A few days after our trek to the Eagle Crest warming hut, we awoke to find ourselves in a completely new world: a sunny Juneau, Alaska! So of course we took advantage of this grand opportunity to go out on the town and see the sights. The official statistics about Juneau are somewhat misleading. If you were to search the official population of Juneau you would most likely find a number around 31,000-however there are two large factors that determine that population. One, that number includes the population of Douglas (an entirely separate island) and two, it also includes the Mendenhall Valley (know here as simply “the valley”) which is about seven or so miles from the actual town of Juneau. Needless to say, when you arrive in downtown Juneau it does not feel anywhere near the 30,000 population mark.
I think there about five buildings that have more than seven stories just to give you an idea of what I mean by “downtown.” There is one McDonald’s and it’s packed right alongside the local businesses that stretch down the two main streets of Juneau. Here are a few pictures:
The only wrench thrown in this “small town” image is the fact that each day five giant floating hotels pull up to the docks of Juneau and spew out 3,000 people from each vessel. Some people prefer to call them “cruise ships” but when you can see all of them well above the largest building in town, it’s hard to simply refer to them as “large boats.” Exhibit A (yep that’s a ship on the right in the distance):
The area around the docks are well stocked with trip kiosks, jewelry shops, and even fur shops that offer a plethora of fur bikinis and lingerie (no, i did not go into these stores-they proudly display these articles of clothing in their front windows). This part of town is so used to tourists “docking” themselves in the shops that the street is actually called “Peoples Warf.” I can make all of the jokes I want but the simple fact is the cruise industry is a large employer for this area and keeps many businesses afloat (pun intended) each year. It will actually be interesting to see what Juneau looks like when the cruises stop in early October.
Besides that area of town, the rest of Juneau is very local, very small, and really very comfortable. You have your local bagel shop (Silverbow), your local grocery store (A&P), local city hall, and even your local sea plane companies (ok maybe that’s not everywhere but there are a lot here!). The churches here are just as quaint, in particular the cathedral (where we attend mass-and yes this is the cathedral for the entire diocese) and the Orthodox church next door (one of the oldest octagonal churches in the United States):
We ended our day with a stroll down to the water where, as we watches sea planes and ships come in and out, we realized that days like this are why people never leave Juneau – while also realizing that days like this are what what people cling to when it has been raining for a month straight.
After today, I say, bring it on rain, bring it on…