It’s been three years since I last was in Juneau (long time readers may remember that I did an internship for the Alaska Legislature in the spring of 2009) and it doesn’t seem that too much has changed. Unfortunately for us the weather has been less that appealing, though I can’t say we’re surprised; after all, this is SE Alaska in January. Despite the weather, though, we’ve managed to get around to lots of attractions, enjoy a full day of skiing at Eagle Crest, and do some of the things I never got around to doing when I lived here.
We started our Juneau leg by floating in the evening of the 2nd, and finding our hotel. The next morning after a good, solid sleep-in, we went to Silverbow: my very favorite (and only) SE bagel and sandwich shop. We also got some of Alaska’s best hot chocolate at Heritage Coffee (another old favorite), and then went about our day as camera happy tourists.
|Our visit to the capitol|
Our first stop was the Alaska Capitol Building where I worked three years ago. It’s truly a fabulous building (especially by Alaska standards) and is very interesting to walk around in. Thomas had never visited the capital before, so it was fun to show him around the different offices, find our respective legislators, and look at all the historical photographs and art they have hanging on the walls.
Our next stop was the Alaska Brewing Company, where we had an excellent tour from some very knowledgeable and pleasant employees. They talked to us all about the brewing process, how AK Brewing came to be (co-founded by a woman!), and how they go about brewing their beer and selecting new beers to market. All in all, it sounded like a pretty fantastic place to work if you like to drink beer. The tour also came with six samples of whatever they had on tap and, not wanting to disappoint anyone, we happily availed ourselves of all six. My favorite up until recently had been the Alaska White (the tap pull is a giant polar bear), but I’ve since been turned on to the Alaska Winter (tap pull: a giant spruce tree) which is made with spruce tips hand-picked in Gustavus, Alaska. In the spirit of trying new things in this new year I also tried the barley wine, but it was a bit hoppy and, well….wine-y for my taste. Thomas enjoyed the Smoked Porter (which smelled just like smoked salmon to me), the Perseverance Ale (reportedly tasting like black cherry), and the Oatmeal Stout, and thoroughly delighted in each. One of us had to drive, so he was kind enough to end his tasting streak there while I sampled several others, some perhaps twice. All in all, our experience at the Brewing Co. was absolutely wonderful and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Juneau.
The next day, we went to another local favorite of mine for breakfast: the Southeast Waffle Company. They made real fruit smoothies and fantastic, filling waffles with just about any topping/filling you could imagine. I had one stuffed with blueberries and covered in butter (yum!) and Thomas had one filled with bits of bacon and sausage. Thoroughly stuffed, we went to the University of Alaska Southeast to poke around for a while, and then went shopping for a lunch of our ski trip the next day. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by the local fish hatchery (they hatch silver (coho) and pink (humpy) Pacific salmon) to see if we could tour their operations. They weren’t really open for visitors, but they let us in anyway and we got to poke around their aquarium exhibits for a while. They were neat tanks with a great variety of Alaskan fish species, but it wasn’t until we found a molting King crab in an out-of-the-way tank that we really were glad to have come.
|About halfway out of the old shell|
Seeing a molting crab is pretty rare, and to see a molting King crab is even more special. We caught him (or perhaps her) as she was halfway out of her old shell, and watched until she made a full molt and stopped to rest. Crabs are crustaceans and have a hard exo-skeleton to protect them from predators. King crabs are actually a superfamily, and describe many individual species of crabs. The one we saw was a Paralithodes camtschaticus, or a Red King crab. These crabs can grow to have a leg span of almost six feet (!), and are native to the Bering Sea. You may have seen these amazing critters on shows like Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch, which features crab fishermen and follows their fishing trips to catch these highly coveted (and tasty) species.
After the hatchery, we visited the Alaska State Museum and were treated to several beautiful displays of paintings featuring Alaskan flora. We also caught a birch tree exhibit which featured some really stunning birch tree paintings and sculptures, as well as some traditionally woven baskets and other food preparation tools all made entirely from birch. The amount of craftsmanship that goes into creating some of these objects is really quite amazing, and it was really neat to see such forgotten trades up close and personal. The museum also boasted a neat permanent exhibit on Alaska Native culture and their tools and traditions. Again, I was blown away by the craftsmanship. For example, Alaska natives used to sew seal-gut parkas that they would fit over their kayak openings so as to stay dry while paddling in rough seas. Not only are these parkas made of extremely delicate gut (like intestine) that’s been dried and prepared for sewing, but they also designed a way to overlap and sew the seams of the parka so that no individual stitch actually penetrated the entire garment. The idea was that this method would keep the parka from ever leaking water. How cool is that! Reluctantly, we turned away from the native exhibits to check out the Russian and Klondike era exhibits, both of which hosted a wide range of artifacts and memorabilia from those time periods. It was so cool to see such monumental pieces of our state’s history in the flesh, and all for the entirely reasonable admittance fee of only $3. Again, highly recommended.
|Touching the ‘world’ at the Alaska State Museum|
After all this educational touring, we decided to get out and have some fun in the snow. Yesterday, we visited Eagle Crest Ski Area where we booted up and spent most of the day swooshing down the slopes. The bottom of the mountain was fairly icy in the morning, but the top was magnificent (albeit a bit windy) and we skied until our thighs burned. Upon returning to the hotel, I found that I had missed a call from an unknown number, and had a text message from my radio station manager telling me to call her quickly, as she had some exciting news. I read the text to Tom, and puzzled as to what exciting news she could possible have for me. Tom immediately said, “you won the trip!”. He was referring to KUAC’s trip giveaway for two people to attend a live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion in St. Paul, Minnesota. I had entered to win by pledging to the station during an episode of Prairie Home, but was sure that someone had already won as I had a faint recollection of seeing an announcement of that sort on the station’s facebook page. I insisted that I couldn’t possibly have one, and so Tom suggested we look it up on their website to see if there were any announcements. We found an hour-old photo of a student intern drawing a NEW winner, as the first winner had not been able to go. The caption to the photo read: a new winner has been drawn, but we’re still awaiting confirmation before announcing their name. Could this new winner be you?
I looked at Tom and said, “could it be me?” I immediately dialed up my manager and was greeted by enthusiastic congratulations. I won! So, in a few weeks Thomas and I will be flying to St. Paul to see the show live from on-stage seats, eat dinner with the cast and crew, and be put up in a hotel all on KUAC’s bill! I am so dang excited! I’ve grown up listening to public radio, and have volunteered with public radio stations for years simply because I adore the programming and feel of community sponsored and loved radio. To get to go and see live and in-person the cast of one of my absolute favorite radio shows is a huge thrill, and even better that Thomas loves public radio just as much and can accompany me on this mini-vacation. I feel so fortunate, and can’t wait to blog all about it.
With all this excitement, we’re enjoying our last few hours in Juneau before heading south on the M/V Kennicott (one of the fleets’ largest ferries) to Ketchikan where we’ll be staying with another CouchSurfing host. I’ve got my fingers crossed that this one is a little more traditional and less noisy than the last. This is the last adventure leg of our trip before we begin the long voyage home, and I’m excited to see a new place. So, with that I’ll say adieu and wish everyone a wonderful weekend. More soon!