Patsy Ann's Heroic Tale
"If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven." --James Thurber
Patsy Ann was a very real and famous canine character of Juneau's past -- she has an amazing story and one which brought tears to my eyes!! Patsy Ann was a Bull Terrier born in Portland, Oregon, in 1929 and brought to Juneau as a pup. Though born entirely deaf at birth, she somehow "heard" the whistles of approaching ships before they could be seen. With each sense of an approaching ship, Patsy Ann would trot over to the wharf where she would wait. Her senses were NEVER WRONG. On one memorable occasion, a waiting crowd had gathered at the wrong dock. Patsy Ann gazed at the crowd for a moment, but turned and made her way to the correct dock in amazement of the crowd! It was said that in between ship visits, Patsy Ann visited local businesses where her friends would give her food and one person even gave her a daily candy bar. She frequented local beer parlors and hotel lobbies where she was as welcome as any paying guest.
"Because of her unerring sense of the imminent arrival of each ship that visited Juneau and her faithful welcome at wharfside, Juneau Mayor Goldstein dubbed Patsy Ann 'Official Greeter of Juneau, Alaska' in 1934." Patsy Ann slowed down over the years because of rheumatism apparently brought on by diving into the Gastineau Channel. Patsy Ann didn't have an honest-to-goodness home, but she spent most of her nights in the Longshoremen's Hall. She died there on March 30, 1942. She was so loved that the next day, a crowd gathered as her coffin was lowered into the Gastineau Channel.
A tribute to her in the form of an excellent bronze statue can be seen on the dock near the cruiseship piers, which was fittingly placed next to a "Welcome to Juneau" sign. The sculpture by New Mexico artist, Anna B. Harris, contains clippings of dog hair from all over the world and was presented to the city in July, 1992.
PATSY ANN MEMORABILIA:
Gastineau Human Society
7705 Glacier Highway, Juneau
Goldbelt Mount Roberts - To Tram or Not to Tram
For the best panoramic view of Juneau, Douglas Island and the Gastineau Channel, take the Mount Roberts Tramway. The 1,800 foot ascent up the side of Mt. Roberts takes only minutes by aerial tram but is a little expensive. For many people - those in good physical shape, it's the 2-mile climb up the mountain that is the real attraction and if you climb up, there is no charge. (However, be aware this is not exactly a cakewalk. The switchback trail was not in particularly good shape when we were there -- fallen rocks and trees, trail washouts and mudslide areas make it necessary to be alert to avoid injuries.) I am very proud to say that we did climb down the torturous 2 miles rather than taking the tram again. It was a little hard on our knees, but I really enjoyed the experience. However, I'm kind of glad we didn't have any unexpected meetings with the larger wildlife in the area ( A bear had been spotted on the trail the prior week).
Viewing platforms and extensive trails at the top of the mountain offer the opportunity to spot flora, and fauna indigenous to this part of Alaska not to mention see Stephen Jackson's 30 ft. handcarved totem pole. Does all that climbing make you hungry? If so, you will be glad to find the large Timberline Bar & Grill. But don't miss the 120-seat Chilkat Theater where you will see a short 25-minute film entitled "Seeing Daylight". This worthwhile film showcases the culture and heritage of the native "Tlingit" people. Near the observation tower, look for the bald eagle on view.
At the Raven-Eagle gift shop you will be surprised to see that it's part museum and part art gallery and gift shop. Here you can observe native Alaskan/Tlingit artists carve jade and wood to fashion beautiful objects to take home with you. There are also lots of less expensive souvenirs too.
Open daily from early May through late September, but hours and days of operation may very so it's best to call ahead or speak to service personnel at the ticket booth.
In 2006, we paid a pricey total of $71.85 (3 people) to go up Mt. Robert on the tram.
UPDATE: A recent check of posted prices (February, 2013) for Mount Roberts Tram are as follows: $31 for adults; $15.50 for children 6-12 yrs. old; FREE for children 5 and under. The tram is handicapped accessible.
For comparison, ticket prices for adults in 2006 -- $23.95 adults; children 6 to 12 were $12.50; and children 5 & under are FREE! (This price structure changed too lowering the age at which children are charged.) Talk about inflation!!
Interesting notes: (1) In 1998, the Mount Roberts Tramway was acquired by "Goldbelt," an Alaskan Native Corporation. The Goldbelt Hotel Juneau is also owned and operated by the same corporation as you might have guessed.
Hike the Perserverance Trail
The Perserverance was an active gold mine for over 75 years. This is an easy hike through some heavily wooded areas. Popular as a lunch time workout, the trail is only about 2 miles and travels in a loop. Toward the end is a mine shaft and some of the historical buildings left from it's active gold mining days. Climb of perhaps 500 feet on very moderate scale.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Hiking and Walking
The View from the Top of the Tramway
The Mt. Robert's Tramway is definately a touristy activity and expensive, but worth it for the view. The restaurant up top isn't too bad either, especially if you can get a table by the front windows. The day we were there, a bald eagle from the rapture center was there with a naturalist. Fun to see up close. The tram ride takes about 10 minutes to climb 1,760 feet so you end up above the tree line with great views of Juneau and out the channel.
$21.95 for adults and 12.60 for kids 7-12. Under 7 is free.
Lots of trails from either the bottom of the mountain or from the top of the tramway further up the mountain.Related to:
- Family Travel
Mining for Gold in Juneau ~ Gold Mine Tour
In the beginning, men & women from lower North America came to Alaska for the same general reason -- gold. Now it's true lots of other businesses of all types followed, but most of them were to serve the men who were part of the "Gold Rush." Panning for gold is one technique to get rich and maybe some early "rushers" probably made a decent living; but mining on a large scale was even more profitable. The Alaska Gastineau Mine, established in 1913, was once the world's largest gold producing mines.
On our first visit to Juneau in 2002, we heard that there were more miles of underground tunnels in Mt. Roberts due to gold mining than you could ever believe. The "Historic Juneau Gold Mine Tour" will not only show you equipment and explain mining methods of the day, but take you into this mountain (this is the scary part) for a first-hand view of miners who will demonstrate rock mining. At this point I would be getting a little claustrophobic! Afterward you will return to the mine site and get your chance to pan for gold & semi-precious stones for keeps. Don't miss the displays and the gift shop of course. As a whole, I recommend this tour mainly for adults, even though panning might appeal to kids as well.
NOTE: There are several tour operators who offer similar tours, some concentrating primarily on panning for gold which you are allowed to keep. Prices also differ with the varying tour operators. Length of these tours can be as little as one and a half hours. Hawkers offering these different tours can be found near the waterfront close to the cruise ship docks.
This tour lasts about 3 1/2 hrs and is also a little pricey. (But remember you might find some gold in your pan!) $65 Adults; $35 children 12 & under (2006 prices). See above NOTE for booking or book through your cruiseline excursion desk if arriving by ship.
Two places that all people new to Juneau should go to get some of the best beer in the world and meet some of the odd locals. First, STAY AWAY FROM THE RED DOG, nothing but a tourist trap, wont find many locals there. For the real Juneau experience you need to make your way down Franklin St. to the Alaskan Bar. Not only do they have nothing but good beer of tap ( no bud or miller) but you meet some of the fine people who live here and if youre adventurous enough to inquire, most will be glad to share a story or two about the town. Second place you must stop by during youre stay in Juneau is the Imperial Bar on Front St., oldest bar in town. During the summer they open up the big "garage" doors that litterally let the bar spill out into the streets. Youre best bet is grabbing a nice cold Alaskan and putting your feet up on the rail while you watch the people walk by. Great bar, great bartenders (the best in town!) and an overall great mix of locals to converse with. Just dont go in there and ask what they have on tap, you might get an odd look from the bartender. GET YOURSELF AN ALASKAN AMBER.
Amazing Trees On Walking Trails
With our limited time in Juneau we managed to walk a short trail high up on Mount Roberts and I consider it to be perhaps the best reward for time spent. I have previously written a tip on Mount Roberts trails but for those interested in the enviroment and nature these trees deserve a separate tip.
It shows how nature adapts to its enviroment and how it fights for survival in extreme conditions. There is an unusual beauty in these trees.
The curvature of the trunks of these mountain hemlocks is called "snowcrook". On steep slopes snowcrook is caused by the gradual creep of snow downhill, bending the trees as saplings and causing them to develop a down-slope curve.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- National/State Park
- Family Travel
A Whale Tour on A Small Boat
The waters around the Northern Inside Passage we were told are home to over 600 humpback whales plus orcas from about March. This makes the area around Juneau and Glacier Bay just to the north one of the most highly prized areas in the world for whale watching.
Having been on other whale tours in Alaska I didn't know what to expect when we left the docks of a small harbor on our way to Tracy Arm. I felt however when we were on the right boat when a man with a camera the size of a mini van indicated to us that he was with National Geographic.
The little boat we purchased tickets on left Auk Bay for a four hour cruise. On the way out we were told that humpback whales can hold their breath for up to 45 minutes but generally surface every ten to fifteen minutes in these waters. Smaller calves appear on the surface more frequently. Within the half hour we were spotting humpbacks on both sides of the boat. Some of them feeding together in groups which was great to see.
Cost of the tour was about $ 50 per person which I was thought was very reasonable.
The Shrine of St. Therese
A bit of a drive north of Juneau is one of my favorite places to visit in Juneau. The Shrine of St. Therese is an active retreat center with cabins to rent that range in size from 2 person to corporate retreat size. My daughter and her family rented a place a few weekends ago and enjoyed themselves immensely. If they'll rent to her you know it doesn't have to be for a religous group, if you catch my drift.
Right on the water with Orcas and humpback whales swimming by on a regular basis. The peacefulness and sacredness of this spot hits you as soon as you park your car and start strolling down the trail to the water. The shrine itself is on a spit of land called Shrine Island.
Built over 50 years ago it is a simple chapel handmade of stone. A major renovation was just completed of the interior. A stations of the cross trail goes around the outside. A few moments inside the chapel always lift my spirits. The view out over the water is stunning and the grounds are thickly wooded.
There isn't any public transport to the Shrine. The city buses stop at Auke Bay so you'll need to rent a car, ride a bike or hitch hike.Related to:
- Religious Travel
explore the city...
Juneau is a great city to explore on your own - meaning minus a big group or paying for an excursion trip if you are cruising. Our little group of friends went walking the town. We were able to see the museum ($5 admission) and the capital building (free) as well as do some souvenir shopping. All along main drag there are things to do and photo ops. Then we split the cost of a taxi to go to Mendenhall Glacier (about $20 total and our driver waited on us). Our taxi driver gave us an impromptu tour. Mendenhall was spectacular and made for some great photos. At the time we were there it was free admission but now I believe it is ($3). If we had paid for the Mendenhall Glacier excursion it would have been $60 each off of the cruise ship. We were able to see more and browse at our leisure. It was great! And we had a whole days activities for less that the excursion cost!!Related to:
- Family Travel
- Hiking and Walking
Visit the State Capital
The legislative session runs from January to May each year and that is the best time to visit. Even when they aren't in session, free guided tours are available with just a little advance notice - meet on the first floor by the security guard's desk. Feel free to wander the halls of the modest 5 story building - there is a lot of history everywhere you look. I've spent a lot of time waiting for my next appoinment in most of the hallways and always find something interesting to while away the time.
The 3rd floor is the Governor and Lt. Governor's office and access is limited to the hallway as you come off the elevator.
The House and Senate meeting rooms are on the 2nd floor and galleries are available for a small number of observers. Be aware that you will have to check in any bags before entering.
The legislature outgrew the present building years ago, so everything is crammed together. Hopes for a new building rise and wane depending on how the push to move the capital to Anchorage or Matsu is going that year.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Amazing Humpback Whales
This was my second time in Juneau going with Captain Larry (Orca Enterprises) on a whale-watching trip. Although there are several whale-watching companies, I was extremely happy with both of my trips with Captain Larry. Each trip has a guide/naturalist on board as well. Captain Larry's track record of spotting whales is over 99%. I went in early May in the afternoon and in mid-August in the morning and both times saw whales.
From my journal of the 2nd trip with Captain Larry: "After lunch we went to the offices of Orca Enterprises for our whale watching tour with Captain Larry. Seems we lucked out and most of the people from the ship went earlier in the day so there would only be 6 of us on a boat that holds 40! We had the run of the boat and I have to say that Captain Larry gave us an excellent time with total disregard for the fact that there were only 6 of us. I think we actually got a better trip. A small shuttle bus took us the 15-20 minutes to Auke Bay where we met Captain Larry and boarded our purple boat.
Driving out of the bay is so beautiful with all the sailboats and small boats against the backdrop of snow-topped mountains and Mendenhall glacier. It wasn’t long before we saw our first humpback – actually two – a mother and her calf. We watched them for a long time – with the baby putting on quite a show. We spotted several other whales during our time out there as well as a buoy with stellar sea lions sleeping on the bottom and a bald eagle sitting on top. Several sea lions came right over to the boat doing all kinds of aerobics right in front of us. They were extremely cute but between the overcast sky and the movement of the animals, it was difficult to get any decent photos.
We were served a small snack on board – I tried some salmon and crackers. We continued to find and watch more humpbacks and even went further out to try and find some orcas (no luck). After 2+ hours – all very content and with a ton of pictures of whale tails – we headed back to the bay. Off the boat, onto the shuttle and back into town."
Check the website for additional details and amazing photos.
Book online in advance to get the time/day you want. These are very popular excursions and fill up quickly especially when the cruise ships are in town. Total trip time is 3 1/2 hours. First trip of the day is 9:30 a.m., last is at 6:00 p.m.
Prices (2009) range from $57 (child under 5) to $120 (adults).
Please see my Juneau travelogues for more photos from our whale watching trip!
Seeing Alaska from the air is a MUST DO when visiting. Only then can you fully appreciate the sheer size and beauty of this magnificent state.
There are several companies to chose from. We chose Temsco Helicopters. I had flown with them in Skagway on a previous trip to Alaska. They offer Helicopter Dog Sledding and Glacier Landing trips. We chose the Pilot's Choice which would be a multiple glacier landing trip.
This is from my travel journal: "We walked around town for a short while before heading to a meeting spot for our first excursion. We were picked up and driven out of town to Temsco Helicopters for a Pilot’s Choice tour of the glaciers. It was fantastic! After watching a short safety video and donning some funky boots we went out to the helicopter. I sat in the front between the pilot and Sandy. Our pilot, Chip, had been flying for 30 years and knew the glaciers very well. We all put on our headphones and were off.
Seeing the glaciers from the air is a must do! You can’t even begin to appreciate the size and they are so beautiful. The crevasses, blue ice and blue pools of water are beautiful. We made our first landing on Herbert Glacier. There was a lot of snow where we landed. The snow was deep but also a very little slushy. We walked around a little – staying close to the helicopter – admiring the scenery and taking photos. Chip told us about the area and glaciers in general.
Soon we were up in the air again. The weather was spotty – and there were some dark clouds coming in. Chip had planned to take us to another glacier further out but decided to take us to Mendenhall Glacier instead because of the weather. Mendenhall is 12 miles long located 12 miles outside of Juneau. Chip tired to find a spot to land and finally found a little strip of ice. We got out of the helicopter and had only a small area to walk around. This ground was not snowy, but solid ice – tightly, tightly packed, but not slippery at all. The ice at that point was about 300 feet deep! From this spot we had amazing views of the blue ice. We also spotted some mountain goats high above us. All too soon it was time to head back to the Temsco office where a driver took us back into town."
Don't forget sunglasses!! And make sure your camera batteries are fully charged!
Book online early as these trips fill very quickly especially when the cruise ships are in town. It is NOT necessary to book through your cruiseline.
Be prepared for changes to your itinerary if the weather is not co-operating. If you plan to do the dog-sledding trip, it's better to do it from Skagway (less canceled).
Fill out the online reservation form for availability and pricing.
For additional photos of our glacier landings excursion, see my Juneau travelogues.
Helicopter Glacier Tour
We opted for and loved the Tracy Arm Cruise to see whales and the tidewater glaciers. An 8.5 hour tour might not be within your timeframe.
This is a reliable but expensive shorter tour option that is not for everybody, but it gets rave reviews.
Being an avid reader of the Cruise Critic message boards, I have seen Coastal Helicopters recomended many times as the best independent helicopter company. Those that book primarily with the cruise lines such as ERA or Temsco will always have to give cruise passengers priority booking and have to pay the cruise lines their 20% commission. If you a using the toursaver coupon book you should book with ERA to get the substantial savings.
The ICEFIELD EXCURSION is Coastal Helicopters most popular tour. You will depart from the Juneau airport for your 1 hour tour over the Juneau Icefield traveling to the Herbert, Taku, Lemon or Norris Glacier. Moments after departing from the airport you will be flying over spectacular rock formations and icefalls. The tour is narrated by our custom CD or by our pilot/guide. Upon reaching your destination your pilot/guide will shut down the helicopter and escort you on an informative, relaxing walk while describing the area that surrounds you. Coastal Helicopters will provide transportation to and from the downtown area at no additional cost. Please allow an additional 45 minutes each direction for transport. Advance reservations are recommended and may be confirmed with a credit card.
Tour price: $173.00 per seat . . . *$259.50 (passengers weighing 250 pounds or more)
1.5 hour tours are available $290.00 per seat/3 seat minimum . . . *$435.00 (passengers weighing 250 pounds or more)
If you are also considering a whale watching excursion check out the tip on whale watching. Captain Larry can arrange transport to a Coastal Helicopter Flight in conjunction with the best whale watching excursion in Juneau. Book early with him beacuse he is booked months ahead by independent travelers who just happen to be on cruise ships.Related to:
- Adventure Travel
- National/State Park
Adventure Bound to Tracy Arm and Sawyer Glacier
I cannot say enough about this 8.5 hour day trip from Juneau to Tracy Arm and Sawyer Glacier. I had read articles that described The Adventure Bound as the slower of the two small ship excursion companies to Tracy Arm. (The other being Goldbelt) The fact is, this 58 foot ship is not slow at all. We traveled at 21 knots in a ship that took the usually rough seas near Taku inlet very well. The trip is longer than Goldbelt's, but only because we spent more time wildlife viewing and at the glacier. We saw no less than 6 humpback whales, up close and personal, in Stephens Passage. Their breaching and tail waving was like a ballet. I felt like a giddy 10 year old. An entire colony of sea lions were lounging on the rocks north of Taku inlet. Literally of hundreds of seals were lounging on the ice bergs near South Sawyer glacier. At least five or six mountain goats were spotted on the cliffs above the glacier. Small dolphins also swam near the boat in Tracy Arm.
As for Tracy Arm and the glaciers. Imagine Yosimite but much larger. Instead of a crowded road and river, you travel on placid turqoise colored waters. The 3000 foot sheer cliffs surrounded us as we passed even other glaciers such as the Sum Dum Glacier. The ship nosed into a couple waterfalls where some were brave enough to even get their heads wet in "tough man" contest. We not only saw the actively calving South Sawyer Glacier as close as could be possibly safe, but we also got a close up view of the smaller North Sawyer Glacier. The big ships that tour the area don't get nearly as close. Words cannot describe the sounds these monsters make as they calve into the water. It is also possibly the best value of all the day trips leaving Juneau. You will never get bored on this 8.5 hour daytrip. Thanks to Steve Weber and Adventure Bound!
This is the best use I have ever made of $105.Related to:
- Whale Watching
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