The After Cruise:

Unwind in Juneau

Morning seemed to come far too early, Sunday, and we were already motoring up to the dock by the time we awoke. Rather than making our way out to the lounge, as had become habit in just this short week, we finished packing our bags and placed them outside our door for the crew to pick up, and made our way down for the breakfast buffet. The owner of Uncruise joined us in the dinning room, and spoke with each of us about our experience, making sure everyone had a good time.

There was much sharing of contact information and hugs with our newfound friends, including crew, and when 9:00 rolled around it was time to disembark and rejoin the town of Juneau.

The crew lined the decks, blasting music from the PAs and waving goodbye. We walked down the gangway, turned to bid our final adieu to the Wilderness Explorer, and headed up to the Uncruise office to see about our bags.

The Ole' Treadwell Mine

We've booked Sunday and Monday nights in the oldest hotel in Juneau - The Alaskan. When we tell people this, some nod their heads, some wince, and some recoil in adjunct horror. You see, the hotel used to be the town's brothel. As such, many of the rooms do not have private baths. When we made our booking, we requested a room with a bath, but there was no guarantee one would be available. Still, if you recall earlier, I mentioned there is a complete lack of any mid-priced accommodations in Juneau, so we agree that if the Alaskan isn't suitable, we would find somewhere else to stay for the second night.

Regardless, check-in time is 3:00, so we have several hours to kill now that we're off the boat. We arrange for our bags to be kept in a back room of the Uncruise office, so we don't have to lug them around town, and then ask for some more suggestions of things to do while we wait.

"The Treadwell Trail across the [Gastineau] channel in Douglas is a nice little walk. You can get there by bus, from the transit center just across the street. It should cost you $4 roundtrip." So we make our way across the street to the transit center, and hop a bus to Douglas. The ride took all of 20 minutes to cross the bridge and head south on Douglas Island.

Treadwell Trail is part nature walk and part history museum. It meanders through the grounds of what had been the Treadwell Mine, a series of four gold mines that grew into a town with over 2,000 residents, and consisting of over 40 miles of mine shafts that ran at depths as low as 2,000 feet below ground. Far from a slave labor camp, the Treadwell Mine Company build tennis courts, a well-stocked store, an ice skating rink, and one of the largest natatoriums in the Pacific Northwest. The trail passes remnants of the various buildings and abandoned equipment from the mine, with wonderfully informative placards and photos, before ending at the climactic site of town's demise; a big crater of a hole along the shoreline caused by the collapse of 3 of the 4 mines under the bay that then quickly filled with sea water. It was a fascinating journey through time. Once you arrive at the collapsed mineshafts, you can then walk along a sandy beach all the way back to where you started.

Where is this place?

While in Douglas, we decide to look for a place have some lunch. A quick Google pulls up a few options. However, when we try to find them on Google Maps, they are not were they're supposed to be. We finally locate one place - The Island Pub - and pop in. It's obviously more of a evening venue, with extensive bar up front and billiards in the back, but the food is good, and we get to stare out at Juneau from across the channel.

After lunch, we find the closest bus stop (in front of the combination Fire House/Public Library), and wait for the bus, due in a few minutes, to take us back across the bridge and into town.

We sell 'em

Once back in town, we decide to walk up the hill a bit to see what shops are open, and possibly buy a few trinkets for the kids. While we were on the wharf, we'd seen an advertisement for a shop on Franklin St. specializing in enamel and cloisonné. But, of course, when we get there the shop is not open despite it being between the business hours posted in the door, which is apparently pretty typical for Juneau this time of year. We pop into the shop a couple of doors down, instead, and are delighted to find out they sell product from the shop we were originally trying to find. Happy circumstance. We peruse the enamel pieces, and choose several zipper pulls.

The hotel is not far away, so we decide to head over to see if we can possibly check-in early.

Welcome to the Alaskan

The hotel is a tall, thin building smashed into a retail section in the east size of town. It's rather unassuming, but for the large hanging sign proclaiming Alaskan Hotel and Bar. There is a note on the door instructing us to ring the doorbell. One push, and we are met by an pleasant middle-aged woman, asking if we're a guest. When we inquire whether we might be able to check-in early, her first inclination is "I don't hold out much hope", but after taking our names, and checking the computer, it turns out that our room is, indeed, ready for us. She explains the new-fangled lock on the front door, which is supposed to allow guests to enter using a passcode, is not currently working ("software issue"). So next follows about 10 minutes of instructions on how to access the building after hours:

"... if it's before 1:00am, you can walk in through the bar... otherwise you need to head uphill two streets... take a right, take another right... walk down the staircase... take a left... head down half a block, take a right... then there will be 3 doors... you don't want the door on the left, you don't want the door on the right... you want the door in the middle... punch in the 4 digit code..."

"Does the door say 'Alaskan Hotel'?"

"Ehhhh... no."

Thankfully, we never needed to find the back door, because honestly, I have a feeling we'd be sleeping out on the street before we were successful. Regardless, we check in and head up to our room to find that it did, thankfully, have a private bath, and was actually a very fine room. We head out back down to the docks to collect our bags, bring them back to the hotel, and we eventually call it an early night.

The morning tram

With our rebooked cruise, we received comp passes to the Goldbelt Tram; an aerial gondola that takes you 1,800 feet up Mt. Roberts where there is reported to be a mountain house with restaurant, gift shop, native history museum, and several miles of hiking trails. As it turns out, that Monday was the first day the tram would be running for the year. We're advised to get there early, so we dress in our hiking boots, several warm layers, and finally break out our trekking poles. As we walk down to the tram building, we discover that a large Holland America cruiseliner - the Eurodam - has already docked at the Juneau wharf, and another even larger ship - the Norwegian Bliss - is docking. That's an additional 6,000 people in downtown Juneau that weren't here the day before. Shops that were shuttered on Sunday are now flung open and doing brisk business, and the economy of Juneau starts to make sense.

We get to the tram about 9:45, only to discover it doesn't open until 11:00, so we do a little window shopping and then realize that it might behoove us to go ahead and stand in line outside the tram building. The building is right on the wharf, and all around it are barkers for dozens of tour opportunities, whale watching cruises, and souvenir shops, and some of the overflow is starting to huddle around the tram building. We wait. The tram people are sticklers, and will not open a second before 11:00, despite the lines beginning to snake around the corner. When the doors finally open, our passes let us bypass the ticket counter and get us into the first full car up the mountain.

A smooth-riding five minutes later, we were at the "skybridge" at the top end of the tram, and are greeted with a beautiful panoramic view of the town and channel. The size of the cruiseliners is stunning from 1,800 feet up, especially when compared to Uncruise's Wilderness Legacy - the same ship we came upon in Glacier Bay - next to which they were docked.

Once we get out to the trailhead, we realize we made a critical mistake. The top of the mountain is still blanketed in three, four, even five feet of snow in some places. We should have worn our rubber boots, and should have brought along the snow cups for our trekking poles. Hiking in the snow is as difficult as it had been on our second bushwhack; almost every step fell all the way through to our waist. It was wet, cold, and exhausting. We had intended to walk the 2 mile loop, but likely only made it 1/8th of that, stopping instead at a small wooden overlook. After a few minutes to take in the view, we turn around and head back toward the mountain house. Inside, we're just in time for one of the showings of the excellent Tlingit documentary Seeing Daylight. After the movie, we spent a few minutes perusing the giftshop, before the shear number of people filling the place started to make us feel uncomfortable, and we head back to the tram and down the mountain.

As the gondola reaches the bottom, and we exit back into the tram building, we as astonished by the length of the queue winding it's way around the floor of the Goldbelt building and out the door. The advice to get to the tram early was well-warranted.

So long, and thanks for all the fish

The rest of our last day in Alaska, we visited the actual Wm. Spears Design shop (now open), t-shirt shopping downtown, a full lunch back at the Hanger on the Wharf, more shopping at the Sealaska Museum, dessert crepes, and another quiet night at the Alaskan. And when early morning came, it was time to head out to the airport for our flights home. Juneau and southeast Alaska will be remembered for many many years to come. We're sad to leave, but so happy that we came. Our cruise was amazing, and would definitely recommend it, if you ever have the opportunity. So long, Alaska, we'll miss you.