Welcome back, armchair travellers! David and I have just returned to Canberra from a three week sojourn on the west coast of USA and Canada where we enjoyed happy visits with friends and family in Vancouver, Vancouver Island and Santa Monica (LA); wandered for a few days in Seattle; and spent a week aboard the small ship “Sea Lion” exploring the the coves, inlets and forests of the Inside Passage of Alaska. Now that we’ve recovered somewhat from jet lag and have downloaded our photos, we’re ready to begin sharing some of our experiences with you in yet another wonderful part of our world.
Because it’s a place that many of you may not have had the opportunity to explore for yourselves, we’ll begin our stories with our trip into some stunningly beautiful wilderness areas of Alaska.
To begin that journey, we had to fly to the small, quiet town of Juneau, home to about 32,000 people. That’s a number that swells by upwards of 10,000 a day in the tourist season from May to September. The only way in or out of this town, surrounded as it is by mountains, is by sea or air. We arrived by air a day earlier than our group so that we would have time to explore the town.
Hemmed in by mountains on all sides, Juneau has always been dependant on the sea. Nowadays, the airport is situated on the level plains beyond the town. The flight path is quite exciting as it comes down between mountains that range from 1,100m to 1,200 m in height.
The airport is a very busy one because of the constant small plane and helicopter traffic. In fact, we were told that there are more planes in and out of Juneau per year than fly in and out of LAX in busy Los Angeles. Many people in Alaska have their own planes; it’s the popular way to get around.
It doesn’t take long to explore this small town, even though, by area, we were told, that it’s the second largest city in USA! Juneau is, in fact, the Capital of Alaska having been given that title in 1906 after the US took ownership of the Russian base of Sitka. The city is named after gold prospector Joe Juneau, though it was for a time called Rockwell and then Harrisburg. Joe Juneau and Richard Harris marked out 160 acres as a town site on October 18, 1880. A mining camp gradually grew on the site as more gold was discovered in the area.
The town is built on a grid pattern although there are two main roads. One runs alongside the Gastineau Channel while another heads up from the docks into town. This street is lined with souveneir shops since it is closest to the port and the coming and going of cruise liners. The main town is more interesting; it’s the place where locals shop and it’s where we spent most time. We had breakfast at the Heritage coffee shop… not Starbucks, though of course they are there. The coffee was so, so much better to our Australian taste at Heritage!
It doesn’t take a lot of time to explore here; we just browsed.
So why not come for a wander with us!
One of the first things to catch the eye are the colourful banners.
Bold, brash, colourful and cheerful.
They are everywhere.
Each individual banner is someone’s art.
This one evokes the warmth of the summer sun,
the beauty of the channel and mountains
and the taste of my favourite Alaskan food, King Crab.
It’s not hard to imagine the members of the Juneau version of the “stitch and bitch” group getting together on long cold, dreary winter days to make these wonderful banners. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but I rather hope they do. Social contact and a focus on something so uplifting and cheerful would be very beneficial in a place that experiences long dark days. We were in Juneau on the longest day of their year. We would experience almost 22 hours of daylight every day of our trip. But in winter, those hours are more like 6 hours of daylight (not necessarily sunshine as it is most likely raining or snowing!) and 18 hours of black darkness. There are not many visitors to Juneau in winter. Contact with the outside world is a summer thing. Winter can be a time of increased mental stress for many and getting together to make such banners would be a fun thing to do.
Hanging baskets of flowers also brighten up the streetscape
after the long, cold, dreary, wet winter!
Petunias make a happy statement to all who pass by.
It seems that every town in the world uses
delightful geraniums to brighten up garden beds and sidewalks.
There were many other flowers, like this Rudbeckia, or cone flower,
bringing the feel of sunshine to the side walks.
As most of you know, both David and I are avid flower photographers.
We enjoyed these well known garden plants but
we were also hoping to find many native plants on walks in the forests.
Rainy Retreat! I do like this type of inviting bookshop.
And yes it does rain, often, in Juneau.
You can’t have the famous Alaskan glaciers without precipitation.
Records show an average of 93 inches of rain over 240 days in a year.
Add to that, 70 inches of snow over 30 days in the year.
Luckily for us, June/July has a low amount of rainfall.
What a great name for a book; it certainly catches the eye!
It’s author is cartoonist, Matthew Inman.
We wondered if we would meet any grizzly bears on our travels….
and if so, would they be wearing underpants…
or would we need clean ones!
The wildlife doesn’t look particularly friendly
as depicted in this large mural along the side of the Juneau City Hall!
Most cafes and shops are non smoking places, thank goodness,
and most have this great sign in their windows.
We hoped to see some puffins in the wild on our journey.
Indeed, it seemed to us that the people of Juneau have a great sense of humour.
We left this souveneir in the shop, but did buy a couple of tee shirts and
a small harbour seal ornament for our Christmas tree.
We always add some small momento of our travels to our tree.
There may be ships, boats and small planes aplenty in Juneau,
but there are no hot air balloon rides.
This poster was inspirational; it made a very good ‘thought for the day’!
In our next post, we’ll join our group to visit Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau.
It’s the only glacier we could visit by bus and on foot.
Jennie and David
Some of our other travel adventures are on
and travel photos on
you can watch a youtube film of the approach and landing at Juneau airport on