I had always thought of Alaska as too far away to visit easily, but SEA-JNU is only about two hours, so it’s closer than Los Angeles, and perfect for an I’ve-never-been-there-and-I-only-have-three-days-but-I-want-to-go-somewhere getaway.
People were still wearing masks, but not with much diligence. They would wear a mask into, say, a coffee place, then take it off to eat or drink. But if they got up to order something else or use the restroom, they didn’t put it back on again. And no one seemed to care. A sign on a local government building said that almost 70% of the population had had at least one vaccination dose, so there probably isn’t much need for masks at this point.
Juneau is a little beat-up looking, but in a charming frontier town way, full of quirky rustic houses, historic bars (loud ones), and stairs tucked away between buildings to help you climb the steep hills. Cruise ships don’t return until July, so there were no crowds. And the setting is spectacular.
Occasionally I would catch myself thinking that this would be a nice place to live, and then I would remember those cruise ships full of tourists, and the cold winters with five-hour days, and the fact that it’s basically a strip of land 35 miles long that has no road connection to anywhere else.
That last was probably why meals were so expensive.
- The Mount Roberts tram is worthwhile, but is probably better on a non-foggy day. Visibility was about 30 feet, so hiking didn’t seem very promising.
- There are a lot of ravens, making a variety of sounds, including a pretty decent chicken imitation.
- The Devil’s Club Brewing Co. is worth a visit if you’re ever up that way.
- I saw more Bald Eagles over the weekend than I’d ever seen before.
30 years in Santa Barbara and I never saw a whale in the wild. The various whale watching excursions in Juneau guarantee that you’ll see whales. They can do that because the area is the Humpback summer home, and in the relatively compact waters of Auke Bay, their spouts make them easy to spot. Whales don’t keep a low profile. They don’t even really try.
The excursions were completely shut down for over a year and have only been up and running again for a few weeks. Our shuttle driver was a loquacious former New Yorker named Vince who moved to Juneau shortly after 9/11 and never looked back. He pointed out everything of interest along the way. At the end of the day, he dropped each of us off wherever we wanted to go.
The first whale we saw was a female that’s been summering in these waters for at least 40 years (as long as they’ve been tracking them). The other was her four-month-old calf. The calf breached once, but I wasn’t fast enough to get it on video. Numerous surface appearances, though.
I can also confirm that “Here, boy” doesn’t work any better for whales than it does for coyotes.
The excursion included a visit to Mendenhall Glacier, although that’s approximate. The hike to the glacier is about eight miles, so showing up at 5:00 PM doesn’t allow for anything more than the much shorter hike to Nugget Falls.
There had been a number of recent bear sightings around the glacier. I didn’t see any, though, which was both a disappointment and a relief.
It is the Rawn Way.
Deckhand Dave’s sells some pretty decent Baja-style fish tacos, which makes sense given that Juneau is in Baja Alaska.
I’m staying at the Alaskan Hotel & Bar. The late-Victorian hotel and one-time brothel was built in 1913, making it the oldest hotel in Juneau.
Not the oldest bar, however. That would be the Imperial Saloon, right around the corner, which dates to 1891. There are also several other historic bars within a block or two. And some non-historic bars. And music emanating from several of them. And a whole lot of sketchy bar people talking loudly long into the night. I can sleep through almost anything, but this is really testing my skills.
Juneau what the capital of Alaska is? Neither do I, but I went there anyway.
Alcalde’s final birthday weekend before succumbing to venomous snakes and parasites and various tropical diseases seemed to demand another visit to CFP. He locked the door this time, but I got in anyway.
Birthday Eve got the party rolling as we drove thither and yon without any clear destination. Alcalde failed at finding Duncan, but we found Mt. Hope, which I’m willing to bet was just as good.
Back in Spokane, we stopped in the newly opened Lumberbeard brewery for lunch, and I presented Alcalde with his birthday gift: an officially licensed pair of Donkey Kong socks, direct from the Nintendo store in Redmond! He was pretty overwhelmed, I think.
Lumberbeard’s lack of food made for a pretty limited lunch, so we went to Iron Goat brewpub and got food and more beer. We bought shirts in both places.
Back at CFP, we had limoncello shots, and then everything went black.
But I got better, and the next day, after breakfast and second breakfast, we went for a grand tour of Post Falls, Idaho. We wandered around in the cold and looked at hydroelectic things dating to 1906, but also there was beer.
The only black mark on the day was Alcalde’s failure to arrange delivery for his Tres Comas tequila, which he’ll have to pick up tomorrow, thus denying him the pleasure of sharing it with me on his birthday. That and the Duncan fiasco kept the weekend from being the Platonic ideal of a Birthday Weekend.
On the plus side, some random guy at the Selkirk Abbey brewery gave us these Idaho Spud candy bars, and Alcalde didn’t want his, so I got two. It’s the candy bar that makes Idaho famous.
Yesterday I went a-driving in a big loop through Bainbridge Island, the Kitsap Peninsula, and the Olympic Peninsula to Port Townsend, then back via Whidbey Island.
Port Townsend is a “Victorian Seaport and Arts Community,” it says on the sign, and that seems about right. This busker managed to sing Hey Bulldog, Hand in My Pocket, Heartache Tonight, and Aqualung, all with exactly the same rhythm and tempo, and if that doesn’t qualify as Arts, I don’t know what does. There was also a fortune teller in a small box.
Port Townsend’s late 19th century architecture is the result of a building boom, followed by a rapid economic decline in the 1890s when the railroads bypassed it. Now they function as a draw to ambling tourist types like me.
Historical Mystery: Port Townsend was originally named Port Townshend, but at some point it lost its H, which remains missing to this day.