Juneau: Part V (Downtown)

The heart of Juneau is it’s historic downtown, which is still in transition, but has lots to see.  Many of the old buildings are being renovated and the main street has become home to a long line of shops for the many cruise ship tourists the city hosts.




There are nods to the region’s native cultures and natural resources throughout downtown such as this beautiful metal work on a small lot park, which depicted the story of the mythical seawolf’s relationship with his mother-in-law.  Read the story here.


Our favorite spot downtown was by far Tracy’s King Crab Shack.  Featured on Food Network, the crab shack is world famous for amazing crab bisque, which we not only enjoyed twice while in town, but took home thanks to frozen packs at a local grocery store!  The front portion of the crab shack features a fun gift shop with lots of Deadliest Catch momentos, including some very cool crab pot chandeliers!



I also spotted this whale tale mural piece above the display behind the register.  Although it wasn’t “crabby” it was still pretty cool.


I was too busy enjoying my crab bisque in the covered seating area out back on the dock to take pictures, but it was just as cool as the inside and was perfectly set up to contend with Juneau’s rainy weather.   The best part of our visit to the crab shack was their staff, who were certainly the friendliest we experienced during our trip.  Thanks to their website, you can experience their amazing products without traveling to Juneau, but if you do visit this unique city I highly recommend a stop here!


Juneau: Part IV (Shrine of St. Therese)


Our last day in Juneau was a rainy one, but we seemed to be ahead of the clouds everywhere we went including the beautiful Shrine of St. Therese.  A stone church built on an island, it’s well hidden but worth being sought out.  This was the view along the main trail from the parking lot.  You’d never know this amazing place was in the midst of those trees!


But a short walk across the causeway and you are standing on the stoop of this amazing structure.  The craftsmanship is stunning, especially considering it’s built on an island in remote Alaska during the depression.



And beyond that massive carved door is this simple, yet beautiful interior, which still hosts weddings and regular worship services.


The view from the island is almost as impressive as the church itself, even on a cloudy drizzly day.


I was seriously envious of photographers who get to do portrait sessions here.  It’s an ideal storybook location.  In addition to the church and view there are rustic fences amongst the trees and swoon-worthy stone walls.  * SIGH *



Beside the chapel is a large crucifixion statue, which starts the stone structures called “Stations of the Cross” with alabaster carvings depicting scenes of Christ’s final hours of human life.

















Although we didn’t have time to visit all the sights at the shrine, we did stop to appreciate the Merciful Love Labyrinth.  Built by volunteers of all ages who carried cobbles from the beach nearby, the labyrinth is a metaphor for the human journey of life.


Now operated as a retreat venue, the grounds and buildings are available for event rentals, but drop in visitors and recreationalists are still welcome to come and experience the location and trails.  If you have some time to relax while in Juneau, this is a great place to do so.  Visit the Shrine’s website for a complete history and additional information about this amazing place of spiritual refuge and retreat.

Juneau: Part III (Mount Roberts Tramway)

Sorry for the delay since my last post – that little thing called life threw a few curve balls at me and I was so busy swinging away at them that I didn’t get back to sharing the rest of our Juneau adventures.  But I’m back now and I’m going to wrap up the story of our adventures this weekend.  So without further ado- here’s the next installment!

This was my third trip to Juneau and I was determined to ride the tram up the hillside before leaving.  Although I originally planned this activity for my day off so we could enjoy lunch at the Timberline restaurant at the top of the hill, I discovered they would be closed for a private event that day.  Since visiting the restaurant was a main part of my desire to experience the tram, we decided to go after I finished my work events and have dinner instead.

I’m not sure if it was the foggy/drizzling weather or the fact that it was the end of the tourist season, but there was no crowd and we had the entire tram to ourselves except for one other person.

Once we climbed into the fog bank the view of town was gone, but that made specifically aware that we were at tree top level.  We arrived at the top terminal and made our way down the hallway to the gift shop.  It wasn’t until looked out a window at where we’d come from that I realized just how impressive the structure really was.


We browsed the gift shop where several pieces of local art were displayed, including this amazing beaded river, which hung from the ceiling!


Once we’d finished in the gift shop we headed outside on the trail around the building to catch a few sights before the light faded.  Just outside the terminal was this amazing overlook, which provided a stunning view now that the fog had parted.


A nearby outbuilding had this massive tree slice on display.  Those rings depict a LOT of history – 168 years worth to be exact.  The sign next to the slice noted major events in Alaska history coordinating with different rings.




The trail was pretty slick and we weren’t dressed for hiking, so we wandered the well traveled areas around the buildings.  Several of the trees had this amazing bend in their trunks, which signs explained was from heavy snowfall when they were young.


We spotted several native carvings in the trees along the path.  There were no descriptions of what they symbolized, but they were still pretty cool.



We also noticed a cross on the hilltop beyond the trees.  It was interesting to consider the difference in these belief systems and how they’ve finally found a peaceful mix – which has not always been the case in these parts.


As the light faded we spotted the sign pointing out the trail back to town.  Obviously for those more adventurous and prepared, so we decided to head inside and test out the restaurant.


Inside we visited the theater, which shows a short film on the history of the native people of Juneau and the many settlers who came to the region before it became a state.  After that we checked out some of the hunting displays.  The CEO of the company I work for is from Juneau and has many ties to the community, so it wasn’t that surprising to see that several of the trophies were donated by his brother!



We ordered crab nachos and watched the fog roll back in as we waited for our meal.  I’m sure on a clear day this is one of the best views in town!


Although the nachos weren’t the best we’d ever had, they were massive.  Literally, a pile of chips, cheese, tomatoes, and onions topped with crab meat.  Needless to say, we didn’t finish the entire plated.


It was almost closing time we we moseyed out to the tram terminal and took the last tram of the night back down.  As we walked back to our hotel through the drizzle I looked back and realized the entire building on the hillside had been cloaked in fog once again, making it appear as if the cables disappeared into the clouds.


It certainly wasn’t the experience portrayed in the brochure, but it was still one I’d recommend to those who visit Juneau, even if the weather isn’t perfect.


Juneau: Part II (Mendenhall Glacier)

Our second adventure in Juneau was visiting Mendenhall Glacier.  We first viewed it on a wonderfully partly cloudy day from a picnic area on the far side of the lake that the glacier has formed.  The massive Nugget Falls is just to the right of the glacier, and being able to see it across the massive lake gave me a sense of just how big it really was.  It was an amazing location for a portrait session – trees, stone buildings, glacier, lake and a sandy beach.  Sigh.





We only had a brief time to sit and enjoy the view before I was needed for work activities, but we agreed that it was worth checking out the trail we’d heard would get us right up next to the glacier when I had my day off during the trip.  So despite a light drizzle, we found the park where the trail head was located.  There was a great view from the pavilion next to the parking lot.  Notice the icebergs in the lake?


But I’d heard the trail would take us right to the foot of Nugget Falls and I wasn’t leaving until I’d at least attempted it, so off we went.  The trail was pretty well maintained and fairly level although there were a few puddles we had to avoid.  At one point it looked like the trail led directly to the glacier itself!


Along the way we had a better view of the ice bergs, which turned out to be a perch for a lone eagle – at least for a while.



GlacierTrailBlueBergThere was a fork in the trail a little ways in, with one way leading to the falls and the other leading to a photo view point.  We decided to head to the falls first since that was the longer route and we weren’t sure how long the rain would hold off.  Along the way we spotted this plaque dedicated to a local wolf.  I don’t know Romeo’s story, but can take a pretty good guess based on this tribute.


The sound of the falls got louder as we approached and we caught glimpses of it around several bends.  Then we rounded the final bend and saw this!


I walked out on the little beach to photograph the falls head on.  The falls were so strong it produced a strong breeze, which directed a constant spray of mist right at me.  I could only get in one or two shots before the entire lens was covered.  The people standing next to the falls give you a perspective on size.


From here I looked back out at the lake and realized just how far away those ice burgs were!  It didn’t seem that far when we saw them from the viewpoint, but the great Alaskan wilderness is always larger than it seems.


After I took a few pictures the hubs and I sat and took in the wonder of it all for a bit.  The area was pretty much deserted besides the other couple you see in the photo above, but soon groups of people started arriving in a steady stream, signaling the arrival of a tour bus, so we decided to head back up the trail before the crowd became overwhelming.  Back at the fork, the hubs took a break to rest his knee and I proceeded out to the viewpoint, which offered a nice vantage point to see the glacier, falls and ice bergs!


There was also an interesting sign showing just how much the glacier had receded and how the falls used to flow through the glacier.


The viewpoint also gave a different perspective to the size of Nugget Falls, as I could see the crowd of tourists now gathered on the sandy beach where we’d just been.


I snapped a few photos for some solo tourists who wanted the scenery in the background and then headed back to the fork to reconnect with the hubs.  By then the clouds had rolled in and we decided to move on to another adventure, which turned out to be the right decision since it started to pour just as we pulled out of the parking lot!  WordPress won’t let me post the video I took at the foot of the falls so check it out on my Facebook page instead!  And if you’re not a fan already go ahead and click “Like” while you’re there! 😉

Juneau: Part I (The Red Dog Saloon)

When I sat down to write about our trip to Juneau I realized that we’d actually done so much it would make for a very long post if I shared it all at once, so I’ll be doing several installments, documenting each activity we did over the next few days.


One of the first things we did was visit the world famous Red Dog Saloon. Established during the territorial gold rush days, the saloon has been a part of Juneau for decades. Although it’s been housed in several different locations around downtown over the years, it still has that saloon feel with swinging doors and sawdust floors.RedDogBalcony

Just about every visitor to the saloon has left a mark, literally. Names and dates are carved and written on every surface in the place. No surface is safe, even the emergency lights.




Local artifacts such as Wyatt Earp’s gun and souvenirs from visitors also cover the walls and ceiling, including life preservers from each of the Coast Guard ships that have docked there – including my hubby’s old boat, the Mustang.  My personal favorite was the bear chasing ‘someone’ up the pole in the middle of the room.



Since we’d already had dinner when we visited we shared a cup of chowder and ordered a couple of drinks. Although the duck fart sounded interesting I opted for the glacier margarita, which was pretty good.


We enjoyed listening to the singer, who often paused mid-lyric to tell a story or chide someone. And I couldn’t help but chuckle at his tip jar – the blind puppie fund, which later changed to estrogen!


The entire place had a truly laid back, Alaskan style, but the best way to sum up the Red Dog Saloon is this sign.  In fact it’s so perfect they offer it on t-shirts and other merchandise in their gift shop.


So if you find yourself in Juneau with a few hours to kill this is a good place to do so.  Kick back, read the writing on the walls, marvel at the odd collection of items and definitely enjoy a cup of chowder. 🙂