Juneau was our second port of call during the 7-day cruise we took from Whittier to Vancouver last June of 2008.

The City and Borough of Juneau is a unified municipality located on the Gastineau Channel in the panhandle of the U.S. state of Alaska. It has been the capital of Alaska since 1906, when the government of the then-Alaska Territory was moved from Sitka. It is about 890 miles northwest of Seattle, Washington and 560 miles southeast of Anchorage. The area of Juneau is almost as large as the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

Juneau is nestled at the base of Mount Juneau and across the channel from Douglas Island. As of the 2000 census, the City and Borough had a population of 30,711. It was named after gold prospector Joe Juneau, though the place was for a time called Rockwell and then Harrisburg. The Tlingit name of the town is Dzántik'i Héeni "river where the flounders gather".

Downtown Juneau sits at sea level, with tides averaging 16 feet (4.9 m), below steep mountains about 3,500 to 4,000 feet (1,200 m) high. Atop these mountains is the Juneau Ice Cap, a large ice mass from which about 30 glaciers flow; two of these, the Mendenhall Glacier and the Lemon Glacier, are visible from the local road system.

The current Alaska State Capitol is an office building in downtown Juneau, originally built as the Federal and Territorial Building in 1931. It was used for federal government offices, the federal courthouse, and a post office, it then became the home of the Alaska Legislature and the office of the governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin who is currently the vice-presidential candidate of the Republican Party.

Not only is Juneau the capital of Alaska, residents claim it is the most scenic capital in the country and it is often referred to as a 'little San Francisco.' The city center, which hugs the side of Mt. Juneau and Mt. Roberts, has many narrow streets running past a mixture of new structures, old storefronts and slanted houses, all held together by a network of staircases. The bustling waterfront features cruise ships, tankers, fishing boats, a few kayakers and floatplanes buzzing in and out. Overhead are the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Roberts and Mt. Juneau, which provide just a small part of the superb hiking in the area.

Juneau is famous for its breathtakingly beautiful glaciers and stunning views of both water and mountains. It is famous for Mendenhall Glacier, a "drive to" glacier that sprawls between mountains for some 12 miles before showing its ice face across Mendenahll Lake. It is one of 38 glaciers flowing from the massive 1,500 square mile Juneau icefield.

Downtown Juneau provides many sightseeing opportunities that will be time well spent. The Marine Park, a delightful waterfront park across from the Sealaska Building has an information kiosk and provides a walking-tour map. South Franklin Street is a historical district. Juneau isn't a place for sightseers' along; excellent gift shops, theaters, musical events and plays can all be found here. Juneau has no shortage of bars and restaurants, including the famous Red Dog Saloon. Many of the buildings date back to the early 1900s and today house gift shops, restaurants and pubs.

Aside from our morning shore excursion to the Mendenhall Glacier, we also joined the Salmon Bake at Salmon Creek where we had wild Alaska salmon barbequed over an open alderwood fire for lunch. Also served was chicken, barbequed ribs, salads, corn bread and dessert. And there was musical entertainment while we were having lunch at an outdoor sitting.

Just within walking distance from our cruise ship is the Mount Roberts Tramway where we took an exhilarating ride to the 1,800-foot level of Mount Roberts. There we saw panoramic views of the Chilkat Mountains, Stephens Passage, Douglas Island and downtown Juneau.

The accompanying photographs will give you an idea as to what we saw during our short visit to Juneau, Alaska. To view a slideshow of the photographs just click on the link shown below:

Luciano Mende

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