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.

Our plan for today was to “go to the ends of the road.” According to our map, the paved highway extends from Thane Road through downtown on Egan Drive to Glacier Highway, following the shoreline west along the Gastineau Channel and inland waters to Echo Cove. About 40 miles, tip to tip. We drove straight from our hotel to Echo Cove; stop there first and sightsee on the way back, we thought.

The End Road 1000 Feet sign was bullet riddled; we turned left onto a dirt road that led to the Cove; that sign had suffered target practice too. What does a person do at the end of the road? They fish. They chunk rocks into the water. Was it the bears that turned the dumpster topsy turvy, and scattered garbage on the ground? “This may be as isolated a place as you can go in a car,” I said to Sam. He didn’t hear me; he was busy chunking rocks. Far removed from cruise-ship tourists here!

Back the other way, past Eagle Beach; pull into the woods at the Shrine of St Therese (a tourist stop, and a retreat). Back through the construction zone; back to the clear waters of the bay; there’s where we got on the whale-watching ship; there’s the road to the rainforest, the glacier, the airport, McDonalds, Twin Lakes, the salmon hatchery, we know our way around by now; Sam called them out, one by one. “We’ve been there,” he said. It almost feels like home, our place.

There’s the bridge to Douglas Island, we’ve met people who live over there; my oh my, we see why. The view across the channel is stupendous, more than grand. Mt Roberts and Mt Juneau fill our sight, and down below the cruise ships dot the shore; downtown Juneau is safely tucked between. We drove through the narrow streets, admiring the good fortune of those who live in such a place.

Now back across the bridge, through the downtown blocks; past all the tourist lures of shopping, dining, jumping on a bus; then out Thane Road, past the turn that goes up the mountain to Sheep Creek, and the dog sled camp; finally the last sign, END. And just beside that (it made us laugh out loud) the End Road Work sign.

We’ve seen it all! We’ve been to the glacier and the rain forest. We’ve watched the whales feed and nuzzled little puppies that will grow up to race across the snow. We’ve learned about the salmon runs, and the avalanches that block the streets, and the ravens and the bears. We’ve walked the halls of the capitol of the 49th state and we’ve seen eagles every day. We love this place. We’ve been to Juneau, we can say. All the way to the ends of the road!