Up-n-down Juneau

Between the Gastineau Channel and the bases of Mount Roberts and Mount Juneau sits Alaska’s capital city: Juneau. Bearing a closer resemblance to a quaint coastal village than to a US government seat, this Southeast Alaskan hub packs a lot into its limited—and somewhat unreachable—locale.

At a recent cruise stop, I was able to experience a few of the literal highs and lows this town has to offer. While my cabin mate headed for Mendenhall Glacier, I opted for afternoon tea—about 1800 feet up…

Waterfront

Looking for a shore excursion that included a tour guide’s expertise (but also allowed for personal wandering time downtown) lead me to Gastineau Guiding’s Town, Tram & Timberline Trek. Our first stop? Saying hello to Tahku, the Humpback whale, who greats all his visitors with a splash roughly every few minutes.

This impressive fountain and statue—a beautiful life-like replica—lives at Overstreet Park, near the Juneau-Douglas Bridge. The statue’s detail is incredible, from the full breach pose down to the whale’s barnacles. Tahku came to town to help celebrate Alaska’s 50th anniversary of statehood. He’s simply gorgeous!

Upslope

After waving goodbye to Tahku, we headed to our mountainous mode of transportation: the Mount Roberts Tramway. Our sophisticated coach in the sky took us 1800 feet up (giving us spectacular views in the process!) to the next leg of our adventure: the Alpine Loop Trail.

Jocelyn—our fantastic guide—lead us along this meandering 1.5 mile path from the subalpine to the alpine level of Mount Roberts, bringing us up to speed on native plants and trees, the people of Juneau (native and otherwise), and also the “bear” facts, should we encounter any of the large fuzzy critters…

The views from the trail were amazing! The Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock provided natural frames for many a photo, including those I took of the cruise ships docked in the channel waaaaaaaay below our mountain perch. Several trees along the trail also sported carvings—stories being shared with each passerby…

Time for tea! One of my favorite events of any day, our little group of hikers entered the Alpine Tea Room, and enjoyed a few locally made teas, along with jams made from Alaskan berries and plants. My favorite brew was the Alaskan Wild Rose tea. And yes, I made a purchase of this item (plus a few other odds and ends) at their gift shop in the Mount Roberts Nature Center. Don’t judge…

Downtown

After returning to sea level via the tram, I made my way through the very walkable streets of Juneau to a rather famous watering hole: the Red Dog Saloon. Known as the oldest tourist attraction in town, it definitely has that “come inside” appeal. A friend and former Juneau resident suggested I stop in for a drink. Well, I didn’t want to let her down…

 

Meeting up with my cabin mate, we “bellied up to the bar” (…no—really! Not one table available; just two bar stools…), ordered our drinks and nosh, then swung around every so often to enjoy the live music. The sawdust on the floor politely hid the dirt from my hiking shoes. The décor on walls distracted us—in a fun way—from getting too carried away in conversation. One novelty in particular caught my eye: Wyatt Earp’s gun, framed and unclaimed behind the bar. Legendary!

While enjoying the sights and sounds of this happening place from the comfort of my own bar stool, I very much enjoyed my Copper River Queso and Chips as well (made with a ton of white cheddar!), along with a nice white Chardonnay all the way from California. But before you think I wimped out on having a real saloon drink, we ordered the penultimate shot: a Duck Fart…

You heard me! One part Kahlua, one part Bailey’s Irish Cream and one part Whiskey. After seeing this drink promoted just about everywhere in Alaska, I knew I couldn’t head back to the lower 48 without adding this experience to my memory bank. Truth be told, it was delicious! I now have a new favorite shot glass beverage, along with a copy of the recipe on a Red Dog Saloon magnet souvenir…

Our short-but-sweet trip to Juneau complete, we headed back to the ship. By sea or by air—the only two ways in and out of this capital city. Even though arrival and departure methods are a bit limited, a trek to this town is well worth the effort. And a Duck Fart at the Red Dog is worth it too… J 🥃

 

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