July 5, 2014

The approach into Juneau, Alaska is spectacular. Large patches of snow dot the craggy Alpine slopes, which are dark green like the velvet Christmas ribbon of days gone by. The ranges are fringed with Mohawk rows of massive pines. You can’t understand how the trees are hanging on, they are so close to the edges of these dramatic slopes. Off the right wing of the plane, I saw the tram to the top of Mount Roberts. Tomorrow I hope.

Our seatmate, a native of Juneau, was returning home after a two week visit to her son in Florida. She said it was good to get away. The contrast between the flat humid tropicality of Florida and the green steep Alaskan slopes of this town of 33,000 in the winter, and 55,000 in the summer must be striking. She was glad to get home. I don’t blame her. It is stunning here.

When we came out of the airport after collecting our bags, the weather was a balmy 55, which sounds a lot colder than it felt, especially coming from the 85 degree trumps of LA.

On the long straight highway connecting the airport with the port, we passed a half dozen eagles perched in the trees on either side of the road. They are the size of small collies – they sit casually, shoulders sloped, as we gape out the windows of the car at them.

Our driver, Judy, who has a wicked wit, says,

“By the time you leave, you will be saying, oh another eagle, ho hum.”

But for the novitiates to this Alaskan scene, we are thrilled and stunned. Off to the right, is the salmon river with a tidal change of 14 feet; the tide was out as our car passed it, and the dirty sand was dotted with about 4-6 more eagles. We then passed a commercial fishing harbor, one of five in Juneau.

Our guide, Judy, had come to Juneau originally from North Dakota, for a four month job – something about bagels and cream cheese- sorry, Judy, but I was a bit distracted by the scenery outside the car. She has been here for 19 years. She said the ratio of men to women is five to one.

“Did that have anything to do with your decision to stay?” I teased.

“When I got here I thought the odds were good, but then I realized the goods were odd. Being single is a better choice for me.”

She took us through the town, the most striking thing were the three massive cruise ships on the side of the old mining town. The shops nearest the dock are tourist shops. There were about four jewelers in the batch of ten shops. All with “half off sales,” according to Judy.

The Hotel Baranof is currently and, well, there really isn’t a nice way to say this, in shambles. We pulled up to the hotel and the windows facing the street are filled with construction detritus. Actually it looks like demolition detritus- not sure they’ve made it to the constructive cycle yet. But you can tell it was one of the nicer hotels in its day.

Tonight we will wander down to the dockside restaurants – either The Hanger, or Tracy’s King Crab Shack, where the fish will be fantastic I am sure. Tomorrow, the tram to the top of Mount Roberts if the weather is clear, and then off on our cruise!

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