Wild Wolf Tours’ Rainforest Walk and Totem Park Tour
As I’ve mentioned before, all tours in Alaska are on the pricey side and many tour outfitters contract directly with the cruise lines which makes it quite difficult to try to save money on your own (port adventures booked through your cruise line are known for being more expensive than booking the same ones yourself). So when you are able to find a tour you can book yourself, I recommend doing it. And that’s how I ended up with Wild Wolf Tours in the island city of Ketchikan.
While doing my research on Ketchikan I discovered that it’s home to a quite impressive number of totem poles. If you’re not familiar with a totem pole they’re basically massive and beautiful sculptures, probably one of the prettiest and most unique forms of art you will ever come across. They consist of poles, posts, or pillars and are carved with symbols or figures. They’re made by indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest coast of North America and Canada’s western province, British Columbia. Wild Wolf Tours offered just that.
Tracy Wolf is the owner, operator, and tour guide for Wild Wolf (how cool that her last name happened to be Wolf? Very Alaskan, I felt). Two types of tours are offered (along with the option of a private, customized one), a two or three hour rainforest walk and visit to a totem park. Since our other port adventures had been on the longer side, I opted for the two hour one and it was perfect. We didn’t arrive in Ketchikan until close to noon which meant we had a leisurely morning on the ship and then were able to do a little sightseeing and shopping in Ketchikan (don’t miss Creek Street) before meeting up with Tracy for our tour.
I’m not sure how we lucked out but we ended up getting a private tour. Tracy picked us up right at the dock and off we drove to our first stop, Totem Bight State Historical Park. It was a pleasant 15-20 minute ride in the van and on the way Tracy shared anecdotes about her childhood and life today (she’s a native of Ketchikan) and of course answered our dozens of questions about life in Alaska. (On our previous port adventures, all of our guides were transplants from the lower 48 so not the same as someone whose family goes back generations living there.)
The thing about totem poles is that to the naked eye, yes, they’re striking and beautiful to look at. But of course, there’s a story behind each and every one whether it has to do with the spaces between figures, symbols used, and more. Tracy was wonderful explaining to us what the design of the totem poles meant; her mother is also Native American so it made learning about these things firsthand all the more insightful.
Next we went into a clan house which was fascinating, especially upon learning how many people lived there at one time. (We take for granted the amount of personal space we have in today’s society.) It was here that I asked about the gorgeous colors painted on totem poles and was told that painting a totem pole is a very time consuming process since obviously there are no trips to Sherwin Williams for the colors. Each and every one of the colors you find is made from a natural ingredient (i.e. berries for red).
As with wildlife anywhere in the world, sightings are never guaranteed and all we saw was this gross but large and interesting looking slug.
After Totem Bight, we went on to Tongass National Forest where we had a leisurely hike over relatively flat terrain on the Ward Creek Nature Trail. As is the case in just about all corners of Alaska, the sweeping mountain views and endless rows of spruce, hemlock, and cedar trees are just breathtaking. We were a bit too early in the season for some flora but Tracy did point out the start of items like salmonberries (these are big in Alaska and are often made into jams) and other berry bushes. I would never want hiking/camping to be the only thing I do on a trip, but I sure do love a hike as an activity.
And then we arrived at a stunning waterfall where later on in the year the waters literally flow with salmon and bears will happily be there “catching” some for their dinner. Now that’s a bucket list item I would love to see one day. Before we headed back in the van, Tracy provided bottled waters and we were able to try some delicious salmon dip on crackers. (Ketchikan is known as the salmon capital so do yourself a favor, buy some cans to take home with you.)
I can’t say enough great things about our afternoon outing with Tracy and Wild Wolf Tours. It was well off the much treaded tourist path, it didn’t feel factory churning like so many port adventures do, and it was a wonderful way to get a much more intimate and native look at the area. This is the Alaska you should seek out when visiting.
Costs for 2 hour tour: $69 for adults/ $49 for children, 12 and under