Juneau Travel Blog› entry 8 of 9 › view all entries
Not only did Juneau become the capital of Alaska in 1906, the small remote inland city is steeped in culture and tradition offering even the remote tourist a free history lesson that they will never forget. Juneau is the only capital that has no roads in or out of the city (literally having end of the road signs).
The majority of the cities income is generated from State and Local Government. Tourism follows closely behind with as many as six cruise ships arriving daily dumping off more than 10,000 tourists every day within a seven block stretch known as downtown Juneau. You might just think that's an ordinary day for most Ports of Call, but considering that the city only has around 30,000 year round residents, that say's allot. On a good day you might have upwards of 25,000 people in the downtown area (that makes a good dat to schedule a sight seeing cruise just to get out of the city)
You've got a massive sea of people running into each other trying to see what they can in a limited timeframe not knowing where they are going and asking ridiculous questions (does the gift shops take American money), or my all-time favorite (why doesn't someone clean off the glacier) so believe me when I say "been there, done that" and it's not a pretty site (although it can be quite comical).
The question that always comes up in my minute mind is why tourists would spend money on taking a cruise, braving the elements (and the crowds) just to purchase an overpriced piece of jewelry or "so-called" souvenir that they could easily pick-up at their local mall for half the price. The majority of the tourists don't even but anything that even bears the name of where they were when they bought it.
The Mendanhall Glacier is the main attraction in Juneau, and is one only 40 glaciers that surround the city. Juneau is also unique in its geological make-up not only providing the well rounded tourist an extensive array of Snow capped mountains complete with icebergs and glaciers but also has the plush setting of the Tongass Rain Forest that covers more than 17 million acres, offering each and every visitor a different contrast. The Tongass Natural Forrest is often referred to as having some of the most dense vegetation in North America (and once you're there you can see why) talk about not seeing the forest from the trees.
After our daily routine of getting up at 6:00 and heading out for Apple Fritters (we decided the only semi-valid excuse was to get energized for the day) we decided to brave the rain (when isn't there rain) and take a brisk walk around the airport via the appropriately named Airport Dike Trail.
The small but scenic 1.2 mile trail has been a great place for bird watching (except for today) with the tops of trees filled with eagles' nests and other various species of birds that make the marshlands their homes. Before we started off on our own journey through the much and mire (sounds real inviting) we stopped for pictures of the many float planes that were landing and taking off in the small creek north of the runway either filled with tourists ready to start the day, or picking up tourists headed for a fun filled (rain soaked) destination.
We also couldn't resist taking pictures of the Salmon colored Alaska Airline plane and the Disneyland 50th anniversary plane that were getting ready to touch down bringing still more people adding to the population for that week. To the east we saw eagles perched on small wooden runway markers looking as if they owned the place with their heads held high and their chests sticking out as if to boastfully brag about this being their home.
As we headed down the narrow mud filled gravel trail that winds just outside the airport it was if we wandered into a serene stetting, with the rain glistening off the many colorful flowers that lined the path making this journey one of the most relaxing parts of the trip allowing your mind to wander and just letting go of any kinds of troubles, almost as if you didn't have a care in the world. To the left of us were nothing but Sitka spruce and colorful flowers, and to the right was nothing but field an small ponds with either ducks or a smattering of birds that were just drifting along enjoying the peaceful morning before people and dogs would disrupt the environment with their daily routines.
After winding around to the end of the trail amidst the sounds air horns that are used by the airport to scatter birds or wildlife from the runway (sounds almost primitive) headed back, only pausing to stop and reflect on the peaceful quietness of our surroundings. As we made our way back our luck had run out with the joggers (and their dogs) quickly infiltrating and breaking up the calmness of the morning with their conversations along with the barking that unfortunately brought and end to the placidness of the trail.
On our way back we met peaceful resistance on the trail trying to dodge the oncoming joggers and walkers, meanwhile trying not to get off of the path and avoiding getting our feet soaked by the puddles of water that had formed, or our pant legs soaked by brushing against the wet vegetation (needless to say we weren't successful in either task). After finally getting to the car and drying off we headed downtown for a birthday lunch at one of Juneau's most historic restaurants aptly named “the Hanger".
The Hanger, a renovated 1940's Alaska Coastline float plane hanger served as the main port for Alaskan pioneer aviator Shell Simmons. Oklahoma native Will Rodgers would often land there on his travels down the Inside Passage. The Hanger was a float plane hangar for more than 35 years supporting the first generation Alaskan pilots.