Wilderness Capital City" Story by Ringo Boitano Photographs by Deb Roskamp
et's face it, Alaska
is a big place. With over 3,000 rivers and more than 100,000 glaciers,
the state is one-fifth the size of the continental United States and
two-and-one-half times the size of Texas. Vast expanses of wilderness
encompass Alaska, with millions of acres of national parkland and wildlife
refuges. When I took my first Alaska Inside Passage cruise, I could
see that there were a number of ports of call that deserved more than
a day tour -- and this was never truer than when I first set my eyes
A City Built on Gold
For thousands of years, the Tlingit tribe had dominated
Juneau and Southeast Alaska, developing sophisticated art work and elaborate
ceremonies as well as a complex cultural life. In 1880, Joseph Juneau
and Richard Harris discovered gold. Fortune-seeking miners soon followed
along with a plethora of trading posts, saloons, and missionaries. The
Juneau settlement became a real town, the first to be established after
Alaska's purchase from Russia. The Alaska-Juneau gold mine was one of
the largest mining operations in the world. Juneau experienced rapid
growth with the arrival of fishing, canneries, transportation services,
and a sawmill through the early 1900s. In January 1959, Alaska was christened
the U.S.s 49th state with Juneau becoming the state capital.
Today, Juneau is a thriving city with a blend of urban
amenities nestled in the heart of majestic mountains, rivers, glaciers,
and forests. With a population of 31,000, the infrastructure is based
on government workers, tourism, mining and fishing. It still has a friendly,
small town ambiance with everyone seemingly fitting in, united in their
love of the surrounding beauty.
My Own Private Juneau
What I enjoy in Juneau is getting out of the tourist
area, and wandering around the city. One evening I strolled up a quiet
main street. I couldn't help but notice there was a man on the other
side of the street, carrying something that looked suspiciously like
a sledgehammer. Suddenly, he took a full swing, smashing a store front
window. I'd often wondered how I would react in such a situation. Would
I be a Dirty Harry and demand the man to stop or confront
him by force? But my 6th sense told me to do something else: run the
other direction as fast as my legs would take me. As I did, locals poured
out of bars, and soon the police arrived. The officer pointed a gun
at the assailant and calmly said: "Okay, Larry, let's go.
Larry smiled, put his sledgehammer down, and amiably climbed into the
back of the car. How I love small city life.
Sitting in an Internet cafe the next day, I told a local
about the incident. Unusual for Juneau, the man smiled.
Plus he couldnt get far for Juneau is inaccessible by road.
I asked if the invasion of cruise ship tourists bothered him. "Theyre
only coming here to see the reasons that make us live here. One of my
favorite things to do is go to Mendenhall Glacier at night after the
cruise ships have departed, and we have the whole place to ourselves.
That night I did just that; with the late summer sun glistening off
the glacier, it was truly a spiritual experience.
Photo credit: Juneau CVB
Mendenhall Glacier and Visitor
The Mendenhall is one of the 38 major glaciers that flow from the Juneau
Icefield, covering more than 1,500 square miles. You can drive to the
visitor center on your own, but tour companies also offer trips. Flightseeing
groups feature aerial tours and helicopter companies land you right
on the glacier for a short hike.
Mt. Roberts Tramway and Alpine
From the cruise ship pier, take a six-minute tram ride to the 1,800-foot
level of Mt. Roberts for sweeping views of Gastineau Channel and downtown
Juneau. Theres wildlife viewing platforms, Nature Center, a live
bald eagle display, restaurant, gift shop and a self-guided hiking trail
marked by Native totem carvings.
The Alaska State Museum showcases exhibits on Alaskas Native culture,
history, art, and natural history including a Tlingit Clan House, while
the Juneau-Douglas City Museum features exhibits and videos of Juneaus
history and gold mining heritage.
Day boat tour companies offer tours of the twin Sawyer Glaciers in Tracy
Arm Fjord. Glacier Bay National Park features a remarkable collection
of tidewater glaciers and 3 million acres of wilderness.
Whale Watching and Wildlife
Juneau is the place to see humpbacks and orca killer whales, seals,
black bears, and eagles. For brown bear viewings, visit Admiralty Island
National Monument, based in the Kootznoowoo -- a Tlingit word meaning
"Fortress of the Bears.
An array of Coast Guard licensed charter fishing boats offer charters
for Pacific halibut and all five species of Pacific salmon.
My Irish roots understand terrible beauty. So do my
human roots. The concept has such a ring of truth to it, doesn't it?
Great article, Ringo. I hope to get to Ireland eventually, and thanks
for blazing the trail!
Sandeee Bleu, Seattle, WA
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No wonder I've been hearing all these wonderful stories
about Ireland. I used to think that it was just for Irish Americans
seeking their ancestral roots but your article seems to call out to
the non-Irish like me. Fascinating and intriguing.
Peter Paul, Pasadena, CA
Thanks for this great post wow... it's very wonderful.
Key Logger, New York
* * * *
Lets not forget that the Marriot Harbor Beach is within
walking distance to the world famous Elbo Room - Fort Lauderdale's oldest
Jeff, Fort Lauderdale, FL
* * * *
Thanks for taking the time
for the message and reminder. Indeed, I had a quick drink at the Elbo
Room. My trip to Ft. Lauderdale would not have been complete without
a visit to this historic institution.I have been reading about it for
years, and was not disappointed. It felt like a real local's hangout.
thoroughly enjoyed your article about Dick and Liz. I remember seeing
that article back in the heyday of Life Magazine.
To remember the "behind-the-scenes" stories
like that makes you genuine fan of the 60's. The famous couple's turbulent
relationship was just a precursor of today's headline-grabbing media
stars like Britney Spears and her colleagues. Life was simpler then.
The paparazzis still had some sense of decency. You "coulda"
been a good paparazzi. I say "coulda" because you kept this
to yourself all these many years.
Looking forward to other media trivia you can remember.
Peter Paul, South Pasadena, CA
Enjoyed your article on Antarctica --- cool photos,
too. One thing, you mentioned that Ushuaia in Argentina is considered
the most southern city in the world. I read that Chile lays claim to
that distinction, with Punta Arenas, the southernmost city in the world.
Mick, Greenbay, WI
* * * *
Now that football season is
over --- Ive often wondered what you Packer fans did in the off
season ---- its great that you took the time to visit TravelingBoy.
Great question, unlike my older brother, I adore all lamb products,
and Patagonian Lamb --- cooked in a restricted area at the restaurant
in an opened wood-fueled fire pit --- is amazing. The chef actually
uses an ax to carve it. Frankly, I found it superior to Norwegian fjord
lamb, Irish Burren lamb and even those much esteemed creatures down
in New Zealand. The crab in Ushuaia is the other thing to eat. Wait
a sec, you asked about Punta Arenas vs. Ushuaia as the furthermost city
in the world. Well, they both have little disclaimers re populations
--- you know, whats a city, which one is a town, ect so
better let Chile and Argentina brass it out. They seem to be able to
argue about any subject.
Journey to the Bottom of the Globe: Exploring the
White Continent of Antarctica
As a travel journalist I am constantly asked what are
some of my favorite travel experiences. The list is endless. But there is
one destination that seems to raise the most eyebrows. That destination
is a cruise to Antarctica. Sadly, that cruise line I was on is no more,
but today there is a plethora of cruise lines that offer similar packages.
Here's a look back at my Antarctica cruise.
Treasures of Ireland: The Quiet Man
The Palladian Traveler follows in the footsteps
of some Hollywood icons as he goes "on location" in Cong to
pay his respects to his all-time fave movie.
Would You Believe She Can Carry 800 (Yes, 800!)
As she came around the corner we could not believe
how big she was. Massive, and yet incredibly beautiful almost elegant
in fact. Her lines were so symmetrical she seemed to blend into a classic
example of astonishing good looks. The other fact that amazed all of us
was how quiet she was. We felt sure that with the obvious overwhelming power
she evidenced, she'd be extra loud. It's a cliché, but she was as
quiet as a church mouse or "as quiet as dreaming trees."
Highway 49 Revisited: Exploring California's
In the 1840s, the population of California was only
14,000, but by 1850 more than 100,000 settlers and adventurers had arrived
from all over the world and they came for one reason: gold. James
Marshall had discovered the first gold nugget at Sutters Mill in El
Dorado County, creating the largest gold rush in history.
Lake Charles Family-Size Low-Key Mardi Gras
The Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras in Lake Charles,
the second largest in Louisiana, does not need parents there to avert their
childrens eyes. This is family entertainment and children are very
much part of it. The main office of the Lake Charles CVB has costumes from
last years Mardi Gras but it also has figures to fascinate little
ones from country boys fishing for their dinner to alligators who have already
fed and are rubbing their stomachs.
Cedar Hill: Frederick Douglass' Home is as Imposing
as the Man who Lived There
Having recently received a misguided shout-out from
the president during Black History Month Frederick Douglass has done
an amazing job... it seems a good time to revisit the cultural icon's
legitimate place in history. And a visit to his home in Washington, DC
surely a place the current president might want to consider visiting himself
would be a good place to start.
Discovering Art, Culture and Cuisine in Lancaster
Lancaster has always been one of those cities that I pass
through on the way to some other destination. But last week was different.
I finally took the time to explore the place and wow, was I surprised!
I discovered a downtown full of charm, culture, cuisine and community
spirit. My recent getaway began when a friend and I drove about 60 miles
north of Los Angeles toward the Mojave Desert and checked into the Towneplace
Richard Gere and Joseph Cedar Discuss "The Moderate
Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer"
Richard Gere is one of America's acting treasures. He
has an uncanny knack for selecting scripts with the most interesting characters.
Included in some of his vast body of films are "American Gigolo,
"An Officer and a Gentleman," "The Cotton Club," "Internal
Affairs," "Pretty Woman," "Primal Fear," "Unfaithful,"
and "Chicago." Joseph Cedar, writer and director of the critically
acclaimed "The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer,"
was born in New York City but when he was five, his family moved to Israel
where he was raised.