5 things I loved about my trip to Juneau :
1.) Slow living in a tiny town– I’m a sucker for little towns. Juneau was by far the prettiest and most picturesque small town I have ever been to. It has a relatively small population at 30,000 residents ( a good number, Filipinos!) Visitors like myself, add to the number of people walking its streets. Gigantic cruise ships dock at pier and stay the day, giving its passengers time to check out the adorable small shops that make up most of downtown. They have the cutest little bookstore, a small theatre (the only one!), they also have a tiny mall (and a very empty one also! Because who wants to be inside a mall, when the shops outside are surrounded by majestic mountains, dramatic fog and a beautiful view of the Altantic.) Juneau is very much like the town where Ryan Reynolds’ character supposedly grew up in his movie The Proposal. The actual town referred to in the film, Sitka, is a 30 minute ferry ride away.( It’s on my list!) I really enjoyed exploring downtown Juneau- walking from the hostel I stayed in and checking out a few local crafts and coffee shops. I walked a lot during this trip and I loved it! It was nice trying to get familiar with the routes ( I’m normally terrible with directions but it wasn’t so hard because the town was so small. It felt like I was in one section of Disneyland! heehee) After all, they say the best way to get to know a place is by foot!
2.) Hostel living– I was travelling alone from LA and was on the hunt for a good hostel that fit my requirements. Cheap, safe and clean. I’m not new to hostels or bothered by the thought of sharing a room with strangers as long as we have lockers and the beds and bathrooms are nice and generally sanitary. I was pretty lucky to have landed in a hostel that had all of that. It was a steal for 12 dollars a night! I had the sweetest roommate also. We exchanged travel stories and she left me the nicest little note before she left. I love how God allows you to meet wonderful people as you travel.
The lady who ran the place was pretty strict about having all of the shoes remain outside, which was a good thing! Since the lodging was cheap, everyone was assigned a specific chore to everyday so the house is kept clean. I prayed I didn’t get any bathroom duties, because I really am not up for cleaning toilets. Thank God I got shoe-cabinet arranging duties! At 9am they’d close down the house for the day and we all were required to be out of the hostel , only allowed back in after 5 pm. Which, in my opinion is a win-win situation for everyone. They get to save on electricity and we all are outdoors, where all the adventure and prettiness is!
The hostel was perched on top of a hill, a good 10 minute walk away from downtown. It was close to a lot of trailheads also. I loved how it was surrounded with beautiful craftsman houses (that were decorated with pink alaskan fireweed!) and with the local high school. I somehow got a feel of Juneau’s local life as I took my morning walks alone-just basking in the beauty and the newness of the whole experience.
3.) The beautiful souls you share the journey with– I loved how this trip was the best of both worlds. I got to spend a good amount of time alone during my morning walks and during the long flights. I got to write, spend time with Jesus, surrounded by the best of creation. But I loved that I didn’t spend the whole trip alone, the whole time! I met up with Ate Kai and Kuya Sam, friends from Bukidnon who now live in Alaska. I met their friend Michelle too, who is now my friend also! Yay! We went on hikes together, oohed and ahhhed at the pretty places we went to, shared stories of life and faith. I also got to meet their friends and hang out with the local community. I got to spend Sunday morning at Auke Bay church, a lovely gathering of believers who worshipped in front of a prettiest lake surrounded snow capped mountains. Just singing there on Sunday and being surrounded by so much beauty, made me feel even more in awe of the one true Artist. I was half way across the world, but singing the very same songs with a community who’s heart cries out for the same things, the same God. It really felt like home. Ate Kai is into acting and takes classes at the local theatre so I got to go with them that weekend, meet her friends and watched a live play called “The blue bear”. I wasn’t sure I could take an hour of pure, live theatre with just 2 actors on stage. But, it was really good! It told the true to life tale of two friends, who explored the whole of Alaska in search for the rare glacier bear. I was taken for a fun ride around the state, while I was in the comforts my seat. I was pretty engaged during the whole thing and felt like I was on the conquest myself. I wasn’t yawning or checking my phone every 10 minutes-proof that these guys were good!
Another piece of Alaska related literature I love is the movie adaptation of the book “Into the Wild.” John Krakauer sets off into a lone journey in the mountains of Alaska. While the memoir, which mostly focuses on his epiphanies while travelling alone, ends with his final statement: “ Happiness is only real when shared.” I could not agree more.
4.)The Juneau library – this one gets a special shout out. I love books, reading them, half reading them and just plainly being surrounded by them. At the Juneau library, you are surrounded by books, a panoramic view of the majestic mountains and cruise ships that have sailed all across the Atlantic. Books and a killer view- it doesn’t get more magical that that. Props to Michelle for taking me to her favourite part of downtown Juneau. I love discovering local hangouts!
5.) The tracy arm fjords– As if the whole weekend of hiking, walking, tram riding and driving around the beautiful mountain-surrounded-Juneau weren’t enough, I decided to spend my last day in Juneau aboard a boat to check out the Tracy Arm fjords. Ate Kai, Kuya Sam and Michelle were busy at work, so I set out for a day at sea, with a few new people all by myself. I spend too much time on morning banter with my hostel roommates that I almost missed my boat. I made a MAD DASH to the pier (I was running down the Hill with my suitcase like a crazy person) and thankfully made it just on time. Whew! (story of my life!)
It was a small boat with about 30 people- mostly solo travellers like myself, there were also a few couples and a family. It was an 8 hour boat ride through the Alaskan fjords. I got adopted into a group by 2 crazy-fun Mexican girls, Lili and Natalia who loved Disney princesses as much as me! We enjoyed passing though the most gorgeous landscapes! Their were glaciers, (we’d spot some glaciers crumbling from afar) , blocks of ice everywhere, amazon like waterfalls,pretty alps, there was even talk of a whale passing our boat (which I missed!). The more hard core people we met on board even got off the boat with their kayaks and set off to Kayak in the fjords for 3 days! In the icy waters! A couple in their late fifties joined in the conquest. Pretty hardcore stuff! I don’t think I could do something like that unless I trained for a year, at least! We all waved them goodbye and wished them good luck as we sailed past even more beautiful landscapes, occasionally stopping to take in all the beauty that was around us. Juneau was just so beautiful in general- The fjords, Mount Roberts, Brotherhood bridge, Mendenhall glacier and the never ending beautiful scenery we’d drive past were sights that just took my breath away. Posted more photos of these places in another blog post, Click HERE to see.
Everything was just so pretty! While I failed to visit the Mendenhall Ice caves due to a recent earthquake (known to be crazy stunning! Google it!) and didn’t get to see the Aurora borealis light up the alaskan sky (no luck for little old me! The northern lights were in full force a week after I left! ), my trip was already so jam-packed with beauty, that I couldn’t really ask for more. I will have to come back for the caves and the Aurora. One day, someday. This trip left me with even more reasons to just be amazed at our Creator, the Master of the Universe, the ultimate Artist. I am forever in awe.
“Nature is not primarily functional. It is primarily beautiful. Stop for a moment and let that sink in. We’re so used to evaluating everything (and everyone) by their usefulness that this thought will take a minute or two to begin to dawn on us. Nature is not primarily functional. It is primarily beautiful. Which is to say, beauty is in and of itself a great and glorious good, something we need in large and daily doses.”