Saturday, May 1, 2010

First trip to Juneau







I had the opportunity to go to Juneau for the first time for a State of Alaska program meeting at the end of April, so Kam and I went a few days early to have a mini-vacation and see the sights. For me, it has been too expensive to go there just for fun, since the only way in or out is by air or by ferry. It was a very nice opportunity to have "spring" in April. They had grape hyacinths and daffodills out, while we still had much snow at home, 600 miles north.

We stayed at the Baranof and thought it would be a nice place, since that's where many of the scandals involving state senators and representatives have taken place in deals caught on hidden camera. It was neat to see how people live way up the mountainsides in town, including this set of stairs that went up something like 7 or 8 stories from street level. Each bag of grocieries, etc, has to be hand carried up. Not many fat people in Juneau! We had a beautiful, warm, sunny day to walk around, which was great. Town's not that big...It's about the size of Palmer, in terms of square blocks to explore, though the population is much more dense than Palmer.

We ate at a famous/infamous bar in the downtown for our first lunch. The photo above says it all about mythical old-timer bars in Alaska like this one: naked ladies, mounted moose heads, and a 300 pound halibut I can't recall the name of it, but had a great time studying all the life preservers marked Cape Hatteras and Bangor Maine, as well as the ship flags stapled to the ceiling which included ships calling from Norway, Sweden, Italy, cruise lines large and small, and an Exxon flag. Very fun eye-candy all over the walls in there!

The Hangar was our dinner spot and we loved it so much, we went back about 4 more times over our times there to try different things each time. One night our meeting group went over to Douglas Island for pizza at Bullwinkles, which was a great idea, too.

We were there days before the first cruise ship of the season came in, so everyone was sprucing up, including this fellow putting a new coat of paint on the bear chair outside a shop. No one seemed in too much of a hurry, though, as I might have anticipated, given that thousands of visitors would be showing up in 6 days.

We rented a car and drove every inch of road, just to see this territory that looked so odd to us. It's very much more mossy and rain-foresty than in our area of Alaska. You know that in your mind, but seeing it is really neat. The botanical gardens were not officially open yet for the season, but wandering around was well-worth it. They did something I've never seen: take old tree trunks and roots, and stick it in the ground upside down so the roots are about 12 feet in the air like an umbrella canopy. They had many many of those, growing with ferns, flowers and mosses, all draping over and through the roots. It was a very cool look.

We also went out to the rock church of St. Therese on a little causeway island. The church has a retreat center there, and it's a place of quiet and peace. I enjoyed that very much.

We enjoyed the hospitality Juneau shared with us. Given the resources it took to get all of us there, I have to respectfully disagree with the decision to have our capitol located this far away from the bulk of the population. Imagining the cost of bringing in the 10 or so participants in our meeting, and then extrapolating that to having our entire government based here, flying in and out all the time...Seems pretty spendy to me.
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