Sitka Feature

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Walking Around Sitka

Most folks begin their tours of Sitka under the distinctive onion dome of St. Michael's Cathedral, right in the town center. A block behind the cathedral along Harbor Drive is Harrigan Centennial Hall, a low-slung convention hall that houses the smallish Sitka Historical Society and Museum and an information desk that opens when cruise ships are in port. A block east, along Lincoln Street, you'll find the Russian Bishop's House, one of the symbols of Russian rule. Continue out on Lincoln Street along the bustling boat harbor to Sheldon Jackson College, where the worthwhile Sheldon Jackson Museum is packed with Native cultural artifacts. Another ½ mile out along gently curving Metlakatla Street is the Sitka National Historical Park, where you can chat with Native artisans as they craft carvings and silver jewelry. Behind the main building a network of well-signed paths takes you through the rain forest past more than a dozen totem poles and to the site of a Tlingit fort from the battle of 1804. A signed trail crosses the Indian River (watch for spawning salmon in late summer) and heads across busy Sawmill Creek Road to the Alaska Raptor Center, for an up-close look at bald eagles.

Return to town along Sawmill Creek Road. On your right, you'll see the white headstones of the small Sitka National Cemetery. Back downtown, you can browse the many shops or walk along Harbor Drive and take the path to the summit of Castle Hill, where Russia transferred Alaska to American hands—these are the best views in town. If you follow the path down the other side of the hill, check out the impressive Sitka State Pioneers Home, with the statue of pioneer "Skagway Bill" Fonda. Across the street is Totem Square, with its tall totem pole and three ancient anchors. Adjacent to the Pioneers Home is the Sheet'ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi community house. Native dances take place here in summer. End your walk at the haunting (not haunted) Russian and Lutheran cemeteries that fill the dark woods along Marine Street a block from the blockhouse. The grave of Princess Maksoutoff, a member of the Russian royal family, is here.

Sitka has many attractions, and you can easily spend a full day exploring this culturally rich area. You can accomplish the walk in two to three hours if you do not spend much time at each stop. You can pound the pavement around town in an hour or so.

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