I got up early and left the Walmart around 7:00 a.m. to scout for places to camp for the night. I went out Ward Lake Road a few miles north of town to the two Tongass National Forest Campgrounds. I knew that neither were supposed to officially be open yet, but I thought they may be unofficially open.
The Last Chance Campground ($10/night) was completely closed off with a gate, and apparently they are sticking to the May 23 opening date.
The Signal Creek Campground ($10/night) on Ward Lake, however, had about six sites in the front of the campground that were open while the rest were closed off. The camping there is free until May 23 when it officially opens, and there were a couple of sites available we could get in.
We were back on our Verizon phone and data service and there is a very strong signal in Ketchikan. But, the signal died off just outside of both of those campgrounds.
I then drove out to the Settlers Cove State Recreation Site ($15/night) which is at the north end of the Tongass Hwy as far as you can go about 15 miles from the Walmart. Two bridges near Settlers Cove are being replaced, but there is one-lane traffic that we could make it through.
When I arrived, there were a few double sites where we could fit both our rigs, and it looked like a nice place to do some hiking. But it was a long way out for one night, and then we'd still have to find a place to leave our rigs for the next five nights while we are on Prince of Wales Island. No cell signal there either, but that's just a factor, not a deal breaker.
Returning from Settlers Cove, I turned off and made a stop at the Clover Pass Resort ($43 – $50/night). The website is much more enticing than the actual place. They clearly aren't ready for many guests as most of the side-by-side, tight RV sights were filled with boats and tour company vans. A few of the sites had permanent residents. But we thought they might allow us to store our rigs there if we stayed a night on the front end and back end.
The problem was there was no one there to ask, and we had to leave a message on the phone. Nobody ever returned our calls, so we bagged that idea.
Heading back to report my findings, I noticed a large, fairly level turnout on the ocean just north of the Totem Bight State Historical Park. I thought that would be a nice place to hang out for the day, and then we could return to the Walmart at night if we had to.
Back at the Walmart, I picked up Steve and we went scouting in the opposite direction toward downtown Ketchikan and the cruise ship area – mostly for storage options for the upcoming days. I found a storage place that said they could handle RVs up to 25 feet. It turns out they couldn't.
We checked out the tiny airport long-term parking as an option and even stopped and asked a couple businesses with large parcels if we could pay them to store our rigs, but nobody was comfortable with that.
As a last resort, we stopped in at the ferry terminal, explained our situation, and the Alaska Marine Highway System manager said we could park our rigs in their parking lot while we were gone to Prince of Wales Island. Because we came in on the ferry, and we were using the ferry system and making several more stops, he could easily justify allowing us to park. Whew. We were starting to run out of options.
The Inter-Island Ferry which runs daily ferries from Ketchikan to Hollis on Prince of Wales Island has a desk in the same building and the ferry leaves from the same terminal. So, after getting our parking situation squared away, we booked the ferry for tomorrow afternoon for four adults and one Jeep.
In our Alaska Tour Saver coupon book, there is a coupon for 2-for-1 passenger round-trip fares, and we used our coupons and saved $100 per couple. So, Tour Saver paid for itself with the use of our first coupon on our first full day in Alaska.
Well, all that took all morning.
Back at the Walmart, we quickly got the rigs ready to go. It was getting busy, and we were about to get blocked in just as we pulled out. We drove up to the little turnout past Totem Bight and settled in for the day. We had great cell signal, a great view, …..
and there was a beach below us.
I got some photos uploaded and some updates posted and booked a couple of boat tours while Esther & Steve ventured down to the beach to enjoy the sunshine.
Linda got caught up on some administrative tasks, and then went down to the beach and walked along the rocky shore. It was low tide and it turned out to be a very good beach for sea glass. She found a ziploc bag full of glass, and she was very happy.
Later we sat and used the guard rail to prop our feet up as we watched birds and passing cruise ships.
As the afternoon wore on, we considered our camping options. A very nice lady had stopped by and told us there were better places to "camp" at turnouts farther up Ward Lake Road. We hadn't intended on "camping" where we were, but that became one of our choices even though the traffic was fairly heavy and noisy.
Steve and I drove up Ward Lake Road, but once it turned to gravel, we only ventured a few miles before determining we didn't want to take the rigs up that far in the dust for just one night. On the way back, we dropped by Signal Creek Campground, and the spots that were open early in the morning had been taken. Now our choices were basically down to staying where we were or going back to Walmart, and we chose to stay in our turnout.
Esther cooked us some wonderful steaks and made a salad, and we enjoyed our roadside, waterfront dinner as the sun started to hide behind the trees.
Once the sun was out of site, it got cold pretty quickly, so we all went inside. It was going to be an early night.
Tomorrow Steve and I are doing an early-morning boat tour here in Ketchikan while the ladies sleep in and stay with the rigs. Then we'll get packed up for our trip to Prince of Wales Island, move the RVs to the ferry terminal, check in, and take the ferry over to the island in the afternoon.
Today was a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants day, but it turned out just fine. Camping options in Ketchikan are limited this time of year and it was much more difficult to find a place to park our rigs for a few days than I thought it would be. But that's part of the adventure and it all worked out.
We'll see what tomorrow brings.