Late April and it’s still winter in Juneau
It’s late April in Juneau, Alaska and winter, not surprisingly, continues to hang-on. Its quite a contrast from back home in Florida where most of the flowers finished blooming almost two months ago.
I drove to work this morning in a white-out. In another week the first cruise ship of the season will dock at the city’s downtown port. Someone needs to tell the 2,000 or so tourists to bring a coat. A big, heavy one. “Woolie” underwear might be a better suggestion. Tickets on the early inland passage cruises are discounted for a reason. Juneau still belongs to the locals for another few weeks. Starting in late May it will not be uncommon for five huge cruise ships, each bringing a couple thousand tourists, to be anchored daily in downtown Juneau.
Although both are retired, the Hughes’ are here a couple months on temporary duty at the Juneau Empire, the capital city’s daily newspaper. The Monaco “Green Knight” didn’t make the trip. It’s
The first cruise ship of the summer season arrives in Juneau in early May.
Downtown Juneau and the popular Red Dog Saloon.
No strangers to Alaska, the Hughes worked in Kenai, the birthplace of Alaska’s oil bonanza back in the 90’s for four years. And returned three years ago to Juneau, also for temp duty. A four year resident is not worthy of the Sourdough tag but certainly don’t call us Cheechakos (newcomers), either. At least we can drive on ice, one of the necessary requirements to dump the Cheechako label.
Southeast Alaska this time of year is transitioning from winter to spring. The day we landed at Juneau’s airport rain turned to sleet, snow and back to rain within a half hour. Temperatures most days are in the mid to upper 30’s. It dropped into the teens once and reached the 50’s a couple times. Sunshine is almost non-existent. Snow melts almost on arrival. The day of the white-out, snow piled up in the Valley area just south of downtown Juneau about six to eight inches, which brought out the snow plows. The weather is certainly confused.
Alaskans, however, adapt accordingly. Sunshine, even on a bitterly cold day, brings locals outdoors for a walk, run or bike ride. Sunny days in Juneau this time of year will not be wasted. And they bring their dogs along. Hardly anyone walks without a dog which brings up the question of whether Alaskans have more dogs. Weather doesn’t deter locals from getting outdoors. Even on cold, rainy days, many still take to the outdoors. There is an old saying in Alaska that there is no such thing as bad weather, just a poor choice of clothing.
Visitors to Juneau and southeast Alaska will best enjoy the wonders this place offers by visiting in June and July. Bring a raincoat and dress in layers because the weather can be warm and sunny or wet and cold. Take advantage of the area’s tourist attractions, such as the Mount Roberts Tramway ride for a great view of downtown Juneau and Gastineau Channel; The Macaulay Salmon Hatchery where juvenile salmon are released in late May or early June and adult salmon start returning in early July. Across the street from the hatchery is the Juneau Empire, which houses one of the largest private collections of original Alaska art in the state. Visitors can get a closeup view of the huge 12 mile long Mendenhall Glacier from a Visitors Center 12 miles outside Juneau. There’s also chartered helicopter flights available to the top of Mendenhall and float plane trips to an Alaskan wilderness lodge for sightseeing and a salmon bake.
Gastineau Channel from Douglas Island.
Eagles sparring near the Juneau Airport on a sunny day.