Sitka by the Sea

IMG_0832I’m not an icy editor who fell into a romantic fling with Ryan Reynolds (how I wish!)— but I did spend some time in Sitka, Alaska. Over the last two weeks, I had two 30-hour layovers in this seaside city, a highly sought-after trip among my coworkers.

The town is a quaint port of call, teeming with cruise passengers and sleepy otherwise— luckily, we avoided any ship arrivals.

Part I: The Initial Experience

I was giddy the entire flight up, poring over the company issued Alaska Briefing Guide. Flying is a touch different up north, what with the desolate terrain and cowboy antics on the Final Frontier. I was also lucky enough to fly with a check airman (not as part of any sort of examination, thankfully) who had been there several times, so I knew I had backup. When I told him that I had never been to Sitka, let alone Alaska, he said, “Great! It’s your leg.” The approach we chose to the airport circled us around an extinct volcano with clouds spilling over the side. I was mostly focused on the aircraft. Mostly.

IMG_0836When we got settled at the hotel, one of my flight attendants accompanied me to my namesake restaurant: The Mean Queen. We split a pizza, and I made friends with a random guy who worked on a private yacht that had docked and was to leave in the morning. Downstairs at the Mean Queen was the only night life in Sitka— I twerked once or twice, and we walked back to the hotel, a glimmer of sunlight just above the mountains at nearly 11 p.m.

The next day, we planned to rummage around the town before taking what was supposed to be a leisurely hike. Not rising too early, we ventured to the farmer’s market and picked up a loaf of raspberry infused bread and shared it over coffee— the loaf was local and delicious and only $3. How could we say no?

“Hill” is an understatement.

But here’s where things got lost in translation. We started the hike with wide gravel trails: with limited research, we embarked on the Gavan Hill Trail, which said it was only one mile to a scenic outlook. I’m not sure how they measured that mile, but it was certainly more than that. It was also not flat at all. While my booty may look great from all the stairs and uphill climb, it was a strenuous hike. In fact, I lost my flight attendants about three quarters of the way through. They couldn’t make it any farther, and admittedly, hardly could I. But I didn’t come all this way just to turn back— no, I was going to see this scenic viewpoint, dammit!

Bear spray, not beer can!

They left, and I kept on trucking. My thunderous thighs are quite strong, though, and I have a habit of pushing myself too hard. Mind over matter, stairs galore and switchbacks later, I finally made it to what looked like a patio deck and a bench. A lovely lady who turned out to be from Seattle was sitting there, waiting for her husband who had trekked even farther. She was kind enough to take my picture as proof of accomplishment. The view was stunning, but what I really wanted to see would have taken me even longer. No energy and no water (I know, dumb choice), only armed with bear spray, I rested for a minute before my long trek back. Another family had showed up to the overlook, and I kept the kindness alive by taking their picture. Risking giardiasis, I took a sip from a mountain stream; it was absolutely delicious, and I’m happy to report that my bowels are normal.


I couldn’t be more on brand if I tried.

Eventually, I made it back to the hotel where I rewarded myself with a hefty portion of halibut fish and chips, plus a glass of wine. The sun was setting, putting a nice glow on the mountains, and I retreated to my hotel room. It’s a pastime of mine, but I was looking through the guest directory and found actual stationery and envelopes. I conked out after I wrote two letters to beloveds, only to blast off out of Alaska the next morning. As the passengers were deplaning in Seattle, I bid them adieu; lo and behold, the girl from the top of the mountain recognized me from the hike!

Part II: A Culinary Exploration 

We landed in Sitka again, this time approaching from a different way but no less beautiful than the time before. As is tradition, I guess, the entire crew went out to the Mean Queen and had so much pizza to share— we even ran into some Southwest flight attendants who had been nonrevs on our flight. I didn’t twerk this time, however, but I was feeling low key.

Just shut up.

That same sentiment followed into the next day, when I got up and got ready at my own pace. The farmer’s market is only every other weekend, so that was out of the running; however, last week I stumbled upon a coffeeshop in the back of a bookstore, which is totally my MO. I had a slice of Big Daddy cake, because duh, and I perused the bookstore when it opened. My nose led me to a reindeer dog stand (like a hotdog, but reindeer!). Rudolph never had a chance— this beautiful link of love was wrapped in duck prosciutto, drizzled with raspberry-chipotle jam and balsamic glaze, and topped with grilled onions. Be still my artery-clogged heart!

Sitka was once under Russian rule, if you could tell. 

The night before, though, a captain who joined us for leisure (because he knew the flight attendant) was raving about a local restaurant called Ludvig’s. He said that it’s hard to get into, because it only seats a limited number of guests, and a lot of times it takes a couple weeks to get a reservation. This piqued my interest, as I’m all about bougie exclusivity. I gave them a rang and left a message, saying that I’d like to put my name in the hat for dinner for one. They called me back later that day, and much to my dismay, they were completely booked.

Until an hour later, they called back and said that they had misheard my message and didn’t realize that it was just for one person— I scored the last seat in the house for the night! In an upcoming post, because it deserves that much attention, I’ll regale you with my experience there. As the captain who recommended it said, “Don’t even look at the bill.” And boy howdy, was he right. But I digress…

IMG_0967Alaska didn’t disappoint in both adventures, each time just as lovely as the next. A gate agent invited me to go paddle boarding with her next time I’m there, which only points to the generosity and hospitality that Alaskans harbor. I didn’t get any Sitka overnights for August, but anything could happen on the swap board. My hippie side was vibing— I could feel the energy of the expanse, the lack of people and civilization. For the first weekend, my Verizon service decided not to work well, and the hotel Wi-Fi left more to be desired— so I was truly unplugged for the duration. Prior to this work block, I was hanging out with friends in New York City, and just a week later I was exploring a new-to-me state— this airline life is dynamic and blessed!




North to Alaska — Johnny Horton

2 thoughts on “Sitka by the Sea

  1. Pat

    Many years ago, some place in Asia — cant remember now, I hiked up something called Prosperity Hill (a hill in name only) because if you got to the top you were supposed to be comfortable financially for the rest of your life… so I was determined.

    Enjoyed your travelogue — but really,, how could you eat Donder and Blitzen?

  2. Michael Keating

    Sitka is a hidden gem, and I’m glad you got to discover so much, and not just the hotel 🙂

    Splendid article – please come see me in Anchorage!

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