Accessible only by air and sea, Juneau’s major thoroughfare runs only five miles to the south and 40 miles to the north. High towering mountains block further travel and make Juneau only one of four state capitals not served by an interstate. By area, Juneau is the nation’s third largest municipality (3,225 square miles) and the only state capital to border another country, Canada.
"All of the legendary Alaskan experiences are about 20 minutes from the docks," said Arnett as we made our way to the famous Mendenhall Glacier, a short ride from downtown.
Average snowfall on the Juneau Icefield is a whopping 100 feet, and Arnett pointed out that it takes 200 to 250 years from the time a snowflake falls to the ground to make its way to the lake.
Stop number two took us to the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery, two and a half miles from town, where visitors can watch massive numbers of fish trying to make their way up the hatchery ladders to spawn while seals and even eagles try to catch their share along the way.
In May and June, you can see the juvenile spawn prior to their release at scattered sites. The hatchery releases close to 115 million salmon annually, but only two to 10 percent make the return, which takes place July through October. Even with these reduced numbers, the sea of living fish fighting to climb up the ladders is staggering.
Back in town, I found that Juneau is compact enough to allow a quick walking tour that includes a look at the governor’s mansion, home to 10 governors and many other territorial governors, the downtown core and the quaint St. Nicholas Orthodox Church.
Though there were no Russians living in Juneau when Alaska was a Russian colony, the lovely white with blue accents church built in the "Russian colonial" style was consecrated in 1894 to serve the area’s Tlingit population. The current congregation consists of five families and 20 people, but financial support comes from visitors, including thousands of cruise ship tourists, who come to see its 18th century Russian icons and relics.
For more information on Juneau, phone 1-888-581-2201 or www.traveljuneau.com. For more information on the Holland America Line, phone 1-877-932-4259 or www.hollandamerica.com.
Dave Zuchowski is a travel writer for CNHI News Service. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.