The last day we were in Juneau, Kyle was giving wedding guests free zip line tours. I am over the weight limit the company imposes, so I spent the morning walking around the downtown Juneau area. You win some, you lose some — I hadn’t gotten the chance to take my camera for a walk the day before, so I was glad of the opportunity to do so, even though the rain made photography interesting. In retrospect, I’m glad I was unable to take the zip line tour. I may be unwilling to go on dangerous urbex excursions to the top of condemned and half-fallen-apart buildings, but exploring active urban areas and standing outside the dangerous ones is entirely up my alley.
Speaking of alleys, check out this one:
That’s right, folks, it has a street sign and a mailbox. And if you look up the alley itself, all you see is a staircase going straight up the mountain side.
About halfway up on the right-hand side is the door to someone’s residence — hence the mail box and the street sign. I climbed this crazy alley staircase, and about 3/4 of the way up I came across a local standing on his porch smoking a cigarette. His house was just across a walkway intersecting the staircase to run horizontally across the mountain, providing access to a row of houses built there. When I asked him if the staircase was the only access to these houses, he laughed and told me that if I kept going up, I’d reach a road running along the other side of them. It was he who told me that there are several staircases labeled as streets in Juneau, to provide physical addresses for the occasional house stuck between streets on the mountain side.
He also told me that when I reached the street at the top, I could turn left and the street would eventually wind back around to downtown. If I went right, I’d hit a dead end at a trail leading up to an abandoned mine. The mine is cool enough for its own post; I’m officially no longer sure when I’ll run out of Juneau material. Right now, I’m inclined to say this is the second to last… but that would make it the third or fourth time in a row that I’ve said that, so I’ll just move on to pictures taken when I headed left.
I believe this was spray-painted by the people living at the dead end, since there’s really no good way to turn around there. Under my feet when I took this picture was a patch of gravel suitable for turning around just fine. I wonder how many people actually heed the graffiti.
This residential area was high enough above downtown for me to take this lovely shot.
One thing I like about Juneau is the mixture of new and ruined buildings. Right next to the parking area from which I took the above picture was an abandoned building with broken windows all over and some crazy fire damage on the other side.
Farther along the street was a beautiful wall standing in ruins on the uphill side of the street.
Beautiful in its own way, Juneau is far from what most Americans consider the ideal living environment. Throughout the residential area, I saw signs of people making the best of the cramped, rainy environment in which they live. From brightly colored houses to tiny gardens, the non-tourist areas of Juneau have a cozy character that I doubt most visitors take the time to notice.
Juneau may be dreary, but its inhabitants know how to play, whether you fancy skateboard parks or playgrounds.
I saw this from the road within 15 minutes of our arrival in Juneau. I visited it with Bob and Shannon; it’s part of the playground for an elementary school. If I were a giant, I would make it my attack die!
Another playground visible from the main road is called Project Playground. The whole place is nine kinds of fun.
Lots of things to climb, structures painted with different themes, some nifty obstacle course type stuff. The ground is coated with chunks of rubber-like stuff, as if someone tore up the red floor of a multipurpose room and used the chunks on the playground. Pleasant to run on, pleasant to fall on, and visually attractive. The ground retained good traction in spite of the rain, and I was able to go barefoot on it without discomfort.
There were plaques all over the place honoring the donors that made the park possible. I got no pictures of those, but I did get pictures of the awesome signs that were posted.
As this is already too long, downtown Juneau will have to wait. I knew this wasn’t going to be second-to-last. Le sigh. More pictures of Juneau proper — including downtown Juneau — can be found in this album on Flickr.
Ash, Patti, and I got into Haines near midnight. We’d spent all day driving across Canada, and since Patti had slept poorly for the previous few nights, she was tired and wanted to get a hotel room. We drove around for a bit, trying to find the best deal in town, and discovered that there was only one deal in town. We literally got the last vacant room in Haines.
We found it at Hotel Halsingland. In the middle of the night, it looked like the setting of a horror movie — the buildings reminded me of the houses you see in the deep south in movies set during the civil war, but they were a little worn down and the main building had a huge neon sign on it proclaiming it a hotel. It wasn’t flickering, but it was enough to give Patti a horror movie vibe. I was instantly enthralled by the place; it obviously had character, and the buildings were fascinating beneath the occasionally peeling paint.
The room we got had only one bed; I slept on the floor with some extra bedding the front desk attendant brought us. I slept by the radiator in the corner, hoping to be warm there, but the back door right next to it was sealed poorly at the bottom, so my plan failed.
That back door led to a small room with a set of shelves and another door leading outside. We could have gone out that way if we’d wanted to, I think, but we didn’t try; there’s no way we could have locked it behind us, anyway.
I took all my pictures in the morning, after Ash and I got breakfast for ourselves and breakfast and coffee for Patti. Ash went to check out of the hotel, and came back with a business card printed on a super thin sheet of wood and a pamphlet about the history of the hotel. Haines, it turns out, was originally called Fort Seward. It was established to defend against possible invasion from Canada. After the fort was decommissioned, many veterans and their families elected to stay and established a civilian town called Haines. Hotel Halsingland is in three of the buildings that housed soldiers and their families. It looked like the other buildings are in use as apartments.
Ash, Patti, and I had some free time after breakfast and before Kyle’s wedding started. That was when we checked out RainTree Quilting. After I’d bored Ash & Patti with a lengthy visit to a quilt shop, we still had time to blow, so I suggested we go look for some Geocaches for Ash. He likes to Geocache whenever he goes to a new place, and we hadn’t gotten any done the day before.
The first Geocache we attempted to find seemed to have been purged by muggles in the few days since it had last been found. It was supposed to have been some where in or around the barrels holding up the sign for a park.
Once Ash had spent half an hour combing over an area roughly 6’x3’x5′ in size only to conclude that muggles had eliminated the cache, we moved on to a second one, closer to the wedding site and up a trail. I ended up lagging behind to take pictures of the vegetation while Ash and Patti went along to find the cache. Most of my pictures turned out blurry in spite of how good they looked on my camera’s LCD. These are some of the ones I kept.
One thing I found interesting about Juneau’s vegetation was that the leaves all seemed to grow in sheets, of sorts. This is the first time I’ve seen natural foliage that reminded me of 3D graphics like you’d see in a video game — like a texture painted on a bunch of 2D planes overlapping each other in 3D space to give an illusion of depth when viewed from the right angle.
It was common to see trees whose lower halves or lower 2/3 were devoid of leaves, though old branches remained attached. Someone told me that there are two main reasons for that. One is that tall, straight trees like this are perfect for bears to climb, so letting the lower branches die and break off is a defense against bears. The second reason is that there’s little sunlight, being a rainforest and all, so having leaves lower on the trees is inefficient.
Farther down the path was Lake Auke. It had water lillies growing on top of it. That was a pleasant surprise; the last time I saw water lillies in person was when I was seven going on eight, when my family was zig-zagging across the country to visit everyone we knew on our way to Alaska.
The path itself led to this bridge of sorts going right across one corner of the lake. That was as far as I got, personally, because I spent a lot of time taking pictures of the lillies.
Changing Tides in Juneau isn’t technically a hole-in-the-wall shop, since it’s on the second floor of a building full of shops. I found it via a street-level window display.
It’s also a little bigger than what I consider hole-in-the-wall. But as it caters to cross stitching and needlepoint as well as quilting, it’s plenty cramped for one.
Like The Quilted Raven in Anchorage, Changing Tides focuses mostly on Alaska-themed fabric prints and designs. It’s in downtown near the harbor, easily accessible to most tourists by foot. There’s quite a bit of overlap with what The Quilted Raven sells, too. As the owner admitted to me in conversation towards the end of my visit, she’s well acquainted with the owner of The Quilted Raven and they have similar tastes in fabric.
One difference I noticed, though, is that Changing Tides has a pretty good selection of non-Alaska prints. The blacks and whites were especially interesting, but there were a couple of batiques that really caught my eye. I found a pink batique with a red cherries pattern that I had to adopt in addition to the white and black abstract print I had selected, even though my budget was a little tight.
Changing Tides sells scraps by the ounce. I think the prices are perhaps a little high for scraps, but they have some really good scraps. It’s a great way to get a little bit of each of a bunch of Alaska-theme prints in one spot.
For Cross-Stitch and Needlepoint Folk
The store carries an array of patterns for cross-stitch and needlepoint. Some are counted, but they have a bunch of patterns printed or hand-painted directly onto canvas hanging behind the counter on the left as you walk in. The hand-painted ones include unique originals by famous Alaskan artists. You pay for it, but it’s worth it if you can afford it. The one that caught my eye was $175, but I would have been happy to pay it if I could. (Though I might’ve been afraid to actually stitch it!)
They carry embroidery thread, too, but I paid little attention to that. You can get embroidery thread anywhere. I should have checked to see if any of it was locally made, but didn’t think about it. Sorry!
For Art Collectors
Changing Tides serves as a consignment shop for local artists in the Juneau area. In addition to the works of cross-stitch and needlepoint for sale on one wall, many of the quilts on display are for sale, too. All of the consignment art is Alaska-themed. There’s a lot of good stuff; I recommend checking it out even if you don’t intend to buy.
Because of this, picture-taking isn’t really welcome in Changing Tides. Some of the artists represented don’t want their work photographed. The owner also doesn’t like having her picture taken.
In fact, I rubbed the owner the wrong way by walking in with my camera out. I assume that being in the most touristy area of Juneau involves dealing with people who just want to walk in, take pictures, and leave. The owner was short and snappy with me at first, but warmed up to me once I put my camera away (as soon as she started getting irritated with me) and started shopping.
The few pictures I did take are up on Flickr.
While I was in Juneau for Kyle’s wedding, I visited two quilt shops. I wanted to visit at least one, so Ash pulled up the GPS app on his iPhone and we went to the first one on the list. That was RainTree Quilting.
RainTree Quilting is located off of Mendenhall Loop Road. A few trees separate it from the street, but the store itself has enough front windows to give the place a light, airy feel. They have a show room and a class room, with completed quilts hanging in each. The fabric selection reminds me of what Quilt Tree carries here in Anchorage, in terms of color values and the types of patterns they carry, though there were fewer oriental fabrics.
The owner was in that day, with one employee. Both were friendly and helpful; we got to chatting a bit about Anchorage quilt stores and quilt tourism in general. I may be only starting quilt store touring, but they said that people come through from all over. They were fine with me taking pictures (though many of them came out poorly). I ended up cutting both the picture taking and the chatting short, though, because Ash and Patti were demonstrating signs of boredom, eventually retreating to the car.
I’ve decided that I will get a fat quarter of some green fabric and a yard of something else nifty from each quilt store I visit in my travels. From RainTree Quilting, I took away a bright green fat quarter with a scratchy/speckly pattern and a dark blue batique with a dog sledding pattern on it. It’s possible I could have gotten that same batique from The Quilted Raven in Anchorage, but I wasn’t sure and it really appealed to me while I was there.
I found my visit to RainTree Quilting a pleasant experience, and recommend the place highly. More pictures can be found on Flickr.
I attended my friend Kyle’s wedding in Juneau, Alaska on Friday. It was held at the Shrine of St. Therese, in a simple Catholic chapel perched on one of the loveliest spots I’ve ever seen. I strongly recommend visiting it if you’re in Juneau. (Edit: Kyle’s left some more information about the shrine in the comments. You should check it out, as he answers some of my ponderments.)
The shrine is located outside of Juneau proper, about a half hour drive from the Westmark hotel in downtown. Take the main road past the ferry dock and the airport and Lake Auke and eventually you come to a labeled turn-off on the left. There’s a parking lot there, and you enter the shrine grounds on foot. It’s an easy walk, acceptable for the elderly and infirm.
Almost as soon as you leave the parking lot on the short, well-tended trail, you see buildings with log cabin exteriors. Judging by the restrooms, these buildings probably all had modern interiors.
The path branches in three directions. To your left the path leads to some gardens (which I ended up missing out on); to the right, there is a “mystical love labyrinth” and farther along is a colombarium. The path directly in front of you is an arrow-straight walkway leading to a small, wooded island.
That little island is where the chapel is located. A sign at the mainland end of the walkway points out that there are no restroom facilities on the island. I’m sure there are many practical reasons for that, but the island itself has such a serene, devoted feel to it that I found the lack appropriate for the place anyway.
As you approach the island itself, you’re greeted by two pillars, one on either side. I really only paid attention to the left-hand one. It appears to have held a plaque at some point, but no scrap of it remains.
The Chapel Island
Cool, moist air and tall, mossy trees abounded. I know, I know — that’s just like the rest of the Juneau area. Also like the rest of the Juneau area, the trees around the chapel create a quiet, meditative atmosphere. Whoever set the place up took advantage of the atmosphere, setting a number of small shrines to Christ around the chapel. As far as I could tell with my lack of education about things biblical, each of the mini-shrines depicts part of the story of Christ’s birth, death on the cross, and resurrection. Seeking all the little shrines out takes you full circle around the island and the chapel in the middle of it.
There is also a shrine dedicated to the victims of abortion nestled into the side of a small cliff on the back side of the island. I failed to get a picture of it, though. I forgot my camera when Ash, Patti, and I explored Juneau the day before the wedding, and I forgot to hit that little shrine while taking pictures the day of.
On the highest point of the island is a large, white cross. It’s interesting to look at; the whole shrine, both the island and mainland segments, is well-tended, but this cross is weathered. They could wash it off and repaint it, but they choose not to. There are also two lines carved into the cross near the crossbar. I forgot to ask one of the Catholics present what the significance of that is.
Behind me when I was taking the above picture was a rail to keep people from falling off the cliff into the sea. The view is nice, but slightly obscured by branches and generally poor photo material. Most of the island has no railings, but there’s little chance of people falling off in other places. You’d have to shove through trees and brush to get to the cliff edges.
At seemingly random intervals around the island, there are these things embedded in the ground. They remind me of manhole covers, but they’re clearly something else. They’re bolted in place and the cover is made of clear plastic. From the visible condensation on the underside, I figure they must connect to the sea somehow. Do they help keep the island stable, somehow? Keep it from disintegrating into nothingness? The drainspotter in me ponders, and the bubblehead in me forgot to ask when I had the chance.
There is one interesting wood formation on the island. To my imaginative mind, it looks like a camel in the process of falling over on its side. While this fits in with the rest of the island about as well as an actual camel in the middle of a city, I thought it fitting that a lit bit of nature’s sense of humor is allowed to poke through the solemnity of the location.
The Chapel and the Wedding
The chapel, as you may have noticed from the above photos, has a mortared stone exterior. Like the buildings on the mainland, the interior (and roof) are of modern construction. It’s pretty small. It was about perfect for the size of the wedding, though.
The flowers at the base of the statue of Mary were added for the wedding. More flowers were placed at the base of the cross pictured above, too, but that was after I took my picture of it.
The interior is as simple as the exterior. The decor is light in color and the whole thing was well-lit.
My camera died after I’d taken only a few pictures of the inside of the chapel, so I have none of the wedding itself. Four chairs were set up house left of the altar before the wedding started. The bride and groom each had only one person in their wedding party. It was a Catholic ceremony which only took about 45 minutes. The priest was a substitute for the usual priest at the chapel. I appreciated his acknowledgement of the fact that some people in attendance were not Christian when he spoke about the meaning of love and the significance of marriage.
The Rest of the Grounds
As I mentioned earlier, there is more to the grounds than the island the chapel is on. I never went to the colombarium, but I did check out the love labyrinth.
While definitely labyrinthine, it’s not a maze, as Ash discovered by going through the entire thing. It’s a pretty long trip, with the path wrapped around itself like it is. It’s intended as a medium for prayer and meditation.
Due to time constraints, I failed to make it all the way up to the garden, but I started along the path and took a couple of pictures along the way.