Wednesday, August 15, 2007


This is St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Sitka, the city with the fourth largest population in Alaska, with 8,835 people, 3,278 households, and 2,219 families as of 2000. It is also the largest city in the U.S, with a total area of 4,811.5 square miles. 2,874 square miles of it is land and 1,937.6 square miles is water. Until 2000, Juneau held that honor, with 2,717 square miles. Jacksonville, Florida is the largest city in the lower 48 states at 758 square miles.

Sitka was the original capital city of Alaska. Because the Russians were the original settlers, the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church is very strong. The settling of Sitka was resisted by the local Tlingits, finally leading to a bombardment of the locals by Alexander Baranov. The first statue of Baranov was beheaded one night by the unhappy original residents.

I used to think that Juneau was the most beautiful place I'd ever seen. And then, I went to Sitka. It is only a little lovelier, but there is no question -- it is lovelier.

This picture is one of the wonderful views of Sitka Sound. The city is located on the western side of Baranov Island, facing the Pacific Ocean. Most communities in southeast Alaska are on the eastern side of islands or on the various canals or channels between them and an island. An open view of the Pacific is unusual.

The Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport is located on Japonski Island, reached by a bridge from Sitka itself. To quote Wikipedia, "There is a single runway that juts off Japonski Island as a paved causeway of sorts." And, of sorts is exactly it. It is just long enough for a jet, starting with its tail over water and racing up the runway as fast as it can, to lift off just before the landing wheels hit the water at the other end. "Safety hazards include boulders from the causeway washing onto the runway during storms, high winds because of its exposed location, and large flocks of birds that live very close to the airport." It is very dramatic the first few times you land and take off there, as it seems like the plane is surely going to go into the water. There are a couple of bald eagles who often sit beside the runway while planes are taking off, hardly deigning to notice them. I think those birds must be deaf. The other thing about the Sitka airport is the pie! A stop-over in Sitka will often include a run to the airport diner to pick up a pre-ordered pie. Heaven. The only pie crust I have ever eaten that was better is my daughter-in-law Kathy's. When I go to Sitka, which I do almost every year, I always bring a pie back for the person who has been tending the Hooligans. One for them, one for the office, one for me.

Sitka is also the location of Mt. Edgecombe volcano. There are so many bald eagles in Sitka that they fly over in flocks of 60 or so a couple of times a day.

The town is small enough that people greet each other as they walk places, and mostly they do walk. The first time I was there, I went for a week and I would be walking from the hotel to the Convention Center where the training was being held at the same time every day, right behind an elderly woman. We would pass a middle aged gentleman, and it would be "Good morning, Lillian" and "Good morning, Henry" until the third day, when Henry started saying "Good morning, ma'm" to me and I good morninged back.

And, of course, no town in southeast Alaska can go without a harbor or four.


AuthorMomWith Dogs said...

I love Juneau; it is incredibly beautiful. Now I'll have to go visit Sitka.

Kay Dennison said...

It's lovely indeed!!!!!!

Starshine said...

Wow. It sounds like nothing I've ever seen! Airport pie...YUMMY!