‘Juneau’ Category


Song of the South

11.Sam Arriving AtlantaLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas –July was Sam Time. Sam is my youngest grandchild, born and growing up in the Pacific Northwest. He went to Juneau with me on the Journey back in 2012 (read all about it in Juneau) where we went whale-watching and dog-sledding and he got to know a capital city up and down. He flew into Little Rock last summer and spent three weeks with me in Arkansas, where we made a quick-trip into Oklahoma and Texas. But I figured it was time this boy had a bona fide real-time southern experience and learned about his roots. After all, he was teetering on the cusp of teenhood, and you know how fast that goes. I planned a full-fledged Journey through the south, worthy of a Fodor review.

I met Sam’s plane in Atlanta. His “unaccompanied minor” status required a direct flight, and we were headed for Gatlinburg anyhow, so that made sense. Did you know that Hartsfield International in Atlanta is the busiest airport in the world? 95 million passengers annually, coming into 7 terminals, exiting through 201 gates. Sam emerged through Alaska’s Gate D3 (at the far end of nowhere), a little taller than last year and wearing a Seattle Seahawks shirt. “Welcome to Atlanta, home of the Braves!” I grinned. And so began Sam’s Song of the South, Scott1stSteps66subtitled “Where Your Dad Grew Up.” I’d filled a notebook with pictures of family members he’d meet, and details about each stop we’d make. “First stop tomorrow is South Carolina,” I explained in our Atlanta motel room that night, “Ware Shoals, where we were living when your Dad was born.” I had a picture of his Dad taking his first steps, in our kitchen there on Dairy Street. My plan was to drive by and show him the house. You won’t believe how that turned out. » read more


Highs and Lows

Linda Burton posting from Juneau, Alaska – “Come over here Sam,” June said. “Stand by your Grandma and me. I want our picture together.” We posed, smiling; Mark came out of the office to snap us with June’s camera and with mine. “Are you sure you can drive this van?” Sam asked as June pulled her seat way, way forward. “You’re not much taller than me.” June and I burst out laughing and assured Sam that height didn’t affect driving ability. Then we proceeded to swap stories about our early driving days and near accidents we’d had. “I’m not going to listen,” said Sam from the back seat, covering his ears. It was 14 miles to the airport from downtown’s Driftwood Lodge along the Gastineau Channel; the tide was in at the moment; we’d seen it at low tide when it was mostly mud. Highs and lows. Hugs at the front door of the airport; the kind you have when you know you will truly miss a person. “Goodbye June in Juneau,” Sam said, and we wheeled our luggage in; easy maneuvers in this small airport. The nice ladies in Security chatted with Sam about his visit and gave him a TSA sticker for his shirt; he eyed me grinning “I didn’t have to take off my shoes!” Grandson Sam and I are leaving Juneau now, feeling high and low. High to get back to regular life – Sam to his Dad and Mom and a new neighborhood; me to my kitties and the rest of the Journey. Low because we’ve adopted Juneau in our hearts. So many nice people! » read more


Ike and the 49th Star

Sam’s Photo

Linda Burton posting from Juneau, Alaska – In Juneau, it was 9:02 AM. Back east in Washington, DC, it was just past the noon hour as President Dwight D Eisenhower inscribed his name to the document of proclamation that made Alaska the 49th state. Then he signed an Executive order setting a new design of 49 stars for the official flag of the United States. The date was January 3, 1959. The new design had seven staggered rows of stars, with seven stars in each row, and the traditional thirteen stripes. It had been chosen by a four-man selection commission and formally approved by the President but didn’t become official until July 4, 1959. The New York Times reported: President Eisenhower told one of the guests at the ceremony today that it was not the design he had preferred, “but I was overruled by all my advisers.” His choice was nine rows of stars, alternating five and six stars to a row. » read more


Ends of the Road

Linda Burton posting from Juneau, Alaska – Road construction is everywhere. Even when you only have 40 miles of paved roads. “This is my summer job,” Marisa told us after apologizing for what might be a long delay. Grandson Sam got out of the car to look around. Marisa admired the Scion; confirmed she was native-born to Juneau; added she was now a student at Colorado State, a business major. I asked if all the road work was due to a slide from bad winter weather. “No, the road was just worn out,” she answered. “The weather here is awfully hard on our paved roads.” A call came in; Marisa shook her head. “I’m afraid your wait is going to be even longer,” she told us. “We just had a turn-around and the pilot car will have to chase him down.” No cars allowed loose in the middle of all that earth-moving equipment! We were appropriately well-behaved on our ride behind the pilot car when it finally came to guide us past all the hazard zones; the piles of rocks and dirt; giant earth moving trucks; the perilously perched shovels and digging equipment. Sam jumped from side to side in the car, trying to see it all. There’s nothing a boy enjoys more than the sight of giant trucks. Except, maybe, chunking rocks and making waves. He got to do that too. » read more


Big Gulp

Linda Burton posting from Juneau, Alaska – Captain Larry dropped a slender acoustic device into the water as our boat sat quietly rocking. “We’ll listen for a while,” he nodded, “I want to know if they are coming this way.” Grandson Sam’s eyes got big as “whale talk” filled the boat, the device clearly picking up the underwater sounds. We didn’t know what it meant, but it verified that whales were near. Katie, our on-board naturalist, had already gone up top with her binoculars, watching for the sight of birds, and blow. That’s where the whales would be, we’d learned on the way out from Auke Bay, the “blow” being the burst of air expelled from the whale’s blowholes, or nostrils, as they surfaced, causing a visible spray. Just off in the distance, we’d spotted both, a frenzy of circling birds and geyserlike sprays. That meant whales, whales enjoying lunch. “Just like the sight of a parking lot full of cars outside a restaurant,” I thought to myself, smiling, “the sign that it’s a good place to eat.” Then Katie yelled, “It’s Sue! I see Sue!” Captain Larry yanked the device from the water and swung around to start the engine. “I know where they are going now!” he said, and suddenly we were moving again, straight toward the whales. All of us raced to the outside deck as Captain Larry positioned the boat for a perfect view. » read more


The Check’s In The Mail

Linda Burton posting from Juneau, Alaska – Grandson Sam and I drive past the Goldbelt Building almost every day; it’s just a few blocks from our hotel, over near the Juneau-Douglas bridge. Most passers-by, like Sam and me, don’t think much about what is going on inside, where clocks are set to New York, London, Tokyo and Alaska time and the work day begins when Wall Street opens. This building houses the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, whose investments ultimately result in annual dividend checks for eligible Alaskans. Checks are mailed in October, and last year’s dividend was $1,174. The Alaska Permanent Fund is a dedicated fund owned by the State of Alaska, created in 1976 as the Alaska oil pipeline neared completion, when Alaska voters approved a constitutional amendment to establish it. As I’ve heard residents smilingly speak of “my check,” I wondered just who the “eligible” Alaskans are, and how that dividend amount is calculated. » read more


Fish Are Jumping

Linda Burton posting from Juneau, Alaska – Sam disappeared before I got across the parking lot. I found him down the ramp, standing transfixed in front of the Fish Ladder. “We’ll see a lot of fish,” I’d promised as we rode to the Hatchery, describing the fish ladder I’d visited so many times in Seattle at the Ballard Locks. But I was unprepared for what I saw as I drew close to this one. These fish were solid packed, jamming the causeway that was their path to fulfilling their life’s mission – the laying of the eggs. Single mindedly, they fought and thrashed for position; drama, in a box of gray cement. But Sam didn’t have all the facts, just yet. We’re at the Salmon Hatchery just outside Juneau on the Gastineau Channel, and we’ve come to see salmon; the Chum are coming through now, we’d heard. So what exactly happens here? Sam and I proceeded up the ramp to begin the tour. » read more


Dog Day Afternoon

Linda Burton posting from Juneau, Alaska – “Excuse me, but what exactly is a musher?” I tentatively asked after our instructor wanted to know if there were any questions. Grandson Sam and I were sitting on wooden benches in the “Pre-lim” tent, getting our instructions on how to behave around the dogs. It was Sled Dog Summer Camp for us; a chance to meet the puppies and the grown-up dogs that spend their summer training to pull a racing sled. “I’m a musher,” smiled our instructor; “a musher is the person who drives the dog sled.” A musher, ah. Austin Barr was talking; he’s spending his summer in Sheep Creek Dog Camp, high in the Alaska mountains above Gastineau Channel; living in a tent with a fake wooden front designed to look like an old mining camp; working with other mushers training the 120 high-energy Alaskan huskies we see outside the tent So how did this former Californian wind up here? » read more


Not Alice’s Wonderland

Linda Burton posting from Juneau, Alaska – “It was a lesson in anger management that created what you see today.” Jessica has stopped our tour cart in front of the most unusual trees I’ve ever seen. They are upside down! These inverted spruce and hemlock trees have their root ball pointing towards the sky; the trunk is buried seven feet in the ground and fish netting lines the top of the root ball. Mosses lay over the netting and colorful flowering plants grow atop that, making “flower towers” that create an Alice-in-Wonderland magical feel. Anger management? Well yes, Steve Bowhay was a nurseryman, known around Juneau as the Yard Doctor. Long story short – while expanding his nursery in landslide-destroyed territory, he tried to move a large boulder and damaged the excavator he had rented. Numerous fallen trees were a part of the landslide mess; in his frustration over the damaged (expensive) equipment, he grabbed a large tree with the “claw” and slammed it into the ground. Now there’s a twist! » read more


The Kindness of Strangers

Linda Burton posting from Juneau, Alaska – “I thought you might like some brownies.” It was Brenda from upstairs, standing at the door with a plate of fresh-baked brownies and chocolate chip cookies in hand. I think it was back in the 60’s the last time a yet-unmet neighbor showed up at my door offering the kindness of cookies. But that old-fashioned friendliness seems to be the norm here in Juneau. This wasn’t the first example of Mayberry neighborliness since Grandson Sam and I got to town. It all began on Monday, with the “credit card” fright. Sam and I were at the Tram, ready for a ride to the top of Mt Roberts, and an overview of the Gastineau Channel. We’d verified the time and thought about all the things we’d do at the top; the gift shop, the nature center, and dinner. I reached into my zippered wallet for my card, but the slot for it was empty. I checked the other slots, not too worried yet. No card. I stepped out of the line and sat down on a bench, checking every other possibility, rifling through my backpack, emptying it clear to the bottom. I checked my pockets. No card. Now it was panic time. » read more