Today was a pretty good day. Beautiful shoreline scenery and some ocean wildlife spotting as we approached Juneau. Disembarked; took an eight-mile bike ride (go us!) through the rain to see the Mendenhall glacier, and it was well worth it. Thirteen miles long, white and dirt-streaked, with patches of that milky blue color unique to glaciers.
It’s receding 200 feet per year, so if that rate stays constant (unlikely), the Mendenhall will be gone in 338 years, give or take a few. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, and let’s hope we have the ability to do something about it.
Equally impressive was Nugget Falls, the outflow from an adjacent glacier. We didn’t have time to hike over to the falls, but even from 1.5 miles away it was damn impressive.
(As an aside, as I write this the boat’s entertainment system is playing one of my old favorite songs – John Mayer’s A Still Verdictless Life (or Why, Georgia, Why?). Good song, great lyrics, before Mayer got famous and pretentious. And a song that has some special meaning for me, as my original year 2000 blog used that as its title. And now back to our regular programming…).
After the bike trip we had a guided tour of some beers from Alaska Brewing, a Juneau original microbrewery. Pretty cool company as it turns out – ultra eco-conscious, and pretty good beers. We then walked around in downtown Juneau, decidedly underwhelming. Some surprising Juneau facts:
- There are no roads connecting it to anywhere else. It’s completely islanded in terms of auto travel. You just can’t get there from here unless it’s by boat or plane.
- Isolated as it is, it’s weirdly the state capital. How in the world did that happen?
- Lots of churches on the outskirts, because some misguided legislator decided during the 1800s gold rush that for each saloon opened up in town, there must also be a church opened. I’d call that the Church of False Equivalence or perhaps the Opposites Attract Act.
- All electric power in Juneau is hydro-based. It’s a 100% renewable micro-grid.
- The Juneau area is basically a giant rain forest, and being adjacent to the ocean it’s more temperate than I would have expected. Never really gets hot, and never gets crazy cold.
- Everyone we met from Juneau had a little of the slightly-off Portlandia vibe about them. It’s probably an interesting place to live (for a while), but you’ve gotta love rain. 280 days of rain per year.
So that was our first taste of Alaska. Funky, rainy, definitely beautiful, and a lot of fun.