September 3, 2016
Our second port. The capital of Alaska is located where you might forget that it’s still Alaska. Only accessible by boat or plane (there isn’t a single road connecting it to any part of Alaska or North America), this remote city has a population of 32,000 and is ranked 3rd on most populated cities in Alaska. Even with that small population it is still the second largest city in the United States by area. The people of Alaska wanted to move the capital for years, but then as soon as they realized the cost of moving it, they voted against it. So it stays put in one of the most beautiful places in the U.S. While we were there, the capital building was under renovations so we weren’t able to tour. It was a quiet city, with more tourist type shops near the port.
The first excursion of the day was my mom, Kevin and I took a tour to a summer dog sledding camp. So so so much fun, I didn’t want to leave. There were four groups, all separated by color. The handlers were all working to save money to hopefully at some point race the Iditarod. The race across Alaska. You can read more about the Iditarod here: Iditarod
Sled dogs are a huge part of Alaskan history and survival during some of their harsh winters. Balto, is probably one of the most famous sled dogs. He was the leader of the team that brought medicine to children in Nome, Alaska that were there was a serious diphtheria epidemic.
Our musher let us play with his dogs and then we got to see them in action during a summer exercise run. They don’t run that long or that far due to the heat. It was about 60 degrees when we were there and it was way too hot for them. Ideal running temperature is about -10 degrees and at that ideal temperature they can run up to 100 miles in a day. The dogs were surprisingly small. On average they were about 45 lbs and a mix of a lot of different breeds. He showed us pictures and some of his gear from his Iditarod run. These were the boots that he had to wear and he still got frost bit!
Finishers are awarded a belt buckle. He was proud of that belt buckle and called it his $50,000 buckle because that is how much it costs to enter and to run the race with up to 21 dogs over 1100 miles in potentially -100 degree weather. The mushers live and breath their dogs. There can be multiple generations to a team. We had grandma, mom and son during our exercise run. The dogs love what they do, they love to work. They are highly competitive and always think that they should be picked to go on each run. As soon as the first dog was chosen the rest went crazy. It takes a couple of them to get them clipped in to do the run as they dance all around and immediately start to pull. After awhile, a couple of them rested in the sun, satisfied that they were still one of the ones chosen.
The lead dog is usually the prized dog, the one that follows the commands of the musher the best. There is a deep connection there. Dogs have saved their mushers lives. It was incredible how on an instant they would listen to the musher when he would give a command to turn left (haw) or right (gee). The only thing the musher would say to start running was “alright” and we were gone!
And then there was a puppy!
Unfortunately it was time to go.
The second excursion, Kevin and Phil went salmon fishing. It was a bit late in the season so none of the boats caught a single fish. Small fail on princess cruises part, but at least the scenery and the company was good! The boat left from Auke Bay and we fished in between Douglas Island and Admiralty Island (this island is supposed to have the highest concentration of grizzly bears on in).
While the guys were fishing my mom and I decided to walk the town.
Fun fact: A large bronze statue of pelicans that was to be shipped to Florida, stands in front of the Federal Building here in Juneau. Pelicans are not indigenous to Alaska and their statue of an eagle was delivered to Florida.
The docks are long here and on them there is a tribute to a dog named Patsy Ann. She was an English bull terrier brought from Oregon to Juneau in 1929. She was meant to be a family dog, but liked wandering the town much more. Steamships that were used in that time did not arrive on a schedule. The town knew that a ship was coming when Patsy Ann would head to the docks. The interesting thing about Patsy Ann was that she was deaf from birth but could still send when a ship would arrive and which dock it would arrive at. Even if the people of the town would congregate at a different dock she knew the correct one.
We also ventured to the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in town. This was my mom’s must do. There was a nice man there that showed us around the church and told us that a lot of the crew from ships come for service when they can. The Tlingit people started this church. It was very small but once a week they had a service in Tlingit.
We got back on the boat in time to see Libby Riddles speak. She was the first woman to win the Iditarod at the age of 28. After a quick talk we were back at sea.