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
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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.
Eugene Chaplin Introduces Chaplin's World Museum
in Vevey, Switzerland
Lake Geneva/ Matterhorn Region and Switzerland Tourism
recently blew into Los Angeles with the most esteemed guest, Eugene Chaplin.
A man of remarkable lineage, he is the fifth child of Oona O'Neill and Sir
Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, the grandson of playwright
Eugene O'Neill, the brother of Geraldine Chaplin and father of actress/model
Treasures of Ireland: The Burren (Dispatch
The Palladian Traveler ventures back to the days
of fearless Celtic warriors to search for some "stones to take you
home" as he files his latest dispatch from the monochromatic moonscape
known as The Burren.
Buckingham Palace It's THE Most Popular Tour
in Great Britain (Part 2 of a 2-Part Series)
Is it more momentous for a Brit to do the Buckingham
Palace tour than say an American or indeed any other nationality? Yes, I
know that's an odd question, but if you grow up as I did in
London back in the 1950s, getting inside Buckingham Palace was the stuff
of dreams. Hence my surprise at touring BP in 2005.
Paradise on Earth: The Romance of
Tahiti and Her Islands
The first thing you notice is the fragrance. The intoxicating
perfume of the tiare flower announces to your senses that you are in a magical
place, overflowing with tropical vegetation and soothing trade winds. It
is the same fragrance that the English seamen on the HMS Bounty also first
encountered; but they came, not for flowers, but for breadfruit, intended
as a new food staple for their slaves in the West Indies.
Provence: As Much a Mood, a Spirit as a Destination
"On a Clear Day You Can See Forever" goes
the song. Robert Goulet sang it and Barbra Streisand and Johnny Mathis,
too, and it surely comes to mind when you stand on a bluff in the Luberon
of Provence and stare across at the little hill village of Gordes. The view
is the best part; the village's interior itself is not dramatic and stands
as a warning of what contemporary popularity can do to the simple homes
of 12th century working people.
Exploring Venice: Lost and Found. And Special Finds.
Walking home to our apartment in Venice, we share a
wave through the window with the owner of Baba, our local osteria. Leaving
for a day of sightseeing, a cup of my favorite pistachio gelato awaits me
despite the early hour. At the Bar Dugole, we relax after a day of sightseeing
and order the regular: vodka for my husband and Amaretto for me.
Traveling with Beautiful Boots and a Bison Backpack
People often asked about my favorite travel apparel and
gear. This happened to me at the airport recently. One question came as
I was putting back on my clothes after going through the TSA checkpoint
striptease. Before leaving the area, I heard a soft voice say, "hey,
I really like your boots. Where did you get them?" Looking up, I
found a uniformed employee staring at my feet.
Film Review: "My Hero Brother" A Tribute
to the Human Spirit
I just spent five days attending the Santa Barbara Film
Festival and for the most part, the features, animated shorts, and documentaries
were quite professional and compelling. That said, "My Hero Brother,"
a documentary that was particularly outstanding, told the remarkable and
inspiring story about a group of Down syndrome young men and women who
go on a two-week trek through the Himalayas with their non-Down syndrome