Sunday, July 15, 2007

Juneau, AK

Travel log entry #2 (musings edition)
Named after Joe Juneau who discovered gold there back in 1880, it is now the capital of the state of Alaska. Under Russian rule, the seat of government was Sitka situated SW about 100 miles away. Interestingly, this city is accessible only by ferry, boat or plane. No roads lead in or out of town. Reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode where people kept winding back in town no matter where they went. Nestled between Mt Juneau and Mt Roberts, it is the 3'rd largest city in Alaska. Still rather overcast, we visited Mendenhall Glacier which offers visitors the convenience of access without much of a hike. It has a glacier lake where there are tourist and park facilities. Walking along the shore, we noticed that the water appeared muddy. It was full of suspended fine grain stone dust from the crushing weight of the glacier grinding its way over mountains of solid rock. This is a common theme since most rivers here are glacier fed. After spotting some small beached icebergs which "calved" off the glacier, we saw a fellow tourist chewing on a piece that he broke off. His wife exclaimed in a panic-filled voice "Did you just eat that?!?" Ancient germs, anyone?
The visitor center has a giant glass-walled observation deck where glacier gazing and drinking a cup of Starbucks coffee just seem to blend together harmoniously.

On our way back to town, we stopped at the Gold Creek Salmon Bake. At the site of an abandoned gold mine camp in the middle of the woods, we partook of some King Salmon baked over an open fire and topped with a kind of sweet sauce. Alaskan Summer Ale ... the perfect accompaniment. We ate sitting on wooden benches underneath open-air log constructed buidings listening to a local folk singer singing and playing her guitar. This picture is of a mountain fed river that is typical of where gold was panned for. This was a short hike from the salmon bake. We will get a chance to devote some time to panning for gold later. I think I'm catching gold fever.

Back in town, we went up Mt Roberts on the Tramway to the top where we hiked some easy trails and spotted some Bald Eagles whizzing by. The views from the top were magnificent and we learned some Tlingit expressions at the Mr Roberts Pavillion. "Gunalcheesh" .. Thank you. Also, within the Tlingit nation, marriage is always between diferent clans such as the Eagle and Raven clans. Note the word "eagle" on the side of the tram.

Since we still had not passed out from exhaustion, we thought we'd get a couple of drinks in town before going back to the ship.

The Red Dog Saloon, a honky-tonk establishment with an old fashioned piano man whose job it is to lead the patrons in sing-a-longs of popular period songs and off-color jokes was
the theme. That's Mrs roman A/K/A Linda, striking a pose at the left side of the doorway. Atten-hut! It was crowded so they seated us with two other couples from southern Illinois. Soon enough, we were singing and drinking and being rowdy (Alaskan Summer Ale).
Drinking a lot. The piano man was uniquely
qualified and skilled at his craft.
Here's a pic of the inside with piano man.. note the sawdust covered floor and arm-bending chug-a-lugging patrons.


Renegade Eye said...

Would you live there permanently? I know several people who plan to move to Anchorage, and stay forever.

Too tranquil for you?

roman said...


I hear the winters are BRUTAL. Nice to visit, frequently, but I prefer a warmer climate year round.
I heard that the average population age is near 30. That means all the young folks are moving in while the old folks move out.. probably to Miami Beach. Anchorage and Fairbanks are just like most larger cities in the lower 48.. Wall Marts and KFC's but the surrounding mountains, woods and wildlife are very accessible and appealing.

San Nakji said...

There are two state capitals that intrigue me like no other. The first is Montpellier and the second is Juneau. On my list of cities to visit this is near the top. Your description was great and the photos compliment it very well. Is Juneau missing KFC and Wallmart? If so... then it sounds like the place to move to!

roman said...

san nakji,

Wall Mart and KFC were only in Anchorage and Fairbanks, although I think I saw a McDonalds in Juneau. The reason I'm not sure is that McDonalds is so ubiquitous that the golden arches almost blend right into the landscape.