount of upper body and arm strength. The lumberjacks did look burly and physically fit.
Two of the most popular events are the pole climb where two lumberjacks climb a large pole about 60 feet tall with spiked boots and then basically free to see whom gets to the bottom first. It seemed to be over in a matter of just seconds. The final event was the log roll where two contestants get on the same log in a pond and attempt to rotate the log with their feet and get their opponent off balance and into the pond.
The show conjoured up memories and images of the story of Paul Bunyon, the ultimate lumberjack.
Again, after walking to enjoy the charm of Creek Street and some more shopping, another fun day in Alaska.
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