Carlanna Lake Trail | Ketchikan, Alaska


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When we woke up on Wednesday of our cruise we found ourselves in Ketchikan. We’d been there for a bit it seemed though I don’t think we were supposed to have been there until 7am but we had clearly been tied up at the dock for a while. Though, as we came to find out when we left port later that afternoon, the crew had everything down to a science and we were out of port within 30 minutes of the final call to board the ship.

Our dock was just west of the main area in town and there were already tour buses ready for those who were preparing to go on one of those. We’d purposely not booked any tours for one town just so we could do something on our own. I’d looked at hiking trails in the area and had found that the Carlanna Lake Trail was a suitable option as it was near enough to town that a taxi ride wouldn’t be enormously expensive but it was far enough out that it would give us a remote feeling as we hiked.

There were several taxis waiting at the port when we arrived and because we had docked early everyone on board was still finishing up breakfast and not quite ready to get out and about. We ate breakfast quickly, packed up and disembarked, finding our way down to the taxis. The woman driving the taxi knew exactly where Carlanna Lake was and tried to give us local beta to access a waterfall that wasn’t on a map—which we ended up not finding. I think we should have gone another five minutes up the trail from where we turned around—oh well!

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There was one other person at the trailhead in a vehicle when we got there but otherwise we were the only ones out there at 8am. The air was brisk but felt perfect for a hike. There was an uphill right from the trailhead, a gentle and wide access road, but I knew that once we arrived at the lake that the trail wouldn’t change in elevation much until we were beyond the lake, when you get to an unimproved route into a chute and to another trail called the Minerva Mountain Trail.

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We found the lake to be very still and incredibly peaceful at that early morning hour. I was torn between the desire to just pull up a chair and sit all day while reading a book, pausing periodically to stare at the lake and our surroundings, and by the desire to poke around slowly at all of the mossy covered items lying in the forest.

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Does this scene not beg to be out the front door of your cabin, where you hold a mug of coffee, wrapped in a cozy cardigan on a crisp autumn day? *sigh*

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Along the main trail are several small side trails that lead to boardwalks to fish and sight-see. I spotted a ‘duck’ which Chris corrected me by saying it was a loon! I’d kind of forgotten about loons, those ubiquitous calls echoing over the New England lakes on the Appalachian Trail. Of course they were here in Alaska, too!

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Everywhere I looked I was reminded of our hike in the Hoh Rainforest—everything was moist, vibrant, and mossy.

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Somewhere along the trail it really hit me that, oh-my-gosh I’m in Alaska! And as much as I’d been enamored with and enjoyed the ocean portion of the cruise, this really hit home that Alaska was a Big Deal and Amazing!

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Stop and look up!

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Stop and look down!

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Of course the entire time I’m pondering what plants are what, trying to sort plants into Families so I can look them up later. A few plants I took photos of on my phone so I could throw them into iNaturalist when I had cell signal in town in order to get a quick ID.

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After we crossed the bridges for the stream we started slowly climbing up. We were supposed to be looking for little cairns or someplace it appeared a fairy would live and we thought we found that area and stopped to take a short break and eat a snack. Chris looked around for signs of off trail foot travel and we came across a piece of flagging about twenty feet off the trail. He bushwhacked down a bit and decided that it might be the trail so after our snack we all forged on only to wind up back on the main trail just about 100 feet down from where we’d began. Nope, not the right trail. If it had just been Chris and me we would have turned around and climbed back up to continue looking but Forest was already itching to return back to the trailhead and thus we continued that direction instead.

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The light, y’all. The light.

“We walked always in beauty, it seemed to me. We walked and looked about, or stood and looked. Sometimes, less often, we would sit down. We did not often speak. The place spoke for us and was a kind of speech. We spoke to each other in the things we saw.”
― Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow

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Chris decided to head up from the creek a bit once we’d descended back down a little to see if maybe he could find this supposed waterfall. Instead he found a potential hunter’s camp and not much else.

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Meanwhile, Forest was finding fungus and sticks and having fun with the surrounding nature.

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We lucked out after we returned to the trailhead as another group had just been dropped off by a taxi. Chris had just called the taxi and they’d said someone was on their way—turned out they had already arrived—so it made the getting back to town situation a lot easier. I would 100% recommend anyone visiting Ketchikan stop by this trail if they are in for a short visit. I wish we’d had more time to head further up the trail or to check out the other intersecting trails. It was a first glimpse of how much I fell for Alaska.

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2 thoughts on “Carlanna Lake Trail | Ketchikan, Alaska

  1. shoreacres says:

    I remember how surprised I was to find interior Alaska so lush and green. Your photos really brought that back — what a trip! (in every sense of the word, I suppose!)

  2. I love Ketchikan. I can’t remember what we did there on our cruise–I think we went rock climbing on an excursion or bike riding. But I just remember how moody and lush the forests looked (and we were living in Arizona at the time, so it was very much a dramatic difference).

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