Alaska Adventure, Days 5 & 6: Juneau, AK
On Friday morning, we returned to Wrangell's one-room airport, marveling at the architect's ability to fit ticketing, gate, baggage claim, and security screening into a single room. Oddly, the diminutive security station was staffed by five TSA agents. Our tax dollars at
With nowhere to go past the screening area but out to the tarmac, passengers were not allowed to undergo screening until the aircraft arrived from Ketchikan. Having no separate TSA Pre✓ checkpoint, these smaller airports provide us with a laminated blue card that is our license to keep shoes, belts, light jacket and headwear on, although liquids and laptops must be scanned separately.
|Efficiency at the Wrangell Airport|
America's only state capital inaccessible by road, Juneau (pop. 32,660) is located on Alaska's Inside Passage. Though it is on the mainland rather than an island, Juneau is surrounded by rugged terrain, effectively preventing the construction of a road network leading to it. To reach their capital city, Alaskans must fly or take a ferry. Periodic efforts to move the capital closer to the center of population near Anchorage have failed. Since statehood, the legislature has officially rejected the proposal 13 times, the voters, eight times.
Though Juneau is one of the smaller capitals by population, its land area, covering more than 2,700 square miles, makes it the most expansive state capital and one of the largest municipalities in the U.S. It's slightly bigger than the entire state of Rhode Island. Since we love visiting state capitol buildings, we were disappointed to learn that Alaska's is in the middle of a massive renovation project and completely closed.
|Happy shoppers, rain or shine|
|Rockwell's playlist included "Sweet Home Alabama"|
Leaving clean plates behind, we walked down Franklin to the base of the Mount Roberts tramway and found a letterbox hidden there. Clue Tracker, our go-to letterboxing app, promised two other boxes at the top, but we were loath to spend $33 each to visit the summit on a cloudy, foggy day. Walking back to the car as light rain fell, we stopped at the Alaskan Crepe Escape food stand for a bit of dessert. We came up empty handed on our foray to Evergreen Cemetery in search of a letterbox but had better luck with a box at one of the cruise docks which was not in use today.
|Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center|
|Mendenhall Glacier & Mendenhall Lake|
|Juvenile bald eagle at Mendenhall|
At a nearby Fred Meyer supermarket, we found ample supplies for a healthy evening meal in our well-stocked suite. Fatigue set in after dinner, and we were soon in bed.
Saturday dawned damp and cloudy. Another day in southeast Alaska, another day of rain. When we left the hotel just after 9:30, liquid sunshine, as locals refer to it, was streaming down at a steady pace. As they have since we arrived, temperatures hovered in the mid 50s.
Holding out hope for seeing the bears we heard about yesterday, our first stop was the Mendenhall Glacier visitor center. The young eagle we had observed on Friday was still there, this time in another tree, but no bears were in sight on the trail.
Driving toward Juneau, we spied numerous bald eagles sitting on top of various light poles, feathers fluffed to insulate their bodies from the rain. Soon after, we saw a couple dozen more fishing from mudflats uncovered by the very low tide on Gastineau Channel. By the time we were able to turn around and go back for a closer look, they had flown.
|Streets were deserted mid-day Saturday with no cruise ships in port.|
|Alaska State Museum|
|Wide ranging exhibits tell the Alaska story, both Native and non-Native.|
|Large artifacts add to the museum's effectiveness.|
|Eagle tree reaches from the floor to the ceiling of the third floor.|
With the state's reputation as America's "last frontier," the exhibit on 21st century Alaska—"Past Frontier?"—was particularly thought-provoking. Though our stereotype of Alaskans, perpetrated by reality TV programs set in the state, still has most citizens living the pioneer lifestyle isolated in the bush, most Alaskans today don't live off the land or even close to it. They are urban.
The 20th century transformed the state's economy. Its strategic location at Asia's back door compelled the construction of military facilities and spending during both World World War II and the Cold War. Then the bonanza from oil in the North Slope injected more wealth into the state. Beginning in the 1980s, military employment and brawny manual labor occupations yielded to a new economic reality based on tourism and other service sector occupations.
From the museum, we took the bridge across Gastineau Channel to the residential community of Douglas, hoping to find a high spot for an overview of Juneau, but none was to be found.
|Nugget Falls and Mendenhall Glacier|
FRIDAY, 16 SEPTEMBER & SATURDAY, 17 SEPTEMBER, 2016
More Photos from Today
|Shiny objects for the cruisers|
|In the State Museum, a mask made by Nathan Jackson, who carved the statue in Wrangell's Eagle Park.|
|Snapper Charm by artist Fran Reed|
|Some of the Yup'ik masks on exhibit at the museum|
|Many shops are conveniently located near the cruise ship berths.|
|Camouflaged porcupine baby, officially called a porcupette|