Alaska’s Brigadoon, Juneau

Our cruise left on Sunday, so we flew over to Juneau on Saturday night.  The plane was late as clouds and fog rolled into and out of Southeast’s mountains, bays and passes.  Before GPS and Fog Busters I used to call Juneau “Alaska’s Brigadoon” because it seemed to make an appearance every 100 years.  Sometimes it seemed that way as I flew overhead trying to get in to lobby the legislature on Public Broadcasting. We made several passes, sometimes followed by an unexpected trip to Anchorage.  Fortunately, the ferries were more common then and many times I sailed home overnight on the 9-hour ferry run as you could hear the plane passing by overhead, unable to land.   One day I was flying back into Juneau after missing it and going to Anchorage.  We were really bumpy and the guy next to me said “I didn’t design the runway for these conditions.”  He pulled out his rosary and ardently petitioned Mary until we landed.

We landed to the north, traveling along Gastineau Channel catching glimpse of downtown, Lemon Creek and finally Mendenhall Valley playing with the fog.  Alaska Dream Cruises met us at the airport, and we went to our hotel.  It’s called the Ramada now but for years it was the Prospector.  In 1974 we stayed there on our second trip to Juneau.  We liked it because it had a huge walk-in closet.  It easily fit all our bags, with lots of room for a crib.  It wasn’t a suite but for our purposes it was.  Brian could go to bed in a “private room” and Suzi and I could have lights on, read, talk, and enjoy an evening without a crib to trip over or to worry about too much light or noise.  We smiled when we saw the closets were still there.

I stayed at the Prospector when I was CoastAlaska Coordinator because it was right next to KTOO where my office was.  I lived in Sitka but spent much of each week during the 1994 and 1995 legislative sessions lobbying to save Public Radio, going back and forth to Sitka, watching for fog and airplanes.

One of the Prospector’s hallmarks was Sunday Brunch, sadly a victim of COVID.  But in 1974 we went with 10-month-old Brian.  They told us no charge for the baby.  That happened to be the very hour that baby started his first growth spirt.  We stood amazed as he reached for more and more, several muffins went into the mouth, although lots of crumbs fell by the wayside, whole bananas, spoonfulls of scrambled eggs.  He gathered quite a crowd of servers.  All were amazed at what this baby was packing in.  We offered to pay for Brian who ate more than many adults.  They said “No, it’s worth the show.”

After breakfast we walked around Juneau, remembering a town we lived in more than 40 years ago.  We stopped for a while in Marine Park where Kevin threw his first and biggest tantrum.  He wanted to go on the Prinsendam.  We caught him at the gangway and he started screaming and flailing.  Good thing he missed it, the ship sank, and it became a big news story for me to cover.

We looked at at the outside of the new Walter Soboloff Center (Sea Alaska Heritage Center.)  It was mostly closed but there was interesting exterior art and a gift shop.  I don’t know who designed the metal totems outside but they are engaging.  There are 40-foot panels in the front of the building by a Haida Artist, Robert Davidson, representing the supernatural calling the past into the present.  The Center’s glass awnings are designed in Native Formline by Steve Brown, which fit well with the Art Deco buildings across the street. Juneau is essentially Art Deco behind its fake frontier façade.  We joined our cruise mates at the Alaska Dream Cruise Visitor Center on the wharf.

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